AVIAN ARCHITECTS

The wise and learned Dr.Stork, The Secretary General of the World Council of Birds had called an urgent meeting requesting all affiliated members to attend to discuss a very burning issue: “How to build nests that could apart from giving protection from natural elements also protect from plundering enemies”. His Excellency, Mr. Eagle had kindly consented to preside. The venue, in the absence of any registered headquarters, was a large open field dotted by a few trees here and there.

On the appointed day and hour the members started trickling in, one by one. Among the early arrivals were the pigeons and sparrows, doves and ptarmigans to name a few. They were pretty well-mannered, but the crows and mynahs just could not maintain any decorum on this august occasion and made a nuisance of themselves by babbling constantly. Then of course, there were others like peacocks, lyre birds, birds-of-paradise, parrots and some others who thought they were attending a fashion parade or something such and were busy preening themselves. Among the late arrivals were the owl and nightjar, still looking sleepy. Though most birds were quite social and exchanged greetings, poor owl and nightjar were treated as pariahs or outcasts perhaps because of their nocturnal outings. Suddenly, there was pin drop silence. The mighty falcons, hawks and ospreys had arrived! All of them were very powerful and influential members enjoying veto rights.

As soon as the necessary quorum was present, Dr. Stork requested his Excellency to take the Chair (er, a suitable branch) and call the meeting to order. The President, Mr. Eagle, then perched himself on the highest branch of a nearby tree and then the only item on the agenda was taken up for discussion.

It was suggested that they appoint a competent architect who could not only help with the design aspect of the nest but also execute the entire project. There were three birds in contention – the woodpecker, the tailor bird and the weaver bird. There were no backers for the woodpecker, as it was felt that no bird had a beak strong enough to peck a hole in any tree. They were of course presupposing that the woodpecker was only going to give something like a prototype of his own nest. The poor bird was shouted down before it could even present its case.

The tailor bird was ruled out because the type of nest suggested by him could not withstand the windy conditions and would easily be detached from the tree. Moreover, it was not roomy enough either most birds did not want to live in such small nests, which they thought were like staff quarters! That left only the weaver bird.

Upon request by the President, the weaver bird came forward and unfolded its plan. To start with, he stressed the importance of choosing a suitable tree. Hardly had he uttered the word “tree,” when the crow interjected, “we all build our nests in a tree, not on a sandy beach!” The weaver bird felt insulted, but ignoring the crow, continued. “Choosing the right material is an absolute must. You must find thin strands of straw.” Now it was the mynah’s turn to interrupt, “huh, as if we build our nests with bricks and mortar! Of course we use straw and twigs and the like!” It was getting a bit nasty, but the weaver bird kept its cool.

“Having found the right tree and the right material, start weaving in this fashion…” As it was about to demonstrate how it should be done, the tiny sparrow interrupted it again, “this is no big deal, we all take straw and twigs and intertwine them.”

Well, that was the last straw on the camel’s – sorry, weaver bird’s – back and it just flew away in a huff and that was the end of the Council of Birds, never to meet again!

No one even had the courtesy to propose a Vote of Thanks to the perch!

Unknown to the others, the weaver bird was secretly designing and also producing prototypes of prefabricated nests to suit all birds when this sad incident occurred and consequently, the feathered fraternity frittered away the chance of a life time with the exit of the weaver bird. And as you all know, the birds have not mastered the technique of building good nests till date.

Make Room For The Girls, Please!

It was June 1947. I had just passed my matriculation examination conducted by the Bombay University and joined Siddharth College, to study the sciences. In those days matriculation was the equivalent of today’s Class XI. The results would invariably be out on 5th June – published in almost all the newspapers and the new college year would also start on 20th June, unless it happened to be a Sunday.

Our college building was nothing else but converted old military barracks, consisting of brick walls and corrugated cement sheets serving as roofs. Today, the Income Tax Office Building stands where once my college was.

Came June 20th and I left for college, naturally excited. Indian Independence was hardly two months away, adding to the fervour. My class had two divisions, each consisting of over 150 boys and girls.

