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The Mask Dilemma

December 17, 2021 | By

We humans have masks everywhere – on the face, in the hands, hanging from the ear and littering the ground. What do animals think about them?

Enjoy Morning Meanderings Season 2 with your hot cuppa and cookies. ☕🍪😊

As I stood on the balcony of my sister’s house in Mayur Vihar, Delhi, my eyes were captivated by the busy road. The potted plants in the balcony looked at me quizzically. Who was this new intrusive presence, was the question spilling from their green eyes.

The buses, the taxis, the autos plied on, and the Metro rumbled on with unflappable equanimity. It was after all an everyday routine for them. But not an everyday routine for me. My eyes were looking around for something else. Where were the peacocks?

Not one mayur (peacock) was around. Was the colony not named after peacocks? Reminded me of Dahi vali Gali in Bharatpur, (where I had spent twenty years of my teaching career) which sold everything from trinkets to cutlery, from bangles to brassware, footwear to silverware – everything but dahi!

The premises of my sister’s colony brimmed with verdant greenery, and every tree seemed to have some resident birds. But where were the peacocks of Mayur Vihar Colony?

My reverie was suddenly broken as a peacock appeared from behind the shrubbery, a tad confused, looking here and there diffidently. But, fed up of being confused, it spread its wings. As I watched captivated, above the roaring and rumbling of the train and the snarling of traffic, rose a heart-warming melody of bird song. Somewhere hidden in the foliage, a koel decided to celebrate the peacock’s dance.

There was a little fluttering on the window sill. An avian audience seemed to be slowly gathering. I turned in that direction to see a couple of white doves huddling close together, and a parakeet watching the peacock from another window sill. Soon eight babblers swooped down from a nearby tree, screeching and twittering away. Probably giving a standing ovation to the lone performer.

I had come to Delhi after one and a half years, and I found myself looking around with new eyes, new perspectives, with a new vision.

Performance over, the peacock walked off with a triumphant swagger and was once again lost behind the shrubbery. An emaciated cat crossed the road, two street dogs, one black, the other brown, started fighting over something, which I realized was a discarded mask. I stared, wondering who would win the booty. The brown one did! He carried the mask into a shrub, the black one in tow. Soon both resurfaced, the mask still in the brown one’s mouth.


Morning Meanderings is a musings column by Santosh Bakaya

The interesting bit was the way the two canines were researching on the mask. The brown one put the mask on the ground between them, and both kept looking at it for some time. Almost as if they were mulling over a difficult equation. Sadly, with no way to say “Ok, Google” or “Alexa…identify this weird thing”, they shrugged away their curiosity, and walked away in two different directions, leaving the mask to its own devices. I felt relieved that at least Covid hadn’t made animals wear masks. They anyway don’t need to. As humans we wear masks all the time. Covid had made the masks visible. So much so that we have now started throwing the masks around – “disposable” as they are, without disposing them correctly, adding to environmental hazards we are loaded with. “Throwing your weight around” now has a sequel.

As though, the crow sitting on the Neem tree had read my thoughts, it swooped down, pounced on the mask, and flew away with it, leaving me wondering what it would do with it. But my mind read a full-bodied metaphor in the crow’s action, and I smiled an expansive smile, as the emaciated cat magically morphed into the Cheshire cat.

Click here to read all episodes of Morning Meanderings Season 2

Don’t Forget to Revisit Morning Meanderings Season 1

Dr Santosh Bakaya is the author of three mystery novels for young adults, and a book of essays titled Flights From My Terrace, which was recently published as an e-book on Smashwords. Her poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad Of Bapu has been published by Vitasta Publishers, Delhi, India in May 2015 and has been receiving rave reviews from everywhere. Although a Political theorist, with a doctorate in political theory, it is literature which has been her first love. She was awarded the Reuel international award for language and literature 2014 for her long poem Oh Hark!, which forms part of the Significant Anthology. Many of her poems have figured in the highly commended category in Destiny Poets, a UK based website and many are part of international anthologies. Right now, she is giving the final touches to her satirical novel, tentatively titled Sanakpur Shenanigans.
All Posts of Santosh Bakaya

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