Troubling lovebirds

As I stare at the blank page on my laptop, I can’t help but get distracted by the birds chirping away in front of me. My new life in Australia started pretty well with great housemates and a cold Autumn. One of my housemates breeds lovebirds—not only because she likes them but also because they make good money.

She’s been doing it for a while now, and so it wasn’t my place to comment or raise eyebrows. She’s even sold a few birds, for about 20 dollars each.

Not a bad deal, I thought when I first heard of it. But the more I observe, the more I’m reconsidering. The marketer in me has begun evaluating the return on my housemate’s investment. Considering bird feed, the cage, nursing the eggs, nurturing the young, the cleaning efforts, and the constant attention, breeding and maintaining birds is an arduous task for which 20 dollars seems a laughable loss.

But it’s her business, and she’s been doing it long before I was in the picture. So I held my silence.

However, as I watched the birds today (for lack of anything else to do), I started wondering why people paid, however much they did, to own these birds. Why would anyone pay money in exchange for years of caring and, in a sense, servitude to birds they could crush in seconds?

Beauty—that’s the obvious answer to most problematic questions. But that can’t be all.

Some people, like my housemate, look at it from a severe business perspective. Of course, she loves the little chirpers and caresses them in her palms, cooing and cuddling even when not so appropriate. She likes spending her time with and for them. But when it’s time to give them up, she’s ready for the next batch.

Some others treat bird raising as a hobby. But even they who look at bird raising as a pleasurable activity still spend a lot of time, energy, and money on maintenance—which makes me wonder why. Why would they expend so many resources to observe caged creatures that grow so finicky the moment you make a sudden movement around them. I only switched my crossed legs, and the two birds in the cage wailed out as if I were slaughtering them. Their behaviour is understandable, too. If I’d been locked up all my life and only given food on certain days and times in a day, I’d become paranoid also. I’d feel so tortured in my mind that I won’t be able to think straight or trust anyone enough to share a conversation.

How is it then, I wonder, still watching the flustered birds, that someone who acquires these birds, makes them sick, and gains pleasure in watching them every day isn’t a troubled soul themselves?

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Cars

Jaguar showroom in Austin, Texas
Jaguar showroom in Austin, Texas

All lined up to go

as youth army in battle

puppets of the rich

The connector

Woman from the neighbourhood
some kids in a school up north
employees visiting from nearby
and travellers just passing by
a retiree who was bored at home
conscious youth wanting a jog
owners leashing their animals
and dogs walking their humans
connecting a scattered world
cold, steel, and hard on the outside
bridging the lives of the unknown
a testament to society, stands a bridge 

Little things

Although I hate it, I’m a workaholic. I have trouble letting go of work even after official working hours. It’s got a lot to do with not having fixed times or shift times. I’m used to seeing colleagues show up at work after noon and leave at midnight or arrive at 8 and leave at 4.

I’ve done it plenty of times myself. Sometimes I stay up late watching a movie, cleaning my room, or chatting with my roommates, oversleeping the next morning. Come to think of it, some of the stringent time rules in many workplaces are insignificant since they don’t consider the frivolousness of human nature.

Or that’s what I used to think.

I love having flexible work times—after all, isn’t that why everyone wants to be a freelancer? People think freelancing is the ideal way of life—PJs, late night snacking, mid morning brunches, and still damn good money. Alas, I now know that that’s just a stereotype the internet has inflicted upon us. Nothing about freelancing, or working flexible hours, is any more fun than working regular hours.

It took me over five years to realise this.

A few weeks ago, I was at work lounging—it was rather a quiet and uneventful day. I’d finished most of my tasks for the week and had plenty of time to kill. I’d been working so hard the couple of months leading to that day that I felt a gaping emptiness when I didn’t have anything to occupy myself. And so I succumbed to the YouTube temptation, watching a documentary about the Great Barrier Reef in the North Eastern coast of Australia.

