The twittering grew louder and although it sounded like a bunch of sparrows sparring over some bread scraps, I knew it was not an avian sound. Chirping of sparrows come with more background sound (music to some ears), that of flapping wings, and gasps of dust and air fluttering about as the birds get close to the dusty grounds. No, this was a chirp alright, but a loud one and came from the tree lining the street. As I looked up, I was surprised to see a pair of playful squirrels scurrying about the tree trunk. If I could be like Dr Doolittle, perhaps I could eavesdrop on their conversation. But I was still magnetically drawn to the rodent pair, as they raised their burnished khakhi-brown bushy tails in quick unison and scampered along the woody trunk and branches of the gulmohar tree. As I got closer, I could see the darker stripes on their backs juxtaposing the thin white stripes. This took me back to my growing years when my father would tell us stories from the Ramayana that he read each day (he would read a chapter or so from Valmiki’s original work in Sanskrit each morning alongwith his daily Pooja).
He told me about the arduous task that lay ahead for Rama, Lakshmana and the Monkey Brigade, as they stared out at the Palk Strait that separated Bharatvarsha (Indian subcontinent) with Lanka. They prayed to Varuna, the Sea God, for his blessings to get across the turbulent waters. The monkeys got busy gathering rocks and dumping them into the sea to form a bridge or a causeway. The sea-creatures, also helped by ensuring that they fell rightly in place. Even the air creatures (avians) would pick pebbles, stones in their claws and talons and drop them along the under construction causeway. Amongst all the land creatures around, the little squirrels, also did not want to be left behind, so they did whatever they could, given their small size carting little pebbles to build the causeway. Rama was mighty pleased with them. He lifted one onto his palm and stroked it lovingly on its back with his long dark fingers, and given his blue hued skin, his blessing and thanks transferred to the squirrel’s back as the dark stripes.
Such were the little stories hidden within the mighty epic. And here I was today, admiring these little creatures as they ran up and about the various trees in the wooded lanes of the concrete city and still managed to get noticed.
Which uncommon animal have you seen lately in your city?