Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The story of the new generation urban Koel

He was a hungry child sitting on the edge of a delicate looking branch mouth wide open and calling constantly. Mrs.Bulbul appeared looking pretty much harassed and weary with a big caterpillar she had scooped from somewhere. Anything to make him stop crying. "Good lord" she said " How did you grow to be so big? "  as her head almost disappeared into his mouth while feeding him.  "It is all your dad's fault" she muttered as he looked equally harassed trying to get food for the two more hungry heads yelling from the nest. "I told him to lay off the fatty diet he was on, he never listens".
" I hear you wife"  he yelled. "This big fellow is all because of the bread you have been hogging on from the last house on the road. I told you they were up to no good. Now see what you've to handle". But Mrs.Bulbul had already left to find more food for her big hungry child. "How did I even survive laying such a huge egg? Ouch!!!!" she thought to herself as she looked for more food while glancing at the last house on the road for some of those tasty bread they left out. Today there was none. the crows must have gotten there earlier.

However, she was glad to have her husband's help in feeding the smaller kids while the larger one was her's to handle. They were after all the Bulbul family and this was the first time they had been nestjacked by the neighborhood Asian Koels, but they were too busy feeding the hungry mouths to realize that. It always happened to someone else.

This she was hoping would be the last trip of the day before her brood went for their nap. She wanted to find something really special for her big hungry child she had in a weird way grown very fond of. She felt protective of him and hoped he would be ok with her other regular sized kids. "Wait" she thought to herself. "Is he really a he or is he a she. He looks so different." But her thoughts were interrupted by the grasshopper that was to become her kid's next meal.

After her last trip of the day, she sat beside him on the branch to roost. He was still too young, but he might just squish his siblings if he tried to fit into the tiny nest. So as Mr.Bulbul babysat the Bulbul kids, Mrs.Bulbul sat next to Big-Happy. That's what she decided to name him. For some reason other than being always hungry, he just seemed to be Happy and Big-Hungry sounded plain rude.

Big-Happy before he became famous, taking a break.

"Good Morning Mamma" Big-Happy said as Mrs. Bulbul almost fell off the branch. Wow, those were his first words. "Good Morning son.." His crying voice that had sounded so much like a crow's voice giving Mrs. Bulbul quite a few nightmares, had suddenly turned into a pleasant sweetness.
" Mamma, I am big now, let me help you get some food for all of us" Big-Happy said.
Before she could react, neighboring Aunty Bulbul  saw Big happy and said "Oh goodness so it is true, you have been nestjacked" .
"I've been what???"
"Nestjacked, you silly, haven't you heard? "
"I've no idea what you are talking about, have you been visiting 'those flowers' again? talk straight"
" Ok ok... I've been talking to the local Mynas. They have been watching you. Your's is a rare case. It happens more often with the Mynas. This fellow is not your child. He is an Asian Koel kid"

Big-Happy was not very happy to see Aunty Bulbul.  But she was the morning local news after all and there was no avoiding her.  He could barely understand what she was saying but his mamma was looking positively worried.

After a few minutes she came to Big-Happy and said "Ok son... I guess you've been adopted. It is official. But then don't you worry about it. You will continue to be my son". Well that was one mystery solved, Big-Happy was happy he was not a freak of nature in a Bulbul's world. Mrs. Bulbul was happy she could eat as much bread as she wanted from the last house down the road. She was not responsible for the egg from which Big-Happy was born and Mr. Bulbul could continue on all the fatty diets he wanted.

Aunty Bulbul was more than a bit disappointed. She did not deliver the news to see relieved faces, so she left to collect more juicy gossip for the next day's local news.

One day as Big-Happy and Mrs. Bulbul were getting back  from foraging, he was a quick learner and a fast flyer, his brother and sister were just getting their final flying lessons, they saw Grandpa Koel perched on a branch quietly observing all the voracious youngsters from the last breeding season around him. All the other birds had come to accept the unusual bonding between Mrs. Bulbul and her son Big-Happy who was always there for his mother.

There was also a bit of jealousy and maybe a few To-let boards for Koels going up in a few nests. If the new generation of Koels was going to be like this, they all wanted to have their share of one.
The crows looked a bit confused. "Has our work been outsourced to the Bulbuls?, are the  Koels laying off crows?"  But Big-Happy was oblivious to all  the commotion he was causing. He just wanted to help his mamma the way she had taken care of him.

"Go talk to Grandpa Koel" she said. "He will be able to tell you more about being a Koel than anyone else, he has been around a long long loonnnngggg time". He did look that way. So Big-Happy went and said " Good Morning Grandpa, can you tell me all about being a Koel?"

 "Sing, have fun, distract the crows when your wife wants to lay an egg in their nest, Sing, Have fun". said Grandpa.

"That's it? but then why is my mamma a bulbul? what about building nests? raising kids?"

