If I were to tell you that I’ve spotted kingfishers, two pairs of hornbills, a family of coppersmith barbets along with several crows, sparrows and pigeons, parrots during the time it takes to have a morning tea, you may wonder which green belt I am on.
If I were to tell you that I see these birds from a window while having my morning tea, you may further assume that perhaps its a forest or a nature reserve.
If I were to tell you that these birds were viewed today morning in a busy part of the Mumbai city, I wouldn’t expect you to believe me because I couldn’t believe it myself.
“Have you spotted him yet?” asked mama Hornbill, sporting a worried expression on her face.
“Not yet! But let me call out” said Papa Hornbill and sent out a high pitched call to his missing teenage son.
“Perched atop this Neem tree out in the jungle (read City) is not the safest place for us” said mama Hornbill. “Look at that swinging branch. Is that our son?” Said mama, looking towards the overhead wire crisscrossing the road from one tree to another.
“Naaa…” Said Papa, ” He was swinging there with Crows yesterday, but not today! Bad company, I tell you, exposing himself in the middle of the jungle with noisy animals (traffic) all around!”
“You look this side and I’ll try the next tree.” said Mama Hornbill worried about her missing son and wondering if he had breakfast .
She gave one last desperate call before flying off to the next tree.
This is perhaps the largest species of Wagtails. It is endemic to the Indian Subcontinent and non-migratory. I found this one sitting here next to a water pool near Karla, Maharashtra.
I missed visiting the flamingos again.
How ironic! They flew from miles, maybe thousands of them to be here near the Indian coastline, just fifteen minutes away from where i’m typing this post. And me… foolishly ignoring thier arrival and postponing it to the next weekend, one after another…missed them totally. It’s too hot now and i’m sure they are back on thier way home flapping thier wings in unison with thier curved beaks, in a straight line. But I do still hear the Golden Oriels and the family of Copper-Smith Barbets each morning, probably looking for a termite laden snack off our almost century old building.
They say the smells remind us of places because that area in our brain is close to the memory areas in our brain.The smell I’ll associate forever with Mumbai is that of the Jasmine Gajra. Jasmine is an unassuming white flower with a heady perfume.Women in southern states of India use a flower garland called “gajra” to adorn their hair. Going southwards towards the peninsula, the tied hair becomes a bun and the flowers change to a reddish pink. My earliest introduction to a jasmine gajra was in mumbai almost three decades back. A short stroll at the Gateway of India had then brought us kids to the sights of vendors selling bangles and ladies selling jasmine gajras. To an average urban Delhi kid both were exotic novelties.The smell of the jasmine along with the intoxication of the rain is a faint but special childhood memory.
Today Gateway of India is hardly minutes away, but it closes at 10 pm behind a row of barricades, reminding me of the past that firmly tucked away. Went there just once after my first visit, but no jasmine in sight. Maybe they sell in the mornings?
When you are new to Mumbai and cross into the town (south Mumbai island) from Worli, you would notice a mausoleum in middle of the bay on the left side of the road. This is Haji Ali. There would also be many pictures of Haji Ali in the guide books, a solitary building in the middle of the sea connected by a thin strip of land. The beauty of Mumbai is that the culture changes with every sub community and Haji Ali is no different. The entry to the Mausolem is next to a petrol pump, just after a picturesque police station which is built like a hut. You move forward on the kachha road (paved road) with shops on one side exhibiting and selling cloth and other offerings for the religious place. You notice the sequined chaadar (offering cloth) among the aroma of the halwa. Souvenirs dot the entire way till you reach the thin strip of walkway built in centre of the rocks. At high tide and monsoons this place would have water on both sides. Birds like the egrets and gulls would be flying around or foraging.
After 200 meters or so you will see the entrance and steps leading up the structure. After depositing the shoes with a safe keeper, you are allowed inside to pay respects to the saint. Some people buy a shiny cloth called the chaadar or a string to tie at the gate. Most crowded days are Fridays and during festivals.
Border of the Minaret
Islamic Jaali pattern
A Pair of Oriental white Eye’s enjoying a pomegranate fresh off the tree.
Cities seem bereft of birds. Spotting a Magpie Robin in the middle of a concrete jungle was almost a reason for celebration.