For prior selection of appropriate spots (where birds are ‘seen’ in large numbers) we had to explore different routes. Tanmay had some meeting in his office, so Janaki and I decided to meet and search for some spots. We exchanged our two-wheeler numbers with its colors. Janaki even elaborated the color of her dress and chunari so that I could easily identify her. At a common spot – in front of a dairy – we met at 6.00 in the evening.
I am very poor in many things – Geography is one of those areas. Because of her knowledge of local geography Janaki initially became my leader. Within next half an hour I learnt that she is an ornithologist! I am just an amateur enthusiast, so I continued to work and learn under her leadership. Janaki knew someone in a nearby apartment and we parked my two-wheeler outside the compound of that apartment. Then we went on by Janaki’s vehicle.
We identified couple of streams where we could visit early morning following week. Then we went into a small lane and suddenly found an open space along with a pipeline in a ditch. The place looked deserted but we went inside. And to my surprise there was a Grey Hornbill sitting on a branch of a tree. With closer look we realized that the Hornbill was feeding its baby in the nest. I was ready with binocular and wow, how beautiful that bird looked from such a short distance! I was very happy.
We took a U turn at Simhagad road and came across number of trees at the left side. We entered the gate of the society. After few minutes we saw a young boy coming from the other end and stopped to inquire about ‘where the road leads or whether it is dead end’. He was curious and asked us what we wanted. When we explained our purpose he informed, “Please visit Saurabh. His house is at the left hand end of the road. He knows a lot about birds.”
So we went to Saurabh. When the bell rang, a woman in her 50s opened the door. We inquired about Saurabh. Saurabh's mother asked us to come inside. When we explained the ‘bird counting’ exercise, she was happy. She told us names of many birds she regularly watched in her backyard. Then she offered us a cup of tea.
Sitting there in a well furnished bungalow, with two strangers, enjoying a good cup of tea. I was amused.
This amusement was to continue for the next few days. When we went to a spot on early Sunday morning, we were greeted by Spotted Owlets. Though they are labeled as inauspicious by many, I just love them. . Tanmay’s parents and his two year old dog joined in the excursion. During next four hours we watched as many as 36 different species of birds and noted their number. Here is a Rose Ringed Parakeet that we enjoyed watching for more than 5 minutes.
At the end of the first session of bird count, we were comfortably sitting in Tanmay’s kitchen and were gulping the hot breakfast his mother had specially cooked for us. I was again amused that I was enjoying food with strangers. In the evening we met again at another spot. Here my two-wheeler was punctured. Tanmay negotiated with the 'puncture repair' man and saved my hundred rupees. And when Tanmay was negotiating on behalf of me (I did not request him to negotiate. But in these matters I am so naive, that he must have felt the need to take the lead!) I was smiling with amusement.
On the way we all talked to each other about many things, life in general, work specifically. It was as if I was talking to some old friends. Actually I shared with them many things which I have hardly shared with the people around me. How I felt when we visited Chakrata in Himalaya, how I lost my binocular during a house theft, what is my dream about bird watching, which birds I watch regularly and so many such things!
Meeting strangers is not new for me. I have worked as a Full Time Activist for more than twelve years, so meeting strangers has always been part of my life, my work. Even today, every month I interact with hundreds of strangers. Though people do not know me as a person, they know the organization I represent, so a common bond is generally created.
Similarly a bond was created between three of us, because we were connected by a common cause. Yes, ‘cause’ is the core of relationships. When there is a common cause, I build relationships with strangers in an instant. When there is no common cause, even those whom I meet everyday all my life, remain strangers to me.
I realize that I am surrounded by people with whom I do not share a common cause. There is nothing common between us. We do not dream together and we do not work together. For them I am an entity, a working machine and for me they do not really matter. That is why sometimes I feel alienated.
What I need is the creation of ‘common cause’ – howsoever trivial it might be! If there is no common cause, there are no relationships and I become stranger to myself.