Grandpa laughed "Now I've finally seen it all" he said. " Kid, you are a Koel,  Koels do not build nests and raise kids and your mamma is a Bulbul because your Koel Mother missed the Egg laying class in school. She did not know the difference between a crow's nest and a Bulbul's nest. Now Goodbye" .

Wise old Grandpa Koel

Big Happy sat next to Grandpa Koel as he snored and thought for a while. He then flew to Mrs. Bulbul and said "Grandpa Koel asked me to learn to build a nest from you".  Mrs.Bulbul's mouth opened wide. The Mantis she had caught for lunch hopped away with a second lease of life. This is not what she expected of Grandpa Koel. She would have to have a word with him tomorrow.

But Mr. Bulbul who was now comparatively relaxed reacted rather positively. "I've got just the thing for you." he said. "I've used this all my life and now seems to be a right time to hand it over to you" as he handed over a well worn copy of "Nest Building for Dummies" to his gleeful adopted son.

Mrs. Bulbul was changing all sorts of colors much to excitement of the local bird watchers and photographers. She would be the star of their facebook page that evening.  Grandpa Koel could wait. Her husband would be the one at the receiving end tomorrow.

Big-Happy was very very happy and excited as he read, pondered, devoured, digested every word in the book and started building prototypes and models. The other Koels around looked at him wearily. "Hope this is not a new trend." After all we are supposed to "Sing, have fun, distract the crows when your wife wants to lay an egg in their nest, Sing, Have fun".

But Big-Happy had no friends in the Koel world and was lost in his world of building nests, perfecting them, giving them roofs, nurseries, food storage areas, play areas, kid proofing the corners as a sweet voice above him said "what are you doing? " He saw the most beautiful bird he had ever seen with voice that was as sweeter than the sweet bread from the last house on the road.

 "Who are you? " he asked .

"I am a koel' she said.

"But I am a Koel and you do not look like me, nor like old Grandpa Koel sitting on that branch"

"I am a girl, you silly, did you not go to the Koel school? now tell me what are you doing."

"Well, Girl Koel, I am building a nest."

"My name is Soft-Flight and Koels do not build a nest we Sing, have fun, you distract the crows when we girls want to lay an egg in their nest and we Sing, Have fun".

He rolled his eyes, uff what is with all the singing and having fun, he had work to do. But she was so beautiful and he was a bit curious about her, so he said " Hey, would you like to see my prototype of nests, you can then judge for yourself ."

"Hmm Interesting" she thought while glancing around for the nearest exit and mentally scolding herself for walking into this one. But her curiosity of a Koel who builds nests got better of her.

 "So which one is yours'" she asked glancing at all the various nests of all shapes and sizes all over the tree.

 "All of them" He said. "I've been practicing."

"But they are all occupied" she said

"Yes, been renting them out, and that on top" he said pointing to the most grand looking nest of all, "that's the one I made for my mamma and dad".

"I'll be back" she said as she took off to clear her head and possibly pinch herself a bit to return to reality. All this was so way off from what they taught at the Koel school, "Sing, have fun.........." so simple and this fellow had to turn the whole Koel world upside down?

But she did return, she was curious and as she saw more and more of what Big-Happy had created, broken the tradition, she was impressed and soon Big-Happy was more happy as Soft-Flight joined him in making nests.

Soft-Flight, she appears so suddenly out of nowhere.

Oh yes not to forget, all the bird watchers and bird photographers were having a field day. Koels building nests, now that was something huge.

 "Who are these people? " asked Soft-Flight to Big Happy. "Not sure" he said.. "but they seem to have no where to go and they keep the crows away. Maybe we can build them some nests after we are done with ours."

Finally Big-Happy and Soft-Flight had their own nest perfected and ready. Mr & Mrs. Bulbul were impressed and rather proud.

Aunty Bulbul was turning a pretty shade of green with envy as the bird watchers desperately tried to look up the bird books to figure out what species she belonged to.

Mr. Bulbul had the perfect housewarming gift for the young Koel couple - Raising Kids For Dummies- as Big Happy and Soft-Flight officially became the first Koel couple to build a nest and raise 3 beautiful kids.

So what next for Big-Happy and Soft-Flight? Last I heard they were touring the country conducting workshops for a new generation and breed of Urban Koels.

Aunty Bulbul still has a To-let board in her nest.

Mr & Mrs Bulbul are enjoying their retirement and the tasty bread from the last house in the road.

Disclaimer - The events, birds and people depicted in the story are totally absolutely and completely ficticious, all existing only in my mind and imagination. Any and all similarity to any Koel, bulbul, Mynas, Crows, person, living or dead is purely coincidental and frankly a miracle.
No offense to any photographer ,bird watcher or entrepreneur is intended in any manner ( me being all three, I should know).

If you have had the patience to read through all this, I salute you. If not, then you may have not reached this sentence, so it does not matter.

Dedicated to all the Koels and Bulbuls all over for entertaining us with their sweet melody.
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Photographs and work by Tharangini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.