On that day, because of some goof-up, the boys and girls from both the divisions landed up in the same lecture hall for a Biology lecture to be delivered by Miss Gupte. Miss Gupte was a demure, young lady with a very soft voice. As was the custom then, the boys squeezed themselves in the rear rows, leaving the front benches for the girls. It was but obvious that the hall meant to accommodate perhaps 170 to 180 students could not accommodate everyone and as a result, about a dozen odd girls were left standing near the entrance door. Upon noticing their plight, Miss Gupte requested in her soft voice, “Make room for the girls, please!” Well, there hardly was any standing space, leave alone a seat! At that point, a very naughty and mischievous boy, Matkar, slapped his thigh and looking at the girls asked them to occupy the seat. While all the boys burst out in laughter Miss Gupte and the girls could hardly hide their embarrassment. There was some commotion for a while and then a stern face appeared. It was Dr.Gajendra Gadkar, our Principal, a great scholar and a strict disciplinarian. Upon seeing him, some boys quickly vacated their seats and stood in the passage available between the rows of benches.

The girls occupied the vacated seats and peace prevailed.

But there was still one seat unoccupied! Matkar’s thigh!!!

 

 

What Intensity, Love?

A point to ponder –

Does love have any dimension?

How do we measure it?

By its length in meters?

Or weight in kilos?

Or the time it lasts?

In seconds, or heartbeats perhaps?

How does it taste?

Sweet, bitter, toxic?

Or by the feelings it evokes?

Its many emotions and manifestations?

How do we measure its intensity and on what scale?

In fact, how do we define love?

College Capers

There is never a dearth of naughty boys and girls upto some mischief in schools and colleges across the world! The incident that I am reproducing is absolutely true, I swear, though I was not a party to it. The reason why I am so sure is because it was narrated to me by my then to-be  sister-in-law, who was a willing or conspiring participant – the naughty girl!

There was this professor in the college who was not  exactly liked by most of the students, so they pranked him many a time. Here’s  one memorable incident!

One day. someone brought a monster of crab – live, of course – and tied it to a string which was then slung across a nail hammered into the wooden framework of the door from which the professor entered. The other end of the string was in the hand of one of the boys.  As soon as the professor entered, the entire class shouted “look out” and that very moment the boy holding the string slacked it a bit so that the crab was dangling right before the eyes of the terrified professor! I’m sure you can judge the reaction for yourself as the boy quickly released the string and let the crab fall to the ground and crawl away.

After gathering his wits, the professor entered the classroom and noticed that not a single fan was switched on. You can well imagine how stifling it can get in India in the summer months. As soon as the switches were turned on and the fans gathered speed, banana  peels, broken eggs shells and the like came down from heaven, reminding one of manna the only difference being that all this stuff was not palatable!

And lest you thought that this was the end of the story, no, not by far. Now, the podium upon which the professor stood to deliver his lectures, was actually a hollow wooden platform made of slats or planks nailed together and one could easily hide underneath. Before the class started, one boy had  hidden inside the platform with a twig in his hand. When the professor ultimately proceeded with his lecture and turned his back to write something on the blackboard, the twig appeared from between the slats and started dancing. The entire class burst out laughing, but as soon as the professor turned, the twig disappeared! The poor professor could not understand what was happening, neither would anyone let out the secret! Each time he had his back to the class, the twig made its appearance again! And when it sought entry into the professor’s trousers, poor chap, he started scratching, as the entire class could not control itself! After a while, he simply walked out, unable to pinpoint anybody for this mischief.

 

Aren’t we Indians a naughty lot?  I  wish I’d  been a party to this hilarious episode!

THE PUPPET

Suddenly, I felt as if I was totally paralyzed. I just could not move. My hands, feet, just about everything had gone totally numb. I tried to shout for help. To my horror, I had lost my speech too! I was perspiring profusely. Thinking the end was near, I remembered God. Perhaps He would help! But then again I thought, why would He want to help me? What had I done in my long life spanning eight and a half decades to please Him? Nothing, just nothing. Helplessly, I just lay there, resigned to my fate.

For quite a while, darkness prevailed. Then I felt energy entering my limbs. I could move my hands, legs, everything. Out of sheer joy, I started dancing, running, jumping and even performing acrobatic feats even circus artistes could never dream of! My voice had also returned.

Whereas in real life, I can at best bay like a donkey, here I was singing away to glory! My songs would put even the singing legends like Tansen, Enrico Carusso and others to shame! I could hear the spontaneous applause for my acrobatics and the encores for my songs. I could even see the standing ovation given to me. I was really intrigued just how was all this possible?

The dream broke and reality dawned! God was practicing his skills at puppetry and ventriloquy on me!!!