A reminder for self when your brain convinces you that spending the weekend alternatively drunk and hungover is imperative to experiencing your 20s to the fullest.
Today you went birdwatching and came back feeling more fertile and generative than you have in a long time. It is an excellent endeavor, a long meandering walk, bathed in the right mix of aimlessness and wonder. It allows you to leave that dark recess of your mind and train your senses to your external environment. You followed sounds and patiently stared at thickets until the birds made themselves known to you. You saw birds, in stillness and in motion, sometimes only catching a speck of colour before they disappeared. You observed these birds closely and identified their specialty, a pin tail, a curved neck, a colored feather, a ruffled crown only to misidentify the bird completely. Sometimes you walked on the road, and sometimes balanced yourself on the edge of the raised footpath. You chased butterflies and ran away from dragon flies. You touched plants that reminded you of the touch-me-nots of your childhood, holding your breath in anticipation and when you were disappointed, you let it out into the world, without fear. You squealed in delight when you saw a long-bodied mongoose titter across the road and savored your wonder when you saw you bird gracefully stretch its wings into a yawn.
It’s important who you go bird watching with. You want someone with a rich inner world and a low threshold for wonder. You want someone who will tell you facts about the animal kingdom and evolutionary science and other interesting things that you never think about. You want someone who will patiently and tenderly show you exactly where to look, above which branch and below which leaf to spot the bird they’ve spotted. And you want someone you can do the same for. You want someone who will laugh at the couples who sit there, as they teeter on the edge of socially acceptable behavior before making a hasty retreat when they hear your footsteps. You want someone who will share a cold drink with you at the end of your visit and make promises to do it all again someday, soon.
The bird sanctuary isn’t an Instagram approved place. When you have the option between well-manicured parks with pretty ponds and even prettier fountains and government protected bird sanctuaries, unruly and unkempt; choose the latter. Reject the encroaching dominance of totalitarian Instagram aesthetics. Instead laugh at painted signs that tell you to smile because you are in the lap of nature and forbid you from feeding the birds and setting the place on fire, because apparently that happens. Read the names of the birds that someone has so methodically and bureaucratically put up around the park. Then read their names in Latin and in Hindi, because why not. Don’t mind the benches with large and sticky spider webs and even larger spiders. Don’t mind the fact that you can see the grey and dusty buildings hovering above the edge of the greenery and also across the pond. A bird sanctuary can’t fight the capitalist imperative. But you can.
As a refugee lawyer, a bird sanctuary holds an important message for you. It is one about enduring connections and ancient routes of travel that predate modern nation states and our ideas of which places are cool. (Why else would birds travel to Noida?) It is a place that exists outside the marked territoriality of everything else around you. Away from peculiar human afflictions like passports and visa. Where a migrant or resident status doesn’t have an impact on your belonging. There is a beautiful thought about our shared commonality in all of it, find it.
And when you come back, make yourself a cup of tea, play some music and pour down all your thoughts on paper so you can revisit it, again and again.