Saluting Pink

Some flamingos are greater
And other flamingos are less
Regardless of degree or stature
Flamingoes Never Make a Mess.

While flying in glorious formation
Or thoughtfully chewing goop
From Sewri to Nerul Station
We never see the Flamingo poop.


Juvenile Greater Flamingo, Nerul


Adult G.F., Nerul


A beak of a different feather. Pied Avocet, Nerul.


Some are Pink who do not flamingo. Painted Stork, Nerul.


Lesser Flamingos, Airoli


Daybreak, and harsh calls echoed off the mountains
Call-response, call-response
Pheasant making their report:
Too wary by far to be discovered
By a traveler stumbling across the frozen ground.

A lammergeier detoured from her upward spiral,
Hoping that we were nice juicy bones
And at chai time, Himalayan vulture, eye to eye
Stately, shiplike, divebombed by crows.

And we came down through forests of deodar and oak
Branches stretching away from the hillside
Pine needles soft underfoot and strong autumn sun.

Flocks of fantails worked unperturbed
Zipping with restless energy
Pausing only for a preen and reshuffle
Or quick wipe of tiny bill.

We turned a corner, and missed a breath
Witness to monumental beauty:
Hillsides in layers receding into the distance
Hard blue sky
And river tumbling over boulders
Left to mark the passage of ancient giants.




For the trek of a lifetime in the Great Himalayan National Park


I spent the day in idleness
Dreaming about birds
There I lay, indolent,
Turning over words
Words about the birds
Rock and roll
And darkness in the morning.

Birds. Birds are nimble,
Birds are swift
And some resemble
Walking sticks.

I woke up with a start
A feeling of vague unease
Something made from leather
And the echo
Of a question
I had spoken but could not recall.

Birds, nimble and otherwise
Register the smell of burning
Their sun also not quite rising
Darkness out to find them
But not managing,
Given the state of smoke and air.

Be thankful for the birds.

I am thankful for the birds
And the words they bring
Smoke and darkness dissipating
The smell of burning fading
And mortal dread
Briefly on the run.


Egret feather, Seawoods, New Bombay.


Always thankful for Jim Morrison.


A Warning for Mr Redstart

Listen, Plumbeous Water Redstart
Tennis ball of bird
Your pip squeak of outrage
Can barely be heard
Over the roar of this river
So I will ignore it.

Redstart, get a head start
On weight loss today!
At this rate, sport
Type 2 diabetes threatens
Not to mention swollen ankles – or it would if you had ankles-
Cardiovascular complications
And the dreaded
Flabby Wing.

Eschew juicy beetle, marbled with chub
And favour stick insect. Avoid all Grub.

Before you know it, birdball no more!
Sleek and aerodynamic as aloft you soar

Ms wagtails will wag uncontrollably
And whisper:
“We adore.”

“Ignore him, dear, I think you’re very fit.”


On a quiet mountainside
Under towering deodars
My friend found a small flat stone 
Olive-green slate, with sheen of mica
The same green that tints
The river roaring a thousand feet below.

Turning it over, she noticed with surprise
Scattered angular runes
Tiny geometric pockmarks.

A message from deep time
Inscribed not by human hand
For brown eyes to puzzle over
But by rock:
The Earth leaving notes for Itself.


Wildflowers, Great Himalayan National Park

The Guide


Balganga, short for Balgangadhar
So named for the tilak
Placed between light-brown eyes
By good-humoured hand
For fortune and luck

Pops up above us
Doggedly navigating
Boulders and scree
Tongue in the wind
The generous pink towel
That goes where he goes.

Occasionally stopping
To non-judgementally watch
Over furry brown shoulder
Bipedal despair
Up on insecure slopes.

From ghat to the plain
And plain back to ghat
Motivated only by Duty
Never payment demanded,
But when dispensed, accepted
And scarfed with quick grateful glance.

Yet some misrecognised him
When he was immersed in his work
And dispensed not biscuits
But harsh words
And the menacing stick.

Then, a Dog understands
And has long learned to forgive
As must all victims of circumstance
Who keep company with inconstant apes.



Pic by Rachna Toshniwal

Public Spaces

An hour or two
After last thwack of bat
And the noisy herd departed
The cricket ground reveals
To a discreet observer
Sheltering from midmorning sun,
Its alternate, essential function.

Big brown birds swoop in from the sky
Bounce lightly and fold themselves
In the shade of the five neem trees
Some perching on the concrete park bench
Never too close to suggest companionship.

In regal profile,
Standing tall on freshly cut grass
Black Kites suggest to the naive eye
Fierce uncompromising eagles.

But look beneath this veneer
The thinly feathered disguise
And the dark circles
Under their eyes
Betray perpetual anxiety
Crushingly low self-esteem.

Never mind.

With cricketers absent
Socially awkward kites
Have set aside timidity
And are gathered here in communion
At rest, facing roughly South
Where their mysterious Mecca must be.


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Milvus. Milvus migrans.