No Birds This Winter

Once upon a time, in times such as these, migratory birds used to come to this city. You could see them everywhere: around the marshes and ponds, the grassy fields where kids used to play football, atop the branches of the trees struggling to breath in these confused, confused spaces of mud, grime, and concrete, fleeing from the harsh winters of the north.

The birds have stopped coming to Kolkata city once these spaces have disappeared. And in the few places that are left; the birds have stopped coming.

Yesterday, I was at the National Library, and after few hours of reading, I decided to visit the Zoo all of a sudden. There were the usual crowds, the hawkers selling badaam, the monkeys crying for attention, the tigers and lions sulking in their dark cages. The last time I visited the zoo was in winter, years and years ago. Now, Bengalees in stiff-necked sweaters and jackets, a pleasant wind from the north, mufflers on kids running around with balloons, reminded me that winter was 'officially' here. I watched a few couples smooching on the benches; I walked past a few old men who had wandered into the zoo like me, aimless and undecided about what to do next. But I missed the birds of my childhood memories: free uncaged birds from distant lands who once came to this city and the zoo to revisit life. What is it about, what is in the air that makes me feel so nostalgic? Everything around me now seemed to wear a melancholy look: and there were no free birds about this winter. Or perhaps, I had failed to spot them...