June and July 2021 — The months have melted and become stuck together, it’s now difficult to find any sign of time passing by. It is as if one has been dropped, without the ceremony and dignity of transitions, right in the middle of hell. Where hell if one of those stories about living through the same day over and over again until it leaves behind only the husk of a being. But this is not hell, one will find respite around the corner. There is the way the sun shines at 7am, the quiet on a Friday afternoon which is punctuated by the crackling and sizzling of cooking a favorite meal. When one remains suspended in the present, and the big things of the future have disintegrated, only little things remain. And one has to learn how to hold on to them.
Monsoons in the city create an odd break to the pulse of life. When the skies darken and cities are engulfed in permanent twilight, the concept of time is interrupted. Despite the business of whatever schedule and meaning, we have made for ourselves — a pause descends when the sky darkens and sunlight is shut off completely. If one leans into it and can see despite the grey and dim, one can see everything else around them taking a pause too.
The sparrows who usually chitter and jitter busily around my balcony are still today. They arrive and shed the rain from their feathers and simply sit. Their bodies are almost nondescript in the backdrop of heavy grey rain clouds, if one is not paying attention it simply looks like there are brown tufts of cotton balls suspended on the balustrade, all across the balcony. Their eyes usually focused beams of surveillance are either half-closed in a spell of drowsiness or they are simply looking out into the world, into the skies — their sense of urgency disrupted, their only curiosity is to weigh between giving into a short slumber or staying half-awake. I stare at them as they stare out at the world, a silence seems to blanket everything nearby. You can only hear the rain and the distance humdrum of traffic and construction. I seem caught in between two things myself — a sense of letting go and sitting here and a sense of returning to things despite the need for lull I feel in my bones.
A memory floats back to me — I am six years old standing in front of the window at a childhood home in the old Sobhanbag lane. It is monsoon in my memory as well, the room is darkened, the rain showers down on everything outside my view from the window. Sparrows come in pairs of two to rest on the window sill in front of me. They are distracted by their need to keep dry and warm themselves, they don’t notice me. All I feel in that moment is a sense of needing to reach out and grab them — it’s one of those inexplicably aggressive ways in which children tend to seek out connection. I keep trying, the sparrows always leave before my small hands can wrap around their equally small bodies. I am left with a sort of heartbreak. I remember a phantom outline of the feeling — of desperation, a thin flim of rejection. and the sting of loss. In memory I hear my sniffles and weeping as I realise these sparrows don’t also instantly feel the sense of connection I feel with them, I hear a phantom voice of my mother saying you can’t just grab at them, they have homes to go back to — I know that is not what she said, it's only a gist I’ve made of her many placations and stored away.
My mind returns to the present, I look at the balcony now, filled with sparrows who, I assume for my own benefit, seek refuge in this coop of a space. Despite the vastness of the urban jungle that they lived in and have adapted to, I have managed, over the past one year, to build a thin, fine, very brittle sense of trust with them. They can come and rest and debate between falling asleep and staring out lazily. I realised I had always carried the sting of rejection with me and there is a balm over it now. It feels surreal now, to think that I had been carrying that sense of sorrow of not being recognised as an ally by a couple of wet and worried birds. That sorrow was strong enough to make me want to make up for my childish greed by putting out food for them every day for a year and 7 months.
What an odd way to create meaning for myself when the world had fallen apart and I had to navigate ways in which the world inside my small apartment could make up for the sense of loss I feel. That is how I try to make sense of it at least. But maybe it has nothing to do with it. Maybe it is simply a sense of wonder left behind from 20 years ago that I have decided to resurrect and cherish. And the only purpose it serves is a purpose that life is not futile, that even on the worst of days and no matter the ever-changing weight of heaviness I carry in my body I need to get up. I can’t risk letting the sparrows down, I need to see them surveil and lounge and chirp and peck away at rice grains. I need to know that it helped them however little, to ease the burdens of their lives and livelihoods. I need them to know they can trust to find food and refuge in this corner of the sprawling metropolis no matter the weather or season.
It is a bond I share with no one else but the sparrows across my reflective glass, a bond of pure serendipity and maybe a little sorrow.