In the meanwhile

Cardinal on Peach – My Northern Cardinal on my Blood Peach tree

I wrote this in April 2020. I know how difficult it must be for those who have had to go through multiple lockdowns. I understand what you must be suffering in the same way that a husband says that he understands his wife’s pregnancy and childbirth. I hope that in the end it will have been worth it. I will pray for you and of course one day it will end. Not Covid, because I think it is here to stay and we will just need to cope with it. However, lock-downs and travel restrictions will be lifted. That does not mean that we will be able to travel as freely as we used to, and maybe that will mean less crowding, though I am not sure if that is really happening. Because whoever traveled has told me that all social distancing ends in the plane. The insides of all planes are highly antisocially undistanced. What seems to have happened is an easier time for cabin crew who no longer have dinner services and drinks carts to worry about. And the nuisance of inebriated passengers.

But it means that perhaps we will travel more thoughtfully and meaningfully and pick and choose where we really, really want to go. It also means that we will probably stay longer in those places. Even when we are locked up, maybe this is a chance to live out our fantasies – like Calvin with Hobbes – and then the instant we get a chance, escape to some place in the wild where we don’t have to be confined inside an apartment. Not everyone can do it, but then not everyone can do everything. So, we must do what we can. Another thing which helps in a lockout is to have a pet that doesn’t need much caring. That rules out dogs. Dogs are like babies without diapers. But maybe a cat which can freely go in and out. Or a bird – free flying – meaning, feeding wild birds on the windowsill? I have bird feeders in my yard, but then we also don’t have lock-outs where I live. I like staying at home and have gotten used to not traveling so well that now when I think of traveling, I think and think. The only place that I really want to go to, and miss is Kruger National Park. When I think of KNP, I think of those dear friends in South Africa who I always go there with, and I miss them more than going to any place. I would like to go for Umrah – to Makkah – one day soon. Interestingly, the fact that crowds will be far, far, less is something that I am looking forward to, when I go. Really didn’t like the crowds at all, jostling and digging you in the ribs. What can you say about people who seem to have no peace and tranquility in their lives, even in worship?

What helps me a lot is prayer and reflection and of course, reading. I am writing two books. One about my early years growing up in Hyderabad and about my time living in the Amazonian rainforest in Guyana and the other about my plantation career. That is taking time and so my reading is a bit behind. But we, one of my friends here and I, have formed a book club (you are welcome to join), in which we read some book and talk about it. That keeps the pressure on me to read.

Then there are friends. The strange thing is that though we have the means to communicate freely – including video calls – we don’t. I think it has to do with the very confusing terms that we have started using, mindlessly, supposedly denoting communication. Take one of the most common; “Reach out”. Not, write to, or call or meet, but ‘reach out’. For the record, I hate that term with a passion. When you say that you will write to me, I wait in great anticipation for the postman. If you say that you are going to call me, I wait for my phone to ring. When you say that you want to meet me, I love that the most. All these are clear, easy to visualize and invoke good memories. But when you say that you are planning to reach out to me, I have a vision of a disembodied, clammy hand coming out of the darkness of the grave, to grab me by the scruff of my neck. That is a decidedly unpleasant vision. I would like to meet such a hand with sword and fire. I would like to drive a stake through its evil heart, so that it never comes out of the grave again. Who on earth thinks up such ridiculous phrases? Reach out? What does that mean anyway? What will you do? What must I do to stave you off? Reach out, is what Covid did, to the whole world. And see where it landed us. And now you want to do it to me? Not on your life.

I would suggest that we bury very deep, “Reach out” and all such phrases or maybe cremate them to ensure that they never rise again. Instead, let us get real with our communication and do it. Talk, meet, write to, dream about, contact in real terms, and see how your life will lighten up. Human need for contact and company is more than what technology can fulfill. We need physical contact. Be that as it may, I think we must use technology more, to get at least as much from it as it can offer.

