Wild buzz: Dear darling Tara, nightgown’s sunbird

Shubhankar and his writer sister, Vandini (16), share a passion for birds and animals. On verdant golf courses, birds of varying hues do not escape Shubhankar’s soulful eye.

punjab Updated: Apr 08, 2018 11:59 IST
Shubhankar Sharma,Augusta Masters,golf professional
Vandini, Colonel ML Sharma (retd) and Shubhankar Sharma at The Masters Tournament.(DAVID CANNON / AP)

Panchkula lad Shubhankar Sharma (21) is not only India’s highest-ranked golf professional but is with a bit of wit referred to as the “best-performing veggan golfer of the globe”. Shubhankar and his writer sister, Vandini (16), share a passion for birds and animals. On verdant golf courses, birds of varying hues do not escape Shubhankar’s soulful eye. The power of imagination, too, runs as a seamless bloodline between the siblings and is manifest in the way Shubhu shapes his golf shots and Vinni her writings.

Their father, Col ML Sharma (retd), recalls a heart-stopping interlude from their cantonment-hopping lives. Posted at Hisar’s 33 Armoured Division in 2010-’12, Col Sharma was course manager at the Army golf club. A fawn got detached from the herd living in the course’s jungles. “She would cuddle up in people’s arms so they could stroke her pretty neck and she would keep roaming around the club house, the pet of the course,” Vandini, 10 years then, wrote of her beloved fawn. The deer’s eyes would gleam like stars on a moonless night and she was christened ‘Tara’.

One night, a stray dog hounded Tara leading to the fawn’s death in the lake. “My kids sobbed and sobbed. I was anguished beyond words but could do nothing about the menace dogs posed to wildlife,” Col Sharma told this writer.

Shubhankar numbed his grief by immersing himself in golf routines but Vandini poured her anguish at the loss of unconditional love into a little receptacle of writing. Vandini essayed a tribute to Tara distinguished by empathy, imagination and a choice of words/expressions that wove a verbal wreath of grief. “Tara’s body was frozen, such extreme numbness she couldn’t feel anything but her own voice as it shrieked and shrieked, crying for help. The world through her eyes was darkening too, but the cries didn’t cease. The last thing Tara saw as life slipped out of her were two young men, golf workers from the tent, jumping into the lake as they swam towards her. She screamed one last time before her world finally went black,” wrote Vandini in her memoir titled, ‘Tara’, and ended it with the epitaph: “Tears were beyond their emotions, they looked as stiff as Tara’s body itself.”

Vandini, the kid writer, has since progressed her literary pursuits. She bagged an international literary award and last week debuted in ‘The Washington Post’ and ‘The New York Times’ by penning a syndicated, personal essay on her Bhai’s pilgrimage to ‘The Masters Tournament’.

Tara, too, twinkles in these nights of waning moons, looking down fondly and blessing her two besties going places.

Nightgown’s sunbird

Oft mistaken as a hummingbird, this purple pixie of our gardens has come to occupy a special place in the hearts of householders. Just a few months back, the male Purple sunbird was like the olive and yellow female but distinguished by a black, necktie-like stripe running down his wintering chest.

A male Purple sunbird eyes palash blooms at Saketri village. (DALVINDER SINGH)

As spring came and flowers unfurled like lips offering sweet nectar, the necktie filled out and the male was overgrown by dark colours highlighted by a filigree of purple iridescence. Armed thus with a resplendent plumage, the male plunged into the carnival of love, racing hither and thither, beaming flashy colours and flinging love’s arrows and arias at bewitched females. The latter, like leopards, never ‘change their lemon spots’ come what May!

Sunbirds feed voraciously on nectar and are suitably equipped with a slender, curved bill and tubular tongue. Some flowers store nectar in deeper, inaccessible tubes. The clever sunbird punches a hole at the bloom’s base or effects a slit to sip happily from the ‘goblet of nature’s amrit’.

They are confiding avians and we chance upon them in verandahs and balconies, hovering and quarrelling with mirrors as birds perceive their reflections to be those of rivals. Observing birds disliking reflections is a refreshing break from human narcissism, selfie obsession and the eternal, wretched truth: true love never dies when it comes to mirrors!

Females construct nests in shrubbery but also pick sheltered sections of houses, such as grill-protected balconies. In a memorable instance, a female sunbird thought it fit to locate her nest in a nightgown hanging on the clothesline outside the living room. The lady of the house naturally removed the nightgown, her modesty irked at the mischievous intrusion of an alien, and that, too, in broad daylight. But her kind husband substituted the nightgown on the clothesline with an old canvas folded in two. The female sunbird promptly adapted her nest to canvas and fledged two chicks. And they all lived happily ever after.


First Published: Apr 08, 2018 11:59 IST