Our home in Ambala is surrounded by open spaces, fruit trees, and cereal crops. Each time I fly down from India’s maximum city, I leave behind the concrete hustle bustle and take a wholehearted plunge into different shades of the earth and her gifts. The buzz of yellow and black fuzzy bumblebees, the jaggery like fragrance of a flowering Kadi Patta (Curry) tree, the song of wind rustling eucalyptus leaves, the soft thud of an overripe guava succumbing to gravity.
When I came home for a week this April, I was in for a special ‘natural’ surprise.
Behind our house, there is a vacant plot of land. Its owner stays elsewhere. Our terrace provides a clear view of this uneventful area fenced by a makeshift brick wall. This year, thanks to abundant showers and delayed onset of oppressive heat, I saw that this barren land had transformed into a flourishing scrub jungle. Free from trespassing humans and cattle, a mix of plants and tall shrubs grew unfettered. Soil, sun, and season nurtured new life. Seedlings like little fingers from under the ground burst open towards the light. The popular thorny shrub Lantana Camara embellished the greens with pink and yellow floral clusters.
Now the transformation was not limited to this silent army of oxygen manufacturers. The scrub jungle also became home to a stunning array of avian life! As I soaked up some sun early morning and late evening on our terrace, a host of chirrups and whistles in the background signified new life taking birth and growing up, every moment. I felt the energy. While the nests were hidden away from prying eyes, I spotted more than 15 different kinds of birds in and around the thick foliage. I’ve never been an avid bird-watcher, but with the opportunity of experiencing plentiful avian life around me, it took little effort to become one. I saw and identified the Crested Hoopoes with zebra-striped wings, Bank Mynas with smoky orange eyeliners intact, the hops and skips of a jet black male Indian Robin, the dainty Green bee-eater, Black-breasted Weavers with their flamboyant yellow heads, Angry Birds like puffy Pied-bushchats, the ‘always up to something’ White-cheeked Bulbuls, a lone Common Kingfisher perched on the tallest branch, boisterous flocks of Jungle Babblers, calls of Crested Larks, the melody of the Oriental Magpie-robin, tiny blue-black Sunbirds in metallic hues, the feisty Common Stonechat, and the delicate clay brown Isabelline Wheatear.
And then came the showstopper – the characterful Greater Coucal or the Crow Pheasant with cinnamon brown feathers, a black and purple head, brown eyes, and a heavy tail! Called Mahokh in Hindi, it took me almost a day of research to identify the name and details of the Indian sub-species of the Coucal that I had seen. Finally, a YouTube video came to my rescue! This Coucal entered the scrubs from the same corner on the West of our terrace. I saw it at least once every day, each time engaged in a different activity. One morning around 6am, it stood in our porch with a lizard dangling from its beak. Its head was iridescent as the black and purple feathers reflected the sun’s honey gold rays. It appeared resolute, called out in its baritone woo-woo voice, and flew back to its safe haven of scrubs.
Who would’ve imagined that a piece of land sandwiched between two houses, when left untouched, could self-create such an enriching ecosystem?
No amount of manicured lawns with grass blades of equal height, orderly gardens, ornamental plants, symmetrical flower beds, hedge lines trimmed to fancy shapes, can become ‘home’ to a hundred birds. Yes, these green spaces appear aesthetically appealing, but they cannot buzz with fledglings, life, and energy that way. Five star plush carpet like gardens with strings of palm trees don’t become habitat of avian life. An inquisitive, brave, or even desperate one might make an odd branch its friend, but that’s all. Birds don’t carry food to manicured stems or nor do they make nests in hedges cut to precise sizes. That’s alien to them. That’s not natural.
Shouldn’t we as residents of our houses and society complexes relook what kind of green spaces we are creating? Do our lawns and gardens truly support nature? Can we section off a portion of our lawns for the ‘wild’? Can we resist our urge to uproot natural vegetation? Because, to support nature, you have to ‘allow nature to be natural’. You have to give up some control over how every leaf and every stem takes shape.
Intervene, touch her, and manicure her for your own interest while beating her ways, nature will still grow for you. She will still behave for you. She will still respond to you. But, she will never show you her true glory.
Leave nature alone. Give her time. Support, don’t direct. And she will take you on an unimaginable ride.
This article was published at International News and Views Corporation.