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Posts Tagged ‘rooftop’

Crow-cophony

I know this is going to make me sound like a crazy bird lady, but the crows outside my windows drive me nuts.

Mumbai has all sorts of creatures roaming around (I would like to be politically correct and say this is mostly due to the tropical climate, but in all honesty the plethora of animals may also stick around because of the trash layer that permeates a majority of the city). There are lizards of every shape and size crawling outside our walls and occasionally inside. We saw a rat the size of Phoebe on our porch the other night. Cows live on the streets. On our block alone at least ten street dogs have claimed the territory.

My new favorite toy AKA the mosquito racket

And the mosquitoes are so ubiquitous that we had to buy ‘mosquito rackets’ — electric tennis rackets that kill bugs on impact (When I say ‘we had to buy’ I really mean ‘I thought it would be fun’).

I don’t mind most of these things. Nisha is scared to death of lizards, but Daniel and I are ok with just sweeping them away. The rat so far seems to be a one-time thing that only came out due to heavy monsooning. The dogs leave you alone and the cows are normally tied up. And the mosquitoes now offer a chance to watch uncoordinated people try to chase a fast-moving insect around an apartment with a racket (i.e., me).

But the crows are inescapable. They’re inescapable and — dare I say it — a little bit psycho? When I first got here I thought they were like bigger and more tropical looking pigeons. But I was wrong.

Crows are everywhere

The insanity starts every morning as the sun comes up. They fly around, sit on telephone wires and chatter about their mornings. As the day continues they migrate to the rails of my porch. They sit, molt, do their business and look at me as though thinking, “What are you going to do about it?”

But recently, the crazy crows got even weirder. When the monsoon is imminent it would seem normal for animals to act a bit off. But for these crazy birds, ‘off’ is an understatement. The other day heavy rain was on the horizon. So the birds decided to have an angry convention on my terrace. They flew in droves in circles above my head. They didn’t stop – they just circled and circled with a madcap intensity. Dozens gathered to sway on the telephone wires and watch the circling. And the noise was deafening. You would have thought the end of the world was coming (If you need evidence, I’ve embedded a video to give you an idea). I have no idea what started it, but only the torrential downpour of the monsoon could (literally) drown them out.

But it never stops for long. Even as I sit here writing, the birds are crowing. They’re saying goodnight as the sun goes down. I usually get a bit of peace and quiet until morning. Yet even as I write about how obtrusive they are I can’t help smiling – they’re insane and impossible, but even when I want to complain about them they’ve become such a part of my surroundings that I can’t help but feel a bit protective. They’re lunatics, but they’re the lunatics who reside on my porch.

Only a crazy bird lady would say that.

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Today I felt my first hard dose of disappointment and frustration, Indian-style.

We had settled on the apartment I loved. Daniel was convinced and I was starting to feel like moving forward in India would be easier than anticipated. But when the broker called just to see if we could look at it one more time, we found out someone had put in an offer this morning. Just like that and my dreams of sitting on the balcony watching the monsoon hit the sea while drinking a cup of masala chai were dashed.

Instead I sat drinking my masala in a coffee shop while our broker tried to persuade the owner into considering our counter-offer. No luck. I stared into my milky tea trying to not let that overwhelmed feeling creep back in. I didn’t want to get frustrated with India, with all my warnings about everything moving slowly and inefficiently.

We decided to put an offer on our second choice right away so that we wouldn’t face the same problem again. It had been Daniel’s favorite to begin with and I had liked it before I became so singularly focused on the beach.

We drove into La Paloma, the second choice building, and walked in. I knew what I had loved about it at first, so I went straight to it – the terrace. While we might have lost out on a view of the beach we were gaining an outdoor space that is legitimately larger than our old apartment in New York. And in a city like Mumbai where the average family home often consists of a shack in the slums, I decided to stop being a brat and let go of the old apartment.

With a verbal offer in place I took Phoebe for a walk in the neighborhood we’re staying. We had to maneuver around Monsoon puddles on the way out, but once past those we encountered an obstruction of a different kind.

As we walked I heard a shout from behind – a young Indian girl in a red plaid Catholic school uniform and red barrettes was looking at me. “Can I touch?” she asked, motioning towards Phoebe. I nodded, and then remembered that in India, indicating yes actually entails tilting your head from side to side, akin to the Western standard for no.* “Of course,” I said, since I wasn’t sure that my head tilt was going properly yet. She touched Phoebe’s tail and then ran ahead to catch up with her mother.

When we turned the corner I saw what was happening: school was out and all the sudden the street was filled with a color explosion. Mothers in saris of all different hues escorted more girls in red with red barrettes or red bows. Tiny red patent something shoes (could they be made of cow leather for Hindis?) walked next to sandals. Snow White and Hannah Montana backpacks hung over the shoulders of children climbing into three wheeled open-air rickshaws. One of the Muslim mothers, wearing a hijab, held the hand of her child in school regalia, who carried a backpack emblazoned with a photo of Barbie wearing a hijab just like the mother’s. The whole picture was the weirdest intersection of East and West I had yet to see.

(There’s no picture here for this, sadly, because my desire to capture the imagery is often at odds with my desire to be respectful in residential neighborhoods. Respectful won this particular round. But here is a photo of Phoebe in a quieter area – just to show she’s looking happy!)

The reaction to a small furry ball wandering down the street in a red harness and leash was certainly varied. The children parted either to stare at her or shriek in fear or reach out to touch her. She looks like none of the short-haired large street dogs that roam the streets of Mumbai so she must have looked like a zoo animal. In either case, when the tide of little red dresses receded I think both Phoebe and I were relieved.

At the end of the day we settled in to watch some World Cup action- a perfect bookend to a day of cultural learnings. If Cote D’Ivoire can tie Portugal then maybe I too can conquer Mumbai and get past any new hurdles I might face tomorrow.

*(For those wondering about the Indian head bob thing, I found a Youtube video that hilariously encapsulates the issue)

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