• PDBC visits Thol Bird Sanctuary

    Picnic, Sunrise, Birds and Books

    21st January 2024

    Ahmedabad, India

    4:30 am.

    I step under the umbrella of the vast black sky and rub my palms. We are about to set out to watch birds. But it’s PDBC. Of course, we are going to read books about birds (and more).

    Drowsy, dropping eyes unite with callous fist bumps. We are cold down to our bones. “Why couldn’t we have gone when the chill ebbs a little?” I wonder. But the best time to visit Thol is December to January. The birds want us humans to spread our wings, break our mental barriers, and fly towards them. We set out on our wheels.

    And reach the location, a confused bunch. What is where? We question each other and look around when faint trilling sounds direct us toward the vast stretch of the lake’s bank. We mark our spots and sit in silence. Yes, we got to return to the hustle and bustle of the city later. But, now, much like we lose ourselves briefly in our books, we want to lose ourselves in the beauty of this place.

    The sky goes from an endless black to a faint grey. There’s a hint of orange at the top. The sun is about to come up, but we have time. It is the brief period between the setting night and the sunrise that doesn’t exist in the city. It is at Thol Lake that we experience the pocket of the day that dawn is after a very long time.

    Cranes fly above our heads. Geese cackle in the distance. I live my favourite poem, Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, and decide to read it out loud.

    There’s a moment of silence, and before we can break out of the stupor, Nija ji continues the momentum of our flights by reading from Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

    I’m sure everyone around is thinking of spreading their wings and flying, literally. No, please don’t tell us that’s not possible. If you break through your highest potential in life, you will fly. How do you know that’s not possible? Have you tried it?

    From the heights of the sky, Dhairya takes us to the depths of the ocean with 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

    Free. We’re free. In the depths of the ocean and the heights of the sky. And we love tea. The flasks come out and Stroop waffles, and biscuits, and bread butter make the round. We have our own little literary lakeside picnic.

    Shanker has brought literature from the North East, which is -much like this lake-an unexplored part of our country. He says he’s picked books there from local bookstores in Nagaland some of which are not even available on Amazon. I make a mental note of doing that the next time I visit new places. As a reader, this is the least I can do to support regional literature from pockets of our vast country. This one’s from “The Many That I Am” by Anungla Zoe Longkumer.

    He also read from “The Last Light of Glory Days” by Avinuo Kire.

    I have to visit Longkhum for it to steal my soul but first I need to get it back from this picturesque sunrise. The yellow ball of life has surfaced above the lake, projecting a reflection on the rippling water surface.

    “What if you didn’t even feel like a cup of tea?” Rajarshi reads from Seicho Matsumoto’s Tokyo Express.

    I nod my head in agreement. Tea/coffee with books is more a question of affection than appetite. With that thought in my head, I wander off a few yards away. As I lift my head and look to my right, I realize I’m in a beautiful postcard. With a lot more books, we swam in the dusk.

    The sun has floated high in the sky now and we’re all a bit warm now. Whether it’s the books or tea, I don’t know. The place is now filled with a handful of other tourists. But ah well. We had our fun. We’re getting ready to wrap up when Rajesh Ji walks in with Gaurav Solanki’s सौ साल फ़िदा. We don’t want him to feel fomo, even though he openly admitted to stopping for tea 2 times on his way, which is why he arrived towards the end, still we pester him to read from it. 

    He denies. We insist. He reads.

    What a befitting conclusion to this morning. As we walk towards the exit, I can’t help but look back. Was this real or did I just dream? I have a piece of paper in my hand with these words to prove that it just might be.

    – Ruchi

    Picture Credits: The people in the picture above!