Feb. 28, 2010: The morning fog had a surprise in store for me. Walking on Hung Leung road, Hung Hom towards Whampoa,(Kowloon) I heard the distinctive ‘Koo Ooo’ of the Koel, my childhood nemesis. It was a surprise because in 2 years of my stay in Hong Kong this was the first time I heard the ‘Koel’ and it was an instant carry back to cool summer mornings, boat rides on the Ganges river, raw Mangoes and Guavas. We have this open land around our house in Allahabad (India) overladen with Mango, Neem and Guava trees and early spring the trees would be full of blossoms and new fruits. The Koel could be heard from different perches and I would follow the voice to put a face to it but the bird would, invariably, outwit me. Till date I do not know what it looks like except for Wikipedia pictures and with information that it is the male of the species that loves to hear its voice. I always thought it was the female but like the Peahen (Peacock family) the female Koel is the indistinctive one. The Male Koel is bluish black with yellow-green beak and crimson eyes. (wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_Koel)
Now, here in Hung Hom, in concrete surroundings with countable trees, I thought I was imagining the snippy ‘koo OOo’ and the only way I could check it out would be to out koo OOo it, ad I would do in my hometown, during three ‘spring’ months every year. It was a regular ‘slanging match and with every koo..OOo the pitch would increase forcing one of us to give in….either I would be called inside the house or the Koel flew away.
LAnother reason for finding the narcissist tweeting irritating (as the present techni-tweeting) was that the Koel was a precursor of Board examinations (Class 10 and 12) and later College and in between all the cramming the melodious koo OOo was a taunt. Here was a bird, a known parasite who does not make its own nest, hopping around full of cheer and I had to study.
In ancient Indian literature, the Vedas, the Koel is referred to as ‘raised by others’. The male Koel creates the ruckus helping its partner lay its single egg in the crow’s nest next to the already present egg. The crow, without realizing the difference, conveniently hatches the egg.
In Indian poetry the ‘Koel’ is a melodious symbol and the Sanskrit root of Koel is “Kokila’. Both very popular names for girls in India.
Here I was in another country and listening to the Koel, after all these years, reminded me of serene mornings that had inadvertently tiptoed into mundane affairs of present existence.