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Birds in the Garden:

There is a large botanic garden near my place of work. It is somewhat stuck in time, with the tombs of erstwhile Nizams, and the rubble of red brick scattered through the never-ending green of the grounds. This garden is home to a variety of birds.

Many a morning, soon after sitting at my desk, I would notice the shudder of branches outside the

window. Consistent with his presence and punctual on his arrival, I’d find him sitting perched upon his favorite branch; the brown-headed barbet. His green reminded me of the leaves he sat by, and his signature kootroo kootroo kootroo would bellow its way through the quiet office corridor. Scrambling for the office binoculars, what fascinated me most was the melding of the brown of his breast with the enveloping green of his wings. It reminded me of moss.

Shortly thereafter, in the guise of an extended tea-break, I’d venture towards the garden. By this time, most of the morning walkers and joggers had dispersed, and the garden felt empty; rather somnolent. Black crows and rock pigeons would feast on the remnants of old discarded food items; gathering in large groups before scurrying away upon my heavy tread. As the sun rose, crows would fly hither and thither, and the sunlight would capture the velvety sheen of their plumage; a flash of beauty that reminded me of a blue-whistling thrush.

Looming overhead, perhaps a dozen black kites would fight for space. Some, as large as the locally- extinct vulture would populate the highest branches. From a distance, they looked like upturned

chandeliers on bare, leafless trees. The others, losing out in this relentless jostle, would bolt towards the Nizam’s tomb; settling atop its dome like sentinels. The red-naped ibis was my walking companion. Rarely did I see him on a tree. Waddling about, he would let me walk alongside him, unperturbed by my curiosity. Once, with an excited flutter in his eyes, he drilled his beak through the wet soil and unearthed a long worm that he swallowed whole. We would walk, for perhaps twenty meters together, till, all of a sudden, he would expand his great wings and launch into the sky, only to land a further twenty meters away to rummage through new earth.

Rose-ringed parakeets competed with mynas to reach the highest possible decibel. Yet amidst the cacophony, I noticed a pair of preoccupied parakeets. Near a small opening on a tree, they stood at an angle deep in conversation almost. I imagined a mild argument between the pair; deciding who was going to forage for the chicks. A parakeet colloquy. Returning to the office would be impossible without sighting the sombre-hued, but commanding

Indian grey hornbill, the loquacious babbler, the elegant Eurasian dove, or the ever-vigilant white-

breasted kingfisher. This garden was a special place, and over the course of any given day, I would be lost; with my head quite literally in the trees.

The Nizams must enjoy their rest amid such birdsong.

- Harshad Sambamurthy

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