It’s a three-part documentary, each running about an hour. And as I watched the camera pan across the ocean waters, and heard the narrator’s voice ring through my headphones, I realised how ignorant I’ve been about the world’s most gorgeous and vast spread of natural phenomenon. I had no idea it stretches over 1400 miles. Or that there’re 900 islands spread through the Reef, or that the Reef wasn’t formed until 10000 years ago—or that almost 40 percent of it is destroyed already.

Sure, I knew the Great Barrier Reef was a natural treasure undergoing an unnatural devastation, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I never had the time in my life to watch documentaries or read articles online about the world that surrounded my immediate office and work.

In a moment of shame and disgust, I understood how blinded I’d been by my work routine. I’d awake, exercise, go to work, return, and engage on social media before going to sleep. I read during the weekends and every other chance I get, but that’s limited to fiction, online articles, or general nonfiction. I’ve never spent time appreciating the magnitude of the world’s events outside of the realm of my work. I’ve been so obsessed with meeting my personal requirements that I’ve been missing the finer aspects of life—like widening my eyes in wonder at a coral reef, or experiencing the joy in my mother’s voice when I make time to chat with her.

I spent the last couple of weeks with my parents, and I made conscious efforts to indulge myself less in office work and more in my surroundings. And it’s served me well too. Now that office work doesn’t dictate my day, I’m noticing small things about work that don’t matter as much as I’d thought. Little delays or mistakes that would’ve upset me earlier don’t anymore. After all, there’s a lot more to life than the pay check.

Hello, stranger

“Just send me a message if you need help.”

That was the last thing I told her. She was neither a friend nor a family member—just a colleague. I wouldn’t have met her if I hadn’t stopped by a friend’s seating location at work—she’d joined their team a few months ago and was, along with my friend and a few others in their team, expecting to attend her first corporate event in the United States. They were all preparing for the visa interview—filling up forms, double checking spellings and passport numbers, cross-checking each other’s details, and raining me with questions of what to do and whatnot.

It was amusing. I’d gone through the same nerve-wracking experience two years ago when I first applied for a visa. And so I was only too happy to help out these first-timers.

Every one of them was excited beyond words, making plans, discussing which places to visit, and what to eat on the plane. Tiring is an understatement when referring to the journey from India to anywhere in the US—it involves around 22 hours of flying time and additional transit times. No first time traveller has any idea of how they’d endure it. And every far fetched idea they do have evaporates when the plane takes off. I saw the same conundrum in their eyes. I could understand of course—growing up in a developing country, the only thing you want more than to visit the United States is to visit the United States.

But she wasn’t like the others in the lot. Although she, too, was excited, nervous, and earnest in her effort, she had more than blatant thrill in her eyes. She clung to it as if she couldn’t believe she deserved it.

She died in a car accident yesterday.

She should’ve attended her visa interview sometime this week. I’m sure she would’ve got through despite all her fears of not. I’m sure that would’ve cherished the jet-lagging journey and discovered a different side of herself in the new found land. She would’ve brought back more than candy for her friends—she would’ve brought back countless memories and an endless ocean of inspiration for her work. For she was an artist—one who inhales the world with new eyes, expelling a brighter, moe hopeful, version in a consortium of colours.

I never got to know her as a person. And yet, I felt a deep sorrow descend on me when I heard of her death. She wasn’t a friend or a family member—just a colleague I met by sheer chance.

It’s strange how much we under-appreciate the impact of people in our lives. We seldom realise how much we retain from even a brief conversation. I spoke to her only about three times in total. She wanted advice to clear the visa interview. She wanted assurance, and I was there at the right time to tell her it’ll all be fine. However, every time I spoke to her, I spoke from the top of my head—sharing my experience, my lessons, and my joys. Those weren’t deep, soul searching conversations, but they swirl in my head, haunted now, still in shock that the person whose pupils dilated upon hearing my adventures is no longer alive.