My obsession with birds and photography off late has given birth to these pictures.
Green grass, blue sky,
Sometimes swim, sometime fly.
Caressing the flowers gently,
Strutting ahead rollicking.
Sliding through the squeaky floor,
Into a packed elevator.
Nonchalant and busy,
No sign of tizzy
Bouncing through the crowd,
A little brush up, a light push,
Sauntering through the narrow streets,
With nothing much to lose.
Petting animals in utter randomness,
Playing with one into oblivion,
Smiling to folks unknown,
And obliging to penniless.
Sitting on a bench,
With people strolling by;
Holding a hand to thank,
Hugging with a loud smile.
Sharing a ride with strangers,
Or trying the clothes from the same hanger;
Passing the half-burnt cigarette,
Or clinking to cheers together.
Gone are those days,
We’ve learnt to smile through gaze,
Masks cover our face,
And homes are our only place.
Hoping for new days,
When homes will be for where we laze,
Not abstaining from someone coming close,
Not waiting for someone to make a dose.
Let’s get over with this phase,
Let’s get back those days!!
She walked in, looked up.
In the mirror, she gazed.
The woman of her dreams!
We’ve been married for over 3 years now and I’ve always taken pride in how well I’ve known my husband. I always know what he’s gonna say next. His responses come out of his mouth later, they are first muttered in my head.
In the last two months of lockdown, we’ve been together all the time, mostly. Be it working from the same living room, cooking in the kitchen together, cleaning together, sleeping and many other things that I need not mention here, it’s all been done together.
Lockdown has affected both of us differently. While financially it has hit both of us, mentally it has affected him more than me. We both have been working from home, so we are definitely strained between household chores and office work. And, we dearly and immensely miss our house help.
I have kept myself engaged with various hobbies like gardening, photography, blogging and bird watching. And like a super excited kid, I would go around telling him the titchest of my achievements like – spotting a new bird or getting a comment on my blog. I have kept myself excited and him involved in my eensy – weensy doses of happinesses.
Yesterday during a conversation, I asked him about his hobby (I anticipated the answer) and he instantly said “cricket”. He hasn’t played cricket in over a decade but that was his passion. He loved playing cricket as an adolescent boy but had to quit it unwillingly for higher education. He never took up another hobby after that.
The conversation was bizarre to me, somewhat indigestible. We’ve spent a substantial amount of time together, we’ve travelled together, we’ve partied hard, we’ve talked for hours together, we’ve been crazy together but in this togetherness I think he has been living with my hobbies. This irks!
So today I asked him to choose a hobby for the next few days and he couldn’t choose one. I was livid thinking that I was going to this person every other day with a new hobby and he couldn’t think of one for himself. I chose a few for him and he still did not show any interest.
I bought some plants today and have asked him to take care of those. I know he will, while not whole heartedly but he will. During these difficult times, it’s so important to have a hobby which holds your interest in life other than your work and relations. It’s important for your mind and heart.
Helping him choose a hobby for himself has become a mission for me. At times, adults are too busy being adults – taking care of their lives, the lives of their loved ones and following their goals that hobbies ebb en route.
Happiness is unquestionably not equal to hobbies, but if happiness is distant, will a hobby help, is the question? May be. Or May be not. But with certitude I can tell you, it would be far less stressful.
I woke up early today to a resplendent morning – clear sky, cool breeze, soft rustle of the trees and flocks of birds gliding through the air. It is these enchanted mornings that lift my spirit high for rest of the day.
After nine in the morning – work, life errands and chaos start wrapping my mind. There’s usually no time to gaze out of the window later in the day. And I elude windows as the merciless sun scorches until sunset.
Mid-afternoon I observed the weather change. Sun was evading behind the callous clouds and trees were bowing down to the roaring wind. It all seemed to have happened suddenly.
As I was sauntering around the house, a plant outside my kitchen window caught my eye. It was a slender yet tall newly planted basil which was on the verge of succumbing to the bend by the gust. I hurriedly ran towards the window and pushed the planter to a different direction. With this little change, the wind didn’t affect the plant anymore. It stood straight with mild gyration as if with a new sense of confidence.
This absolutely miniscule incident made me think about us – people. While most at some point in their life had people – who would love to see us snap, if only we could have someone who switched a door, a path or a direction for us just enough, for us to be a little stronger, a little bolder.
I was about twelve years old when my father who was then serving in Indian Army was transferred to Assam, one of the eastern states in India. My family shifted from Lucknow base in UP to Assam. We travelled mostly by trains those days and it took us nearly two and a half days to reach Guwahati and then from there another couple of hours to reach our Army accomodation.
Train journeys had their own charm. As kids, we would see clouds, trees and fields drifting away as the train sped up. The view of flooded fields, bright green paddy being sown by farmers who had their calves soaked in mud was quite intriguing. Witnessing the enormous Brahmaputra river from the train traversing swiftly on the bridge was frightening and super exciting. I remember people making wishes and tossing coins in the river. Brahmaputra woke everyone with its formidability. I vividly remember the tiny fisherman boats floating with the current of the mighty river. These are just a few things that I remember from my train journey to Guwahati.
Army unit was about six hours from Guwahati and bus used to be our best option. I particularly remember the red soil of Assam which was strikingly different. Mind you, I was a kid, so even the simplest and common things for adults were awe-inspiring for me.
In the next few weeks, we were pretty settled there. It was beautiful always. There was pitter-patter of rain every other hour. This place was superabundantly green. Sun rose way before five in the morning and days always seemed short as the sun used to set around five in the evening.
