I was standing near the long winding jasmine creeper. The creeper itself is a few years old and the flowers it bears gather too much attention from neighbours, friends and of course my winged friends. As my eyes traced the serpentine plant, I spotted the first glimpse of the bunch of twigs.
There it was, tucked behind a burst of green leaves. It was almost invisible. I tiptoed closer to get a better glimpse. It was a nest all right. A little white cheeked bulbul sat without stirring. I watched the mother guard her nest for a few minutes when another bulbul chirped away from a plant nearby. This was a sign — I was intruding into their territory. I took a few steps behind and went back to my life smiling.
Every year, without fail, during the breeding season, birds build many homes around the neighbourhood. In many cultures, it is believed that a nest in the garden brings good luck to the family. And, good luck, we all need and thus I begin to look out for a bunch of twigs in every dark corner of plumage.
I wait for the whole process to begin, watch them build their nest, enjoy the first sight of the hatchlings and finally when the little one makes its first leap out of the nest, it is the time we celebrate. But, unlike every year, this time, my wait for the nest never arrived. I watched many of the birds hop from branch to branch, carry tiny scraps on their beaks and even settle down in a cosy spot. But, the nest never came alive. I had almost given up till I saw this little family on the jasmine creeper.
Having a nest was one thing but it was perched on a spot that was right outside my front door. I could hear frantic chirping and shrill calls every time I passed them. Sometimes, I could see them on the lowest branches of the nearby trees and they even whizzed past my head to keep me away.
One late afternoon, I had to step out for some chores when I spotted a tiny head from the rumble of twigs. My heart welled up. It was a moment everyone was waiting for. I could see the proud parents nearby and I quietly retraced my steps. My chores could wait.
My next couple of days were filled with exciting moments. The parents busied themselves — flying, feeding, guarding and occasionally staying still in their home. The world seemed perfect as the family went about their lives — singing lullabies and guarding their babies under their wings.
All my worries, anxieties and pain drowned in their soothing chirps. I watched, I prayed, I smiled and I smiled some more. And, just like that, one day, I heard a very tiny tweet. I peeked from behind a wall to get a better look. There, they were, three tiny heads. They bobbed up and down as a strange warmth filled my chest.
As I continued to watch, the unthinkable happened. One little fella took a tiny step. She had some hair and bright eyes with a delicate soft beak. I watched her as she stood in her nest. My heart did a little dance. “Was it time?”, I wondered as the little one took another brave step near the rim of the nest. My mouth went dry as the parents chirped away happily in a nearby plant.
One adult bulbul did a strange dance on the floor as if to distract me but my eyes traced back to the little one at the top of the creeper. The next few moments were a blur as the baby dropped to a lower twine with a light thud. It was scary, tense and exhilarating.
I watched the parents do crazy antics but they stayed away letting the bird take its first baby steps. My chest tightened. I watched the little family busy themselves against the evening sky. I bit my lips because I knew in my heart that the nest would soon be empty and I may never meet the bulbul family again. I tore myself away from the scene and went back to my world.
An eerie silence greeted me the next morning. The fledglings were gone, the nest was empty except for scraps of twigs stuck on the creeper. I looked up at the sky and said a prayer.
I don’t think I will ever be able to walk past the jasmine creeper without looking up at the empty nest and feeling a tug in my heart. But, then, there comes a time in everyone’s life when we all have to just let the brood fly the nest and get back to our lives hoping that they will fly and stay safe.
Sudha Subramanian is an author and writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman