Sometimes the tiniest, briefest, minutest of incidents change your life. For me, it was the moment I saw the hummingbird flutter in the breeze outside my window.
It hung there, gently bobbing up and down, its wings hard at work. I was captivated by the beauty of the moment. I watched in awe, too scared to move lest it should fly away.
That was when my brother came bursting into the room. My brother was seven years old and three years younger than me. Those days he was going through a phase when he believed he was an aeroplane.
He ran around the house, roaring like the engine of an old propellor plane. We had seen one of those antique pieces at the aircraft show.
As I turned to hush him, he was already halfway inside the room. Arms spread wide, head bent at an awkward angle. He was creating a horrible racket.
When I turned back, it was too late. I ran towards the window and opened the glass panes wide. I looked in all directions, but the bird was nowhere in sight. I went to the only place where I could drown all my worries and troubles.
The library was a short distance from home. The old librarian was a friend. He saw me walk in and sensed all was not well. A few minutes later, after he had heard my tale of woe, he said, “Hmm, maybe I have just the book that will make you happy.”
He returned with a copy of ‘The book of Indian Birds by Dr Salim Ali’.
“Find out more about that hummingbird of yours, ” he said.
The librarian had judged correctly. Not only did I learn all about hummingbirds, but I also discovered birds that I had never seen.
“Uncle, can you tell me about that bird ?” the question and the tug on my shirt sleeve brought me back to earth. I put my binoculars aside and looked at the young girl standing and staring at me from behind soda-bottle glasses.
I smiled, “That one?” I said, pointing at a dark blue kingfisher perched on the top of a tree in the park. The girl nodded eagerly.
“Are you interested in knowing more about birds?”
“She has always been fascinated by birds,” a young woman holding her hand replied.
“That is a kingfisher. Take my binoculars and check out its plumage,” I said as I cleaned the lens and handed it to the child.
Instead, she had some questions for me.
She said, “Why do you watch birds?”
“I am an ornithologist.”
“You study birds?”
I did not expect a young child to know what an ornithologist was.
Now it was my turn to be impressed.
She reached for the binoculars and said, “I am reading a book, ‘The book of Indian Birds. I also want to be an ornithologist when I grow up.”
I smiled. High up in the branches, I could see a hummingbird hovering in the breeze.