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Photo by Caleb Brooks

Birds of Udaipur

When I’m returning from my NGO in the evening, I cycle through a rather rural area of Udaipur. I find myself surrounded by fields and overgrown empty lots. The road is mostly clear of traffic and I take my time to enjoy the scenery — it just feels ever so slightly downhill. It’s during this time that I’ve started to notice the birds of Udaipur.

As I cycle through the streets, the fighting dogs and the lumbering bulls make their presence known. However, birds tend to hang in the back. They aren’t very disruptive and so I rarely see them. During one of these bike rides, I passed a construction site with a cluster of uneven crow bars jutting out into the sky. I noticed some movement around the very top of the bars. It was a group of bright-green ringneck parakeets clinging to and fluttering amongst the bars as they swayed in the wind. I would never have noticed them if I hadn’t been paying attention. They were like leaves on trees — part of the scenery. After this epiphany, I started to see them everywhere. I noticed a little kestrel, sitting on a telephone wire, eyes scanning the fields below. I discovered the Indian grey hornbill that lives in the tree next to my gym and the green bee-eaters that flit near the program house. I started to see flocks of green parakeets passing overhead on almost every cycle ride back from work. One time, biking along this road, I was shocked as a rustling in the bush turned into a peacock, gliding above me. With its long tail flowing and twisting behind it in the wind, it was like a living embodiment of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent.

In Udaipur’s old city, while crossing the bridge that spans the narrow neck of lake Pichola, we noticed a kingfisher sitting quietly on a line, surveying the gentle movement of the water below, its bright red beak poised. After snapping a couple pictures, it fluttered off. The feathers on the backs of its wings and tail were soaked in an unreal fluorescent blue. It was mesmerizing as it swooped away — set across the backdrop of the lake and the striking white walls of the City Palace.

In his speech to all the BY cohorts, Kyle Berlin, Princeton Valedictorian and BY alum, told us to, above all, pay attention to everything around us. I’ve started to pay attention and I’ve begun to notice the birds. Maybe next, as I take my time biking home from work, I’ll start to notice the insects or the snippets of conversation or the patterns on the road. The things that I never notice when I’m too worried about getting somewhere or doing something.