Discover more from Project Safarnaama
A bulbul perched beside me.
06/06/2021 | Parents’ House, Pune.
I'm visiting this place after 5 months. The last time I was here, it was in the midst of winter and the weather was pretty bleak. It could also be that there is a pandemic running amok, and the silence on the roads of this metropolitan city felt deafening, almost eerie.
I spent my childhood and my teenage here in this house. We came here about 20 years ago. The building we lived in, although a mere 3 floors back then, seemed like the biggest human-made structure around this area. I say human-made because the area is surrounded by hills in a semi-circle behind the building. Our house is on the 3rd floor, and the terrace was right above our flat. From the terrace one could see the dense growth of trees engulfing us, almost protecting us from whatever lay beyond the hills. From this height, the only houses visible were the ones that managed to find some space in the clearing amidst the trees.
Its hard to believe now that even after 20 years, this place is as green as I've always remembered—maybe even more. There's a mango tree in front of my window. I remember it from when we came here—strong, wide, tall enough to just reach our 3rd floor window. I remember plucking the green mangoes off it when summers came around. It was always a fun thing to do. Our building added 2 more floors on top of our house over the years, and the tree has grown tall enough to surpass our 5 floored building.
I've had the privilege to travel to more than 45 cities & towns across 14 countries till date, and I don't remember a single place where the birds sound as beautiful as they do from the terrace of my building. I've spent a lot of time here throughout my life. If my life journey were to be represented on a graph, this place right here, would be the base point. Even now as I sit here on this Sunday evening and the sun begins to set beyond the hills, I choose not to put on any music on my headphones. The melody of these birds is much better to listen to.
In the afternoon, a bulbul came and perched on my windowsill. I have never been closer to a free bird than I was at that instance, merely a few inches away. I tried not to move at all. I didn't want to scare it away. I wondered if we would be able to communicate with each other. I wish I could ask her if she felt the same way about this place as I did. She gets an aerial view of it in her flight. It is possible she has a much better view of this place I grew up than I do. I wish I could ask her what she thinks when she looks at me, a human. Does she even think about it at all?
I wish I could ask all the other birds such questions. As far as humans go back in time, these birds have been witness to our glory and our folly alike. Every civilization built, every conquest led across continents, every war fought, every invention made, every family fostered, every dream achieved, every failure suffered—these aerial beings have been witness to this story that we call humanity. Long before the first humans walked on the earth, these birds had already taken flight. They're our connection to the age of dinosaurs. They're the evolved descendants of those magnificent beings that walked our planet millions of years ago, maybe even where I sit right now.
What a story it has been—humanity. With all its gory details, it still stands as a story of great intrigue. My own lifetime is a mere dot in this timeline of 4.5 billion years that our Earth has been around. Our Earth's lifetime has been a mere 1/3rd of the predicted timeline of 14 billion years of our Universe. At various points in this story, we seemed to have forgotten that we are simply one of the creatures who are passing through this timeline on Earth. We evolved and gained consciousness, grew intelligent, only to further become arrogant enough to assume Earth is our planet. We thought ourselves to be deserving of this stature to claim land, segregate people, wipe off civilizations and stand proud of the outcome.
Somewhere across the timeline of evolution, we reached the belief that certain sections of our own species are better than the others—somehow we based these upon the parameters of gender, the area on the planet one was born in, the melanin content in one's skin, what higher power one believes in and many such.
The truth is, we're docked on a tiny planet. We revolve around a small star. We're at the corner of a galaxy which has anywhere between 100 to 400 billion other stars. Our galaxy is one of the 200 billion galaxies in our scope of observation. We don't have any means yet to guess what lies beyond. But for the near future, this is all we have—the earth, and humanity. Probability suggests that we cannot be the only habitable planet. We're surely nowhere close to proving that we're the most intelligent or powerful forms of life, as much as we'd like to believe it.
I wish I could ask the bulbul if she sees other birds and believes she is superior or inferior to any of them, as sometimes people do when they're around other people. I wish I could ask her if she feels afraid of meeting me, as sometimes people do when they meet other people. I wish the other birds don't ostracise this bulbul for spending time with me, as sometimes people do with people from their own family or communities. I wish I could ask her what she thought of this story of humanity. I wonder what answers she would give me, and I wonder what questions those answers would lead to.
At some distance from where I'm sitting on my terrace, I see a group of people playing cricket at the foothills. If I were anything like the bulbul, I could have taken flight to go there. But for now, I stay rooted. I listen to the birds singing together, flying across the sky in different patterns, witnessing time pass by on our planet.
I ponder upon why the bulbul chose to sit besides me, when she could have easily chosen the mango tree instead.
I ponder upon how arrogant I am, to even think that it had anything to do with me.
I ponder upon how pompous the story of humanity is, to think that any of this is happening for us.