Mar 9, 2012

Sweetest Songs are those..

The hills are alive with the sound of music
With songs they have sung for a thousand year

I was not in the hills but I could hear the sound of music in the shaded groves at the bank of the Cauvery at Ranganathittu. The thick canopy formed by a variety of trees had come alive with the constant chirping of the birds when my ears, by now tuned to their sound, picked up a note which was discordant & different. As a bird song goes, this one was not really much to talk about, neither really sounding sweet nor musical in nature  – just an extended chatter kind of. Yet, it was different, and, unlike other sounds, this one sounded very close.

I went about trying to locate the source and noticed him near the jetty at Ranganthittu. He was busy collecting food, a juicy looking & possibly delicious caterpillar from the grass, getting ready for soon to come breeding season, but noticing my presence, he decided to disappear in the bamboos.

Soon his call sounded again– this time much closer, and lo, there he was, just a few steps away from me, on the pathway again looking for the grub. But now instinctively he was keeping an eye on my movement, too, without ceasing to chatter. While I was fascinated with his small and subtle, yet lustrous presence, he was probably very irritated of my intrusiveness. Quite possibly, the initial chattering could have been his way of admonishing me, for my unwittingly having walked into what he thought was his territory.

From whatever this lovely bird was feeling, one thing was clear—having accepted my presence as something unchangeable, he had decided to move on with his life. For him, the moment was important. While being cautious, there was no way he was going to let a mere human being weans him away from his ardent task. Soon, he was hopping from one bough to another, busy chirping & singing, happily & constantly, as he kept looking for & finding juicy morsels.

Talking about the chirping & singing of birds, it was one summer evening in June 1820, when just like me, Percy Shelley, one of the most gifted poets among the English Romantic poets, came across a skylark singing happily. Being the poet and a brilliant wordsmith that Shelley was, this incident led to him penning one of his most cherished poem “To The Skylark” – a poem that expressed his desire of learning from the skylark the art of being happy.

(As a trivia, the poem contains a well known line - Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. More than a century later, in 1953, lyricist Shailendra was inspired by this to pen the mukhda of a Talat Mahmood-Dev Anand classic from Patita: Hain Sabse Madhur Woh geet Jinhe Hum Dard Ke Sur Men Gaate Hain).

While I cannot get you an image of the skylark who inspired Shelly, let me take you back to that beautiful bird who was my companion at Ranganthittu for some time. A  brilliant combination of Blue, Orange & White, he is called Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, named after the wife of Colonel Samuel Richard Tickell, a British Army Officer of 19th century, and himself a well known ornithologist. You can cherish the extracts from “to The Skylark” by Percy Shelley while enjoying the beauty of this lovely bird on the link given below:

Happy weekend