TREE TOTALLER

BIRDS ON MY TREE

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As a naughty child who seldom made his parents proud I climbed up trees and spent long hours up there concealed, observing birds, watching people without being noticed, peeping in through many house windows and plucking Guavas.  The part of Delhi where I grew up had many such dense and huge trees which seconded as a hideout especially when my parents looked for me to punish me for some window glass I must have shattered in a game of cricket or some prank I would have played on my siblings. Little did I know that the fascination for trees will one day develop into a deep affection and bonding so much so that I would be enjoying walks to admire trees in the gardens in every European city that my work would bring me to.  I try to steal a break from my busy schedule and make a desperate attempt to capture the varied hues of yellow, brown, green, tan and orange in the autumn months.

Having recently moved out of my home of 15 years, the thing I miss most about it is not its quiet park- facing location or the helpful neighbors, but a giant tree that was a family member in many ways. The tree stood tall and gave me hope as I woke up to the melody of singing birds and squirrels running amok on its long branches.  The tree was part of my front yard and loomed over all the three floors, camouflaging its balconies in a way that I could see the people strolling in the garden right opposite whereas the tree kept me hidden from them.

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As I bid adieu to a friend of a decade and a half, I hope that its new occupants will continue to tend to it the way I did for it’s a haven for birds, many of who work better than an alarm clock.

Popularly known as “ladies tongue”, the SIRIS tree is a native of North India and many wide roads in Gurgaon are still dotted with it. Its beauty in different seasons can inspire poetry. My favorite was again the autumn when it looked barren and brown as the green leaves gave way to long brown pods containing three to four seeds placed equidistant from each other.

Nibbling on the pod, disrobing its seeds and chewing it till it dislodged from the tree was a favorite pastime of squirrels. The rain of pods continued from dawn till dusk as if squirrels were on a mission to cover the entire floor with it.

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The crushing sound under the feet while a guest walked in would raise an alarm much before he could reach the call bell.

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The most common visitor was a green-headed barbet who dutifully never failed to give a wake- up call in the monsoon season. I honed my photography skills as I silently went on a clicking spree ensuring that squirrels and birds were unperturbed by my presence in the balcony. Mynas (common starlings) occupied the only deep hollow by chasing away the previous occupants- a family of five parrots who lived there for a fortnight or so.  I regularly sighted Grey Hornbills, Oriental Magpie Robins, Shikras, Bulbuls, Babblers, Purple Sunbirds, Warblers, Pigeons, Crows, Common Hoopoe and House sparrows.

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A variety of birds was driven to the tree for its soft silky white flowers in the spring season that emitted an intoxicating smell, but ones who partied the most were the squirrels. They even tried to chase the birds who interrupted their sprints and friendly race on its long trunk and branches. Long live my tree…. you will be missed.

Vagabond Shoes,
15 Nov’ 14

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