It was a scrubby patch of green, a little bigger than a cricket pitch. Nothing of consequence ever grew there, just a few unproductive trees and an underlying vegetation. But, it was home to a large number of birds and other sundry creatures. The few trees created a canopy for unruly, thick undergrowth. Yet among the assembly line of concrete structures that stood side by side, not unlike matchboxes, it was a calming presence, a relief to sore eyes. To the average passerby, hurrying on with his life, it scarcely merited a second glance. It looked unsightly, redundant even, in his ordered scheme of things. He was miffed, and arguably so, at the raucous call of the lapwing, that pesky, noisy bird. The bird book describes the lapwing’s call as an onomatopoeic ‘did, did he do it?’ This constant query, almost like an intrusion irked the random passerby, preoccupied as he was, with multiple thoughts. The avian family was nonchalant. And a varied family it was! Chirping mynas, a stray oriole preening its bright, yellow feathers, a wayfaring hornbill, resting his tired wings, and of course the friendly bulbuls, for whom bashfulness was not in sync with its character, showing off their bright red posteriors as they were!
Often a string of bee-eaters would perch on the branches showing characteristic discipline only to be pooh-poohed by the mercurial sunbirds, flitting in and out, their purple sheen arresting, in the dappled sunlight. And then there were the mischievous squirrels forever nibbling on wild seeds and other such tidbits. The chameleon too would raise its head once in a while and survey the surrounding with sagacity. The ubiquitous sparrows, though, were not residents here. Years in close proximity made them see humans as kindred spirits of sorts and thus ventilator recesses and roof niches were more appealing propositions. Dried grass and twigs, though, were sourced from this patch of green and in time, little nests, albeit messy, were agog with chirpings of the tiny chicks. This unkempt oasis of green also had an active underbush life. Rats, rodents and the occasional snake found it a happy hunting ground. This suited the preying birds too and now and then an alert hawk or shikra would swoop down with swift precision and emerge victorious, brandishing a kill.
Yet, in conventional terms, and one dares say progressive, with an attempt at political correctness, this was just a patch of neglected land, a wasted piece of resource , where the clever calculating mind saw possibilities. This sentiment was not shared by the children though, who thronged in to play at the adjacent park during evenings and holidays. They revelled in its shade and often ventured in, gingerly, to pluck fruits off the ber tree or to search for their lost ball. A happy symbiosis of nature played on.
Till the day, an important looking person came with his men and saws, and swiftly ordered the trees to be felled and the ground cleared. It was perhaps for the dream home he would build, and in platitude, he was entitled to it. All the resident creatures had not been paying rent for use of this space, were they? So, had they any right to claim?
When the lapwing badgers with his query next time, for once he would get a reply in the affirmative. Yes, dear friend, he did it, they all did it. After all, it was theirs and they have written proof. Do you?