Ghosts can play cards, ducklings can go to school, pigeons can self-introspect – anything can happen. A morning can be as colourful as you want it to be, just look around and enjoy life unfolding.
Enjoy Morning Meanderings Season 2 with your hot cuppa and cookies. ☕🍪😊
There was a slight chill in the air, and I almost felt the need for a shawl. Maybe I will have to take out my woollens in a couple of days, I told myself, looking at a banyan tree which I had often seen standing erect in unflappable integrity. It must be pretty ancient. I would often think, looking at its gnarled branches, from one of which hung a broken terracotta pot, to cater to the thirsty birds.
To satiate my curiosity regarding the tree’s age, I crossed the road to the other side and started talking to a knot of people under a neem tree. Some were lounging on string charpoys, sleep kinks still in their eyes. Some sitting, on improvised stools, fashioned from huge discarded oil containers. They were discussing politics, the probable third wave of Covid, the burgeoning of concrete structures all around them, their crops, and their cattle.
“It is pretty old,” the paan vala said, when I asked him about the age of the banyan tree.
“Yes, this bargad ka pedd was there even my grandfather was alive.” This helpful addition came from his friend, a heavily moustachioed man, who sat, looking spread out as dough on the charpoy.
“My grandmother and her friends used to sit under it and string flowers to make garlands,” the moustachioed man’s frail wife selling marigold flowers in the next kiosk, said with a happy smile.
“You know, there are even stories of ghosts coming at night, sitting on the square discussing things and gossiping,” remarked a man perched on a tall pile of wood logs.
The moustachioed man’s wife lit a match to some splinters of wood; soon the firewood flared up, and the splinters crackled. A child tugging to her ghagra broke out in chuckles, clapping in glee.
“Sometimes, they can be heard playing cards. And even cheating,” said the man perched on the woodpile, pensively looking at the crackling fire with a look that said, ‘How I wish I was playing cards too with the ghosts’. The thought of ghosts perched on the branches peering over playing cards made me chuckle.
The birds in the tree across the road bantered on, unaware of the churning in my mind. I wondered why there were hardly any birds on the neem tree. Were they afraid of humans too? Under the banyan tree, there was no human, but lots of birds.
I don’t know why I suddenly found myself thinking of mocking birds, and the sweet, lyrical cadence of their innocent songs. The words of Harper Lee, from To Kill a Mocking Bird, kept ringing in my ears.
“Mocking birds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.
They don’t eat up peoples’ gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs.
They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.
That’s why it is a sin to kill a mocking bird..”
The birds from the banyan were sending me a message through their happy tweets – a message of peaceful coexistence.
I saw the different birds having the time of their lives – the sparrows, parakeets, mynahs, robins, and pigeons. No, on second thoughts, the pigeons were not having a gala time. They were sitting on telephone wires, maintaining a safe distance from the rest of the birds, absolutely quiet, not even yodelling. Or maybe, that was their idea of a gala time: self-introspection.
A Kingfisher looked around the world sitting on another telephone wire, with a tinge of royal hauteur, or so I thought – or maybe that was its way. Its own, unique way. Every bird was snug in its comfort zone, not interfering with others’ ways and lives, but happy in its world.
“Yesterday night, my ewe gave birth to two stillborn cubs, I am devastated. The ewe is in great pain. I will take her to the doctor after a couple of hours.” A man with a crestfallen look was telling the one with a moustache. The gossip under the neem tree was now in full throttle.
Students who had again rented houses in the vicinity were strolling towards the tea kiosk. Suddenly one boy said something, and the other retaliated with a huge frown and punched him. Before my very eyes, a quarrel started.
“I will kill you. How dare you say that?”
Why were the eighteen-year-olds threatening to kill each other? Why this senseless bellicosity? A minor issue had given rise to a major quarrel, but unfazed, the birds were in a celebratory fervour, their chirps wafting across to me on wings of breeze.
More than fifty years after Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mocking Bird, we continue to kill the mocking birds of the world, finding nothing wrong in hating someone who does not think like us, lampooning someone who does not look like us, lynching someone who dares to lock horns with us – such thoughts were rumbling in my mind, when I heard another rumbling.
It was the rumbling of a school bus. Oh, the schools had again resumed. I watched the bus as it passed me and something brought a smile to my lips. The bus said DUCKLING ENGLISH MEDIUM SCHOOL. I almost gasped. Since when had ducklings started going to school? Were the ducklings in the bus quacking? Were their teachers called Ducks? I could visualise the teacher walking ahead with a line of cackling children hopping behind her just like Mother Duck and her disciplined ducklings who always walk in a queue (unlike us).
Could I see Old MacDonald in the distance?
That nursery rhyme of yore quacked in memory.
Old MacDonald had a farm eee eea o
On his farm, he had some ducks, eea eea o
Here a quack, there a quack,
everywhere a quack, quack…
The bus had come to a stop, and the little kids had burst into a string of chuckles laughing at their own small jokes. What future awaited these kids – laughing and giggling through their masks? I felt sad. What sort of a world were we leaving behind for our kids?
Under the banyan tree, I had seen birds of all hues, shades, voices, and colours – the shrill-voiced, the sweet-voiced, the sad-voiced, the happy-voiced.
Their mellifluous notes are magic to my ears – their myriad-hued, multi-toned musicality filling me with pure bliss. The way they chirped in unison, raising their beaks towards the sky – it reminded me of our school choir, neatly lined up singing in one tune together.
Why not listen to this symphony? Why not celebrate it? Why not appreciate their different colours, their differing voices? As I stood talking to the people under the neem tree, a tiny bird hopped up to me, tilted its head this way and that, pecked at a few grains, looking askance at me.
“There are stories and stories about that tree, but forget it. Have a cup of tea,” the tea vendor said, handing me a terracotta cup.
“Tomorrow,” I said, eyes riveted at the tiny bird looking up at me. Ghosts playing cards, ducklings going to school and birds singing a choir – quite a plateful for my morning.
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