We wonder how coy butterflies alight on a wrist or birds shed inhibitions and take to feeding from a hand extended in warm friendship. Well, wild creatures have a knack of ascertaining human intent but winning their trust can entail a long, patient campaign. The village of Bahu perches at 7,500 feet, nestling among orchards of Royal Delicious and Golden apples, besieged by columns of deodars, pines and rakhal (Himalayan Yew), and gazes in serenity over silvery rapids bouncing over ancient boulders and tumbling through the famed Banjar valley of Kullu. In a quaint little cottage of Bahu sparkling with summer roses, a pair of Himalayan bulbuls had taken to nesting in the garden’s flowering bushes and vines.
As the snows fell softly, the family of Deepak Atheist and his parents, Raja Ram and Bhagwati Devi, would put out grains of rice in their lawn for House sparrows, a tradition of Himachali households. The bulbuls, too, partook, of the precious grains and their confidence proceeded inch by inch in the direction of their benefactors. “One day in winter 2018, one of the bulbuls alighted on my hand to eat flakes of jaggery. Then I started putting out raisins on my hand and the bulbul loved these. The bulbul would visit my hand four to five times a day, so fond it was of raisins. It would chatter happily on my hand but its mate somehow never mustered the confidence to fly to my hand. Along with a Streaked Laughing thrush, the bulbul would await at our kitchen door in the morning, hop inside and gobble grains my mother had kept,’’ Deepak told this writer.
One day this summer, one of the two loves of Deepak’s life, the bulbul, flew away into the gorges with a large group of bulbuls. The ditched mate struck another romance and paired. However, the thrush has yet not flown away from Deepak’s hand and his mother’s warm and welcoming kitchen.
THE LOVE THAT STAYED
The thrush that stayed back at Deepak’s home is a species found commonly in our hill stations, foraging around in flower beds and kitchen gardens in groups, singing gloriously in a chorus, and feeling quite at home in human presence. Its song has been described as a “short, rapid trill followed by a loud ringing whistle” or even as “highly variable (notes), brief but often complex; first note often starts off with a distinct bubbling quality. Gives various high call notes.’’
Deepak’s thrush had picked up courage to wait outside the kitchen and the bulbul followed suit ever since December 2018. Like the bulbul, the thrush, too, relished the raisins in Deepak’s hands. “Whenever the thrush does not find grains in the lawns in the early morning, it will come to our kitchen window or the door and sing sweet songs to catch our attention. Whoever amongst us goes to the kitchen first in the morning has to only open the door slightly and the thrush will hop into the kitchen for grains. The thrush lives in a group of four to five around our garden. The one that comes to us is a moody, playful and naughty creature. If in a good mood, the thrush will come to me while I am standing and start climbing from my feet upwards like a pet mouse and finally perch and frolic on my head,” said Deepak.
A day will come when the thrush, too, will leave Deepak…but true love means he will let the bird go.
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