It’s tough being an animal in Bombay, especially now as the sun stays out longer. Crows fight in mid-air over scraps of food. Cats shriek at night below my window. And dogs have that ever-more sleepy hang-dog look as they look for shadier places to doze.
It has also been especially hard being a human animal these last few weeks as summer has begun to emerge. Not because of the heat. But, because a new bird has entered the menagerie:
The Evil Asian Koel
Up until now, I have been happy to pull my Birds of Mumbai book off the shelf and look up what’s flying or chirping outside. The kites, huge birds of prey that look like hawks, are fascinating, as well are the green parakeets, which are hard to spot because they are either shadowed beneath the tree leaves or are in frantic flight.
Not so with the Koel. According to my book, the koel is a “brood parasite of crows” that is “common in summer.” I was able to distinguish the little black bird from the book’s description of its call – “in crescendo.” The koel’s chirp starts out at a low “woo woo” and amplifies over a dozen times until it reaches a “WOO WOO.” I wouldn’t be all that annoyed if the koel chose to do its screeching from noon to 1pm when I am at work. But, it chooses to caw every morning from about 5am to 6am, i.e., before the alarm. Its maddening.
Come monsoon, come! Maybe that will get rid of my nemesis.
Beyond the koel, I adore most animals, even the sad, scabby strays. I have semi-befriended a stray cat on my block. It is probably the skinniest, big-eared, most loud-mouth cat I have ever known, but I can’t resist giving it some scraps once in a while. My dream is that the cat will come around and brush up against me once in a while as reward for my generosity. But, I think it’s too far gone to be domesticated.
It’s really tempting to want to bring in a cat or dog off the street, but then there’s always another one that deserves attention. The best you can do here in terms of taking care of animals is similar to what you can do for the poor and beggars: help many instead of just one.
There are quite a few charity organizations in the city and beyond that help to spay and neuter dogs and cats and rehabilitate all sorts of animals species – even snakes. Normally, I wouldn’t care too much about the snakes. But after seeing the snake charmers unfurl their cobras from Christmas tin-like cans and thump them on the head to make them perform, I had to feel sorry for the reptiles. And, you know those dancing bears that occasionally show up as the butt of a joke on “The Simpsons?” There are quite a few of those around Delhi, Agra, and elsewhere, that are kept on a chain strung through their nose and are forced to dance for passers-by. It seems that only the cows have it made in India, and most of them don’t even get to lounge in pastures, but rather on the hot sidewalk.
For now, I will list a few charity and conservation organizations that have web sites. But, I plan to come back and add a few more links, emails, or addresses so that those who wish to can make contributions.
But remember, whatever you do, don’t save the Koel. 🙂