What helps also is to keep the ability to make new friends alive. Ask yourself how many new friends you made in the last 5 years. I have several here and the only thing that keeps me from saying, “We have been friends for 40 years, is 38 years.” I don’t expect to be able to say exactly those words about any of them, but then the key to happiness is to live in the moment. I have great new friends and that is great because they are new, shining, the smell of being newly unpacked still on them. I don’t know them too well, which means that like on a honeymoon, we are on our best behavior. And to speak the truth (which we must always do), I am quite happy not knowing the aroma of their smelly socks. I try as much as I can to keep in touch with old friends also, but I have reached a stage where I have learnt to distinguish between trying to remain in touch and courting. I try to remain in touch by making three attempts. If the third one is also born dead, then I respect the wish of the old friend to remain in my gradually fading memory only. Not that my memory is fading. Only my memory of those who don’t wish to revive old friendships. I don’t blame them because old friendships are sometimes best allowed to RIP. I wrote about this dilemma here and I hope you will read it and enjoy.

Don’t miss the stalking cat or the surprised squirrel or the starlings bathing together

As I am writing this, a Blue Jay youngster is trying to eat sunflower seed from my feeder which is designed for smaller birds and having a hard time. There is a bunch of tail feathers and some downy feathers under another feeder, bearing mute testimony to the fact that a young Mourning Dove learned about one of our three wandering cats, too late. My pond is clear of the mosquito larvae that it was breeding, thanks to a miracle product – Mosquito Dunks – something that releases bacteria which larvae eat and then the bacteria kill the larvae. That’s why they say, “Watch what you eat.” I am delighted that it works perfectly. The two aquatic plants that I put into my pond have one new leaf each and I feel like a new father. Gardening is such an uplifting and energizing exercise. The fact is that gardening can be done on a balcony, out of an old jar or bottle, by burying some grain, potato, or onion tops, practically most stuff we throw away. In so many ways we can create our own little garden.

My big challenge is to keep Sparrows away from my feeders. To think that just the other day, I was lamenting the disappearance of sparrows from my life in Hyderabad. Now I know where they all went, to Massachusetts. Lying in wait for me to arrive. Imagine, generation after generation of sparrow parents telling their children, “Just wait. He will come one day and put out feeders. And then you can mob them and drive everyone away and have it all.” And then it happened. Tufted Titmice, Northern Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Mockingbirds, Black-capped Chickadees, Baltimore Orioles, everyone, except Rose (House) Finches and the nemesis of all, Starlings; all driven way by Sparrow Gangs. But I found a solution. Fishing line, weighted with wingnuts hanging in front of the feeder holes. Keep sparrows at bay and give access to other birds. Not magic. Google and YouTube and public-spirited citizens who invent good stuff and share it freely. check it out.

A sand bathing sparrow and two starlings trying to murder each other

I wrote this to cheer up a very dear friend, then realized that maybe more people need cheering up. So, people everywhere, cheer up please. Call your friends, mail them, message them, don’t send them junk – talk to them. Share your goodness, knowing that it will return to you manyfold. And NEVER EVER reach out. Not to me anyway.

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Farhana Ahmed

Definitely cheered me up! And now I miss you and your better half more! Hoping to see you two soon. Insha Allah.


Lovely hearing from you! Definitely cheered me up and makes me want to travel to MA as soon as is feasible Insha’Allah! Until then, I will reach out message you to keep in touch. Thank God for having the means to communicate across borders and timezones…Alhamdulillah.

Mohammad S. Bajwa

Amazing write up ,definitely cheering and challenging .
Thanks for sharing .


Yawar Bhai….we certainly needed cheering up and your article did just that. We are in a
strict lockdown in Australia with no end in sight. I hope and pray that you will grace us with a return visit as soon as this virus settles and we are able to open our borders, In Sha Allah


Thanks for this article. It is just what I needed. Now the bird feeders and all the visitors you get is envious. I am delighted and wish to develop my little feeder to something more bigger. I am impressed on the lessons I gleaned from the article. The writing of two books grabs me so much because it bespeaks an alert mind, a life goal that drives excellence and a heart connected to a cause larger than life so to speak. These BHAG gives me as the reader the motivation to continue working on goals and to make new goals… Read more »

Nancy Webb Stroud

This is lovely! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. They have brought me a little measure of peace this day!

Hanna Awkal

As always, exceptionally well-written with the perfect dose of humor! I always learn something from your writings and can look forward to them to cheer me up. Thank you!

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