lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Friday, March 03, 2006

First cuckoo of spring

The Times of London published three volumes of letters to the editor sometime ago. A newspaper with a 200 year history can do that. What is interesting is that it had a section devoted to letters about readers reporting hearing the first cuckoo of the spring, sometimes when it is still wintry.

It is a great pastime for some to write letters to the editors of various newspapers. It could be to point out an error, rant about a pet peeve or to ride a hobby horse. It could be to protest about the policies of the government.

I write letters to the editors: to rave about the wanton chopping off of the pitiful tree-cover we have in the city, or the futility of repairing roads just before the Pujas when all the organisers of various pandals will only dig them up again and block the streets and make traffic a nightmare. I rant about the poor standard of English in reporting. I froth at the mouth at people's inability to distinguish between 'loose' and 'lose'. I see red when I read the word 'rule' when administration is the correct usage.

I write vitriolic letters. Venomous letters, even. When I read that blue beatles were a menace to some crop, I shot off a letter that the poor disbanded group of musicians were hardly a peril to agriculture, half of the group being dead, and inquired if the paper misplaced all its sub-editors.

But this is just to vent and get it off my chest. I don't mail the letters I write to editors about whatever has got me riled. Writing the letters is just therapy. :D

But today, when I heard the first magpie robin of the season, I wished we had a tradition of First Cuckoo letters here in India.

In Calcutta, the cuckoos start some time in December, and precede spring. It is the magpie robin that heralds the coming hot season. Small and black and white, it is a dainty bird and a wonderful singer. Its songs get complicated as summer settles down to business, and it sings its heart out throughout the hot months.

All any given day, when I catch sight of it in the branches of the mango tree at the backyard warbling away for all it is worth, my heart always lifts. I hear it muse about a tune, try it out, add grace notes, change its mind and go back to the earlier version. The magpie robin makes summers bearable and beautiful.

Each year, I look forward to the first call of the magpie robin, and while it may mean it is summer soon, it also means a feast of birdsong too. I wish I could write a letter to the editor about the first call of the magpie robin, once.



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