Just about a year ago, when I was fascinated, at times irritated, by the crazy rooster that woke me up at the break of dawn in a quiet neighbourhood of Bangalore, hardly did I imagine that myriads of other creatures would adorn my life, as it is now. The sweet, melancholic song of a lonely magpie-robin wrenched my heart, and now I am surrounded by bird songs, sometimes beyond my recognition.
Every morning I have a couple of visitors at my place, who demand I share my breakfast with them, by constant tail wagging and incessant drooling, right under my nose. Pinkie and Julie has the surprising capability by which they force affectionate emotions of humans fill to the brim in no time. Pinkie is a three year old shiny black feral dog with drooping ears, mellow eyes and a very attractive white fur-patch on her bosom. While the only pink left in Pinkie is her sole tongue, I marvel at the imagination which christened her! Julie is Pinkie’s daughter- a hyperactive one-year-old, whose left ear droops more than the right, and who lives upto the stereotype teenage human juvenile, full of an idea of the whole world conspiring against her. She never trusts her own platter, rather her mother’s is the one that she always fancies. She never hesitates to voice her grudges with solemn growls, which most often gets ignored by us and her mother. They provide me with very enjoyable company indeed, greet me with over-enthusiasm when I return home, and Julie, almost always, considers my hands and feet as her teether. She’s got the sharpest of canines that my skin has ever touched.
By the time I am exhausted with the two, the usual visitors to the garden have arrived and they are generally oblivious of our daily charade. An Indian-robin pair strolls around their territory, says a half-hearted ‘hello’ to the neighbouring pied-bushchat couple. A white browed wagtail, who has lost its tail and thus has nothing to wag, tries hard to balance on the electric fence. The spotted-owlet pair comes with their two young ones, ready to leave to their usual hide of a banyan tree on the opposite plot of land. They visit my compund for a longer time during dusk. Since a couple of days, I have some more members added to the list of visitors: a bunch of cattle egrets, on their way to foraging ground, stop by for a brisk walk on the ridges of the pond. They shall return in the afternoon, before they head to the roost.
This is my cue to leave for work. There awaits a whole different saga: a group of monkeys with their highly innovative tricks are waiting to make my life as difficult as possible. On a typical unproductive day, they decide to stay up a tree or a bamboo grove, enticing me with their diverse behaviour, which potentially could have been valuable data-points. Alas! I look at their silhouettes and come back with a sore neck, from all the staring-up!
There are better days, nevertheless- days when they frolic around on the ground and I sit amongst them with a notebook and a pencil. Not that there is peace for long, as one of them pulls at my pencil, the other one pinches my big-toe, another one is more curious about why my trousers flap, and the funniest guy is obsessed with my hair: he pulls at it from a branch above, and threatens me to top it!
In between my adventures with the fellow primates, there are cats and other dogs who come with a gang of five heavy bulls. All of them fight amongst each other and at the end of the day, I come back with anticipation of their return in my dreams.
Pinkie and Julie are always there at my doorstep, even in the evenings. Many a times, I unintentionally step on them in the dark, and they are polite enough not to bite me but let their presence known through a low pitched squeak. The most prominent of them all during the evenings are an assortment of insects that know no boundary of my space- they are everywhere. I haven’t yet got to know them individually, although I am not so sure whether I really want to. There are a swarm of beetles that constantly collect aerial data of my activities, buzzing around overhead, till I am convinced that they have actually entered my head. There are moths and ants, bugs and spiders. Spiders are not a welcome guest at my house as they fail to distinguish between their webs and my hair, and stock an army of dead insects in my tresses, simulating their pantry. Some days I wake up feeling very much like Edward Lear’s Old Man. Moreover, they are extremely successful at breaking my skin up into unmanagable hives at unmanagable hours of the night: you now know my reasons not to get too cosy with the web-makers!
I will leave out the humans from this essay, for that would make this a novel, at the least. But I would end with a couple of mammals that I have recently encountered in my courtyard. A herd of peace-loving spotted-deer sometimes use my land as their coridor- they are clam and poised; they bother none and want none, hence, not much interesting stories from that line. I ,however, met a very proud she-boar last week, just as I was going to the washroom. She stood still as she saw me, so did I, so did her ‘swarm’ of boar-lets behind her. Not knowing what to do, I made some soft bangs on the door, and she made some soft grunts before she went on to another path. She stayed the night in my garden, had a feast on my tender beet-shoots and left at the first rays of the sun with a happy, well-fed family!
My life with other animals continues!