Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jingle Bells

As a kid, I had been fascinated by Christmas Eve. As I grew up, fascination gave way to fondness and familiarity. I do not know how it all began. Whether it my missionary education, or the growing familiarity by reading novels and story books by western writers, or the sheer simple beauty of the festival. The snow, the lights, stars, bells, gifts, the Christmas tree, carols, cakes, cookies, reindeers and Santa Claus; which kid would not be enchanted. And it does not even matter that you are not born a Christian or that you are from a place where the Christian population is small. And therein lies the beauty of the festival.

I have been educated in a Don Bosco School. During Christmas, we would be enjoying our winter vacation. My father served in an university and the students used to organize a Pre-Christmas function in the university auditorium. At the entrance would be a Christmas tree with decorations. There would be dances and carols. "Silent Night" was sung along with a act of baby Jesus with Joseph and Mary. And of course the main attraction of the function, good old Santa Claus. The whole auditorium would echo with "Jingle bells jingle bells, jingle all the way" and Santa Claus would enter and run around throwing toffees. After that packets containing chocolate cake, nuts and toffees would be distributed. We kids used to have so much fun. With the passing years, the function was replaced by a choir group visiting each house in the campus singing carols. Although the function was missed, the sweet music of the carols resonating in the winter air was ethereal.

My sister and myself used to celebrate Christmas in our own small away. With the help of Deta, we would put up star over our front porch light bulb, hang decorations on any plant available and make  greeting cards. Even we are grown-ups now, every Christmas, I give my sister a greeting card and a small gift. Last year we bought a bell and decorations for the house. The bell (hanging between a string of mango leaves!) still welcomes anyone visiting our home. I love movies revolving around Christmas. And this time of year, there are lots of them coming on television.

Christmas caught me off guard in my very childhood and the enchantment is enough to last a lifetime. With the fog and chilly air, along with the bright lights adorning the city is already giving a 'Christmas'y feeling. I am hoping to have a enchanting Christmas this year. Wishing one for everyone out there too! Ho ho ho!

"Christmas, Christmas time is near
Time for toys , And time for cheer
We've been good,But we can't last
Hurry Christmas,Hurry fast
Want a plane, That loops the loop
Me, I want a hula-hoop
We can hardly stand the wait
Please Christmas don't be late"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Chirpy Mornings

Indian House Sparrow

Ever since I moved to my new residence, the first sounds that I hear when I wake up in the morning are excited chirping of the ghor-sirika (house sparrows). In our apartment building, the sparrows rule. The apartment my sister and myself moved into was vacant for sometime, and it became the playhouse cum toilet of the house sparrows.Their favourite hangout trees are the tejpaat (bay leaves) and jetuka (henna), whose branches almost touch the railings of our kitchen balcony. It was my sister who indulged them, not me. In the mornings, she fed them rice grains, cooked rice and even bhujiya (snacks). I tease her saying that she will make the bunch of sparrows obese.

Common Mynah
Feeding birds has been a part of life for our family, especially my father. Back home (in upper Assam), Deta (my father) have built a food tray with a shed, complete with a bowl of water. There is a variety of contenders for the food served there. Of course, like anywhere in India, crows are a menace. But in our home, it is the xalika (common mynahs) who rule. With Deta's daily supply of rice, roti and biscuits, they have literally become plump and lazy. They don't look for food anymore, that too in a place where their natural food is abundant. A couple of daauk (water hens) are another inhabitants of our household. They roam around the drains from the kitchen basin almost all day long. They are very quick runners.

White Breasted Water Hen
A pair of kopou (spotted turtle dove bird) also features in our home compound. Unfortunately one of them was hunted down by a predator, and now only the remaining one roams around. It is really very heart wrenching to watch the lonely lovely dove.

Apart from the birds, the naughtiest house members are the kerketua (grey squirrels). They have their nests up in the jack-fruit trees, feed on any fruit and vegetable available in the house, plus the supplies from my father. They seem to have the  most fun too. You can catch them running and chasing one another around, all day long.

Spotted Turtle Dove
I almost forgot to mention their bathing extravaganza. All the birds including a family of owls (yes, owls!) enjoy a morning or an evening bath (depending on their mood and convenience), in the mini pond created by Deta with an old ceramic basin, originally meant for water lilies.
Grey Squirrel
Back in my abode in the semi metropolis, I feel lucky to at least have the sparrows to feed. My sister recently relocated to Delhi for a job opportunity. And the responsibility of feeding these cute things fell on me. By the time I am awake, they are already inside the living room (their playroom) through the ventilators. A week back, they even tried to build a nest inside the panel cover of the curtains. As evidence, I found twigs and feathers near the windows, sparrow shit on the curtains and also one of them inside when I reached home one evening from work.

So the first job in the morning is to feed these all time hungry sparrows. These days I am feeding them bhujiya (snacks) and sweets. Four crows and  a common mynah are also tough contenders of my daily treat. I let the mynah feed but chase away the crows. The sparrows feed and then try to break away pieces of the broom in the balcony for their nest. Absolute 'khai paat phola's (Assamese idiom meaning one who make holes in the very plate he/she eats in). So broom is now inside. However, these birds are my company in the house and connects me to the nature in this fast evolving concrete jungle. Watching and feeding my avian friends in the morning definitely chirps up my day, apart from getting me late for wok.
An alarming article I came across today while searching pictures: