When you wake up these days, the world seems a bit different.
It’s not just the fact that your glasses may be fogged over because you wear a mask as you face the day. It’s not because you’ve spring-cleaned the windows. It’s because the sun is warmer, yellower, deeper. The colour of egg yolk spills over in our life – and gone are the bleached, cold, harsh tones of winter.
Things look and feel warmer through the prism of brighter sunshine – the yellow of Spring and Basant. All around us, winter is making itself scarce and spring is bounding towards us.
Along the side of the roads, yellow marigolds peep out like flecks of happiness. Semal trees have leaves that have turned rust yellow; soon these will fall and the trees will break out into huge, lovely flowers. Mustard fields are yellow with flowers. Shahtoot trees have tiny nubs of green fruit, which will turn a bruised purple soon. Parakeets and hornbills flit through trees, waiting for fruit to ripen; goolar figs and banyan, which fruit many times in the year, will soon put out feasts in their own cycles of abundance.
The other day, I was in fields in NCR. A pair of peahen strolled through buttercup-yellow mustard fields; their purple necks looking even brighter against the flowers. A spotted dove blinked its red eyes in the sleepy, warm sunshine, like it was had old jewels for eyes. A Greater Coucal – an orange and black bird—walked between sugarcane fields. A flock of Oriental white-eyes flew through the mango fields. A Kingfisher sat on a poplar tree. The place was just the right temperature and just the right light – the brief beauty and comfort of the Indian spring. Within all the resident birds, you’ll also see an occasional migratory bird, though some of the migrants will leave the heat behind soon.
While taking a walk outdoors, I recently saw an amazing sight. It was a Coppersmith barbet, my favourite bird. This little, fruit-eating bird has a tuk-tuk call that is even more audible at the onset of summer. It has a green and yellow body, and a black moustache-like marking. It’s a beautiful bird to observe – but what I saw was even better. The barbet was pecking on a tree branch, chiseling it in precise strokes. It was carving a round hole in the wood, one that was perfectly circular. This hole would be deepened and furrowed further, carved into a deep cavity where the bird will eventually nest. The coppersmith looks like a woodpecker, someone told me. To me, it looked like a rather busy bird, artist and sculptor both.
The barbet kept pecking at the hole, its strokes meticulous and tremendously fast, its attention to its task absolute. As the shahtoot ripens, the barbet’s mating season will also start. In order to impress its mate, the barbet will stuff its beak with berries as a gift. The birds will also preen each other – both a salon service and a quiet bonding mechanism.
Soon the days will become hotter, and the forest will become quieter. Birds will only be seen early in the morning and in the evening, when temperatures are more modest. But in spring, birds are active through much of the day. As flowers turn to fruit, and as the last of the winter flowers put out a final show, this is the time to dig in your heels and pay attention to the full, ripe days.
February is the shortest month of the year, but for me its also the most beautiful. I feel it slips us by each year, because it’s also the time when most of us catch colds due to that indescribable ‘change of season’ predicament. This February, I’m determined to not let viruses come in the way.
I’ll be out amongst the trees, counting the flowers, and my blessings.
Photos: Neha Sinha
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