With so much of nature, came the snails which were harmless, however had covered the entire backwall of our house and were also hidden in the grass, in gravel and on pavements. I hated them and inadvertently crushed a lot of tiny ones and I could never see them amidst grass, I only heard them getting crushed which scared me and I would run and hear more crushings at a faster pace. While snails were harmless, snakes were not. I saw snakes every two days, they horrified me. By God’s grace, I never had to fight one or got bitten by one. I wouldn’t have ever won with a snake.
There are so many fond memories of Assam. On my way to school I used to just gaze out of my bus and witness the waterlogged fields blossoming with lotuses. This went on for miles and miles as my school was pretty far from my home.
Even today, when I close my eyes and I can still see the lotuses in the murkiest of muck, looking as fresh as the dew that sat on them every single morning.
Here’s how it started.
First bird I spotted was a coppersmith barbet. It seemed unique with colours of yellow and orange around its head, beak and neck. I thought to myself – “must be rare”. I googled and got to know that it’s a resident of Indian subcontinent. I also had encounters with an oriental magpie robin which is a little black and white bird. An absolute stunner! A few times, I met a common kingfisher. Kingfishers are beautiful creatures who tweet daylong. I also spotted a male and a female koel. They are unlike each other. While male is all black with crimson eyes and the female has white spots all over its brown body. Albeit, she does have crimson eyes. They are always singing. I saw a blue Australian super fairy wren as well. These birds became my motivation to get up early in the morning, to witness the beauty of nature. Before I realised, this had already become a hobby of mine. I also spotted a red-vented bulbul and a greater coucal. A few times I was awed by flocks of different birds including one of sparrows which overwhelm me every single time.
Few months back, I was enjoying my vacation with people from different countries. I was having a blast experiencing different cultures and food. On the first day of 2020, I was on a flight and was feeling truly ecstatic because this was the first time I was flying on 1st of January. I thought – what a crazy year this will be? I was already planning for my next vacation.
I joined back office with my tan and beautiful memories of my holiday. I just couldn’t stop smiling with the days I just lived and the days I was planning to live. I was enjoying my work and my life. In the next few days, I learnt about a virus that the entire world was talking about. I first heard something about China, then a few days later, it was Iran, then Italy. It was sprawling like wildfire globally and soon it hit India.
The idea of Corona virus hitting India was as scary as Tsunami hitting Japan (Tsunami hitting anywhere else is equally scary). India was not prepared, people were not prepared, government was not prepared.
We all were going to experience something unseen in the last 100 years. Everyone was going to get affected. There were no exceptions. Our worlds were taking a one-eighty degree turn. India a country with an unending hustle-bustle was going to get used to being quiet. I know the entire world was experiencing this, but for India, being India, this was a challenge. We are the noise makers, we don’t know what quiet is. We are deeply tied up with our families, our friends, our neighborhood, how were we going to survive this? This India would have to understand social distancing and most importantly, follow it.
We all learnt about social distancing. By the way, this should be Oxford’s word of 2020. The virus and the word made us stay at home. No malls, no fun places to go to, no dinners outside, no vacation plans and no social gatherings. Stay where you are – is the message. A lockdown. I understand the message. We all do. We have to stay at home. Homebound only. Which means I’m working from home, just like most of the us.
Working from home has always been a dream. It’s convenient – I always thought. Well, initially it was fun. It was so good to be in my space and delivering work. I realised I was more focused at home than office. I was so focused, just like my husband who was also working from home, that our line of personal and work space blurred. It wasn’t clear anymore whether it was time to work or to stop work. There were no breaks, no early morning chitchat with friends at work and no snack time. My husband got up every morning in a hurry to get ready for his early morning zoom meeting. Our lunches were also in a haste mostly. By the time we both were off our laptops, it was mostly eight in the evening. Then, we would prepare our dinner and it would be ten already. What was happening? We were spending twenty four hours together in the same house and not spending much time with each other. And me being the selfish one that I am, I was also worried about not having enough time to spend with myself. I am a firm believer of spending some quality time with oneself first and then with someone else.
That evening, I started making a mental note of things that I wanted to do. I understood that the lockdown was not going to go away anytime soon. I had to do something. I had to.
First thing I did the next morning was – I picked my Nikon DSLR that I bought five years back. Yes, five years back! I could count the number of times I used it earlier and I’m not proud of myself to say that. I was so excited when I had bought it but in the daily grind of life, it was kept someplace, where I wouldn’t see it often. I cleared my mind of my past excitement and filled my heart with the freshness of early morning. In next few seconds, I was in my balcony. Now this is no ordinary balcony. This balcony gives me a view of endless greenery, hills and open sky. I’m always thankful to God whenever I’m in my balcony, this is my favourite space in my space. As I stood outside, I noticed a bird – I had never seen this bird before. I was elated to see it. The bird was Coppersmith Barbet. I clicked. Next day, it was a Bulbul, the next, a Superb Fairy Wren, the next, a Magpie Robin and the next, a Kingfisher. What was happening? Was this because of lockdown? Maybe? I wondered how I never noticed a single bird apart from the pestersome Pigeons. Now this is my hope of my every morning. This makes me happy and this gives me hope.
In these times, we need to find our own hope. We need to create new strengths and new happinesses. While we all need to work. We all need to have fun as well. We need to connect with ourselves, or else how will we connect with our families, our partners.
Find something that will make you feel alive, I’m trying to find more. Gym is shut, so I’m trying sun salutations at home. Have no Starbucks or a Durga coffee house open, so I’m trying Dalgona at home. I’m learning about focus, aperture and white balance, things that I should have learnt five years back. Writing this article is also about me finding happiness. I hope there’s something that each one of us is able find for ourselves – finding our happiness in the times of Corona. The gloom will get defeated by each drop of happiness that we create in our lives.