The Menagerie in a Forbidding Metropolis

Published: 18th June 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th June 2014 02:04 AM   |  A+A-

These are stressful times. Work demands time and attention and great focus. Imagination and creativity forms the crux of my field of writing, and without either, thoughts on paper appear listless. Being physically or mentally exhausted or uninspired does little to elevate one from these perils. That’s when a change of pace really comes into play. Outside my room is a garden and trees, and a lawn. A little haven in a sprawling metropolis called Bangalore, where traffic and pollution and the heat collide. Where machines trudge on the roads and where the air is heavy with dust. Finding a quiet and peaceful spot amidst the chaos is a trying task indeed.

Beyond the confines of the workspace at my desk, small creatures inhabit the garden. Noisy little squirrels and a bulbul with a particularly sweet voice. A small yellow bird, chest puffed out and bursting with melodious chirrups. A myna scratches the lawn, eyes wide with curiosity, dodging in time when a cat appears out of nowhere. Butterflies flit from flower to flower, their wings as bright as the blossoms themselves. Through it all, the air is soft, and sunbeams filter through the boughs in golden hues.

It’s a whole world out there, a world within a garden. These little fey creatures have their own lives and schedules. And for some reason, they are as lively as song. Even the tomcat next door, with his wild meows to seek attention, and the neighbourhood dogs, who keep away from the people and yet manage to make their presence known. There is music in their chirps and cries—when squirrels squeak or the sparrow sings, when the bulbul comes to the lowest branch and peers indoors with a spurt of music. One could almost call it a menagerie, but a more orderly one. Each creature knows its place, and stays there. Fortunately. Most of them aren’t pests, they’re just there, whole in their presence.

And in those moments of tiredness and work-induced exhaustion, I find myself looking to them for rejuvenation and inspiration. To them, the world is a vast, sunny place, or it seems such, anyway. Despite their instincts and challenges, these animals appear content. To scramble up trees and laugh at the hapless dog below, or fluff wings and watch who’s opening the gate. There’s an innate sense of childlike curiosity as well, tempered with caution, a need to know what’s happening all around. You can almost see the strands of sunlight weave themselves around them, imbuing them with the subtle wisdom of the wild, and the presence of mind to keep their inquisitiveness restrained. Watching from where I usually do, they seem carefree, and happy, and full of vibrant life.

It would be pity if modernisation forced them out of the metropolises of the future. Then again, if the future only retains glass and steel, part of the earth’s soul, and ours, will be forever lost.

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