« Home | I'm a smiley fan :)) » | Thursday, or the Day of Thurs » | Hello world »

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Where will the squirrels go?

One of the most beautiful musical sounds in the world is the chirruping of squirrels. It embodies surprise, impatience, anxiety ... and yet fails to conceal the emotions of hope, a call of friendship and a feeling of deep contentment – the “all’s right with the world” kind. As I was strolling on the Bandstand promenade last night, I heard a squirrel emit a high pitched gurgle before dancing away into the shadows. It struck a poignant chord. Memories came rushing back. Just a month before, I had visited my home in central Kolkata – a derelict, rambling old bungalow, falling apart at the seams yet being held together by the memories of my grandparents’ love. This bungalow, which old timers say once housed forty people, is now occupied by just one family member and one housekeeper. And in front of the bungalow is the Garden. This was the Garden where three generations of our clan played, fought, reconciled, loved, and grew up in together. It has donned many visages over the all-too-soon-disappearing decades. The Garden was an ice skating rink in the seventies, though over the years it has gracefully accepted designations like cricket field, badminton court, hide-and-seek center and tree-climbing resort. It served as a laboratory for my grandfather’s experiments with agriculture, which yielded us delicious mangoes, tomatoes, coconuts, sem, ber, chillies and many other fruits and vegetables, besides an occasional riot of colorful flowers and an entrancing bouquet of fragrances. It also served as a place to hold formal parties, religious gatherings and various social get-togethers. The image the Garden built around itself was that of a perennial well of youth, mystery, surprises, fun, friendship, and life – both flora and fauna.

Animal life abounded in the Garden. Snakes, frogs, insects of various hues; dark caterpillars with red spots transmogrifying into bright yellow butterflies which flitted from white periwinkle to pink periwinkle as if they could not decide which to propose eternal love to; cuckoos which would sing lustily every dawn before the sound wheels of a great city would begin rumbling and drown their music; hordes of crows as black as night assembling on the branches of our giant mango tree and holding animated conferences at regular intervals all through the day; and cats. Never has the Garden been free of cats. At least one cat– black, white, golden brown or hybrid – has always condescended to make the Garden its home; and has subsequently protected its terrain vociferously from unwanted intruders of the same sex and species until it decides to shift house. As you will have guessed from this fact, the Garden is also never free of rats.

But on my last visit, I noticed new guests. As I sat in the Garden basking in the clear skies and the tingling warm winter sun, I noticed a pair of squirrels – a rare sight in morbid Kolkata – frolicking atop the branches of the mango tree. They disdainfully ignored my luring calls, and sat on their hind legs cordially exchanging pleasantries and insults with each other. Finally, tiring of the game, they began scurrying up the branches to the tree top, whence they literally flew across to the parapet of the roof of our bungalow. In seconds, they had circumnavigated the roof and had decided to invite some pigeons into their social circle. The disinterested pigeons emitted some guano and took to the air. Obviously affronted, the squirrels shrieked their displeasure to the skies, sniffed the guano and sat rubbing their shiny black noses with their furry front paws.

As I continue with my stroll, I begin to wonder. The house may soon be up for sale. The Garden will doubtless go with it too. A concrete tree will replace the giant mango tree. The birds, which have had it down from countless generations that the Garden will never change, will be astonished at the fact that change is indeed a constant. They will perhaps shed a tear before flying away to new nesting locales. The little patch of greenery and life which was supplying millions of citizens of Kolkata with much needed oxygen will be wiped out forever in one stroke. And, for perhaps the first time in sixty years, no stray cat will feel welcome in the land which once served, faithfully and loyally, as the Garden.

Maybe this change is necessary. Indeed, it is perhaps even practical and economically beneficial. But it is my obligation to my childhood, to the childhood of our future generations, to ask my conscience this one trivial question before it is too late.

Where will the squirrels go?

E-mail this post

Remenber me (?)

All personal information that you provide here will be governed by the Privacy Policy of Blogger.com. More...