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Anticipation and arrival, winter’s trills and thrills

The weather brings both flocks to our climes; if for one it’s a refuge, for the other it’s just homecoming

It’s time for the stunning Siberian cranes, the exotic greater flamingos, the beautiful harriers and ruffs, to return to their native land. These migratory birds arrive in our country at the onset of winter, travelling long distances to escape the still harsher and colder winters of their native land.

They come in search of more favourable feeding grounds. The migratory birds usually suffer high mortality risks and face a threat from hunters. They reach their final destinations after battling stormy weather conditions and starvation.

The migration of birds never ceases to amaze me. It is no less than a miracle that a pair of wings and sheer grit take them across whole continents.

It is also time to bid goodbye to another kind of migratory breed — the non-resident Indians. As soon as the winter in the West becomes severe, the NRIs catch the first flight home and begin their annual sojourn in the motherland. They arrive just in time for the much-awaited dose of sarson da saag (mustard leaves) and makki di roti (corn bread). The malaai maarka lassi (cream-laden buttermilk) completes the feast.

A group of NRIs can be spotted from a distance, each carrying a water bottle and sporting a pair of trendy eyewear, from sunrise till sunset. In the northern parts of India, if nothing else, their loud and gregarious babbling in heavily accented Punjabi is a sure giveaway of their NRI status.

The highlight of their trip, besides reuniting with long-lost friends and family, is shopping. The NRI plays a major role in contributing to the economy by shopping for everything under the sun. Be it getting a sewing needle or a griddle pan, making rotis or buying branded clothes, traditional wear and even jewellery, it all seems cheaper when the mighty dollar gets exchanged for the humble rupee.

No matter how much they complain about lack of proper implementation of rules and regulations, pot-holed roads and corrupt policemen, they secretly find it liberating to break a traffic signal or two, without having to pay a hefty ticket later.

A passing incident of bribery becomes a worthwhile tale to re-tell, and future generations are cautioned about the finer nuances of fraudulence.

For gastronomic delights, the NRIs play safe by sticking mostly to home-cooked food. But a few adventurous ones indulge in savoury and spicy street food delicacies such as golgappas, chaat and tikki, at the risk of falling prey to a serious bout of tummy trouble.

It’s a win-win scene at wedding parties, where NRIs add a dash of glitz and glamour to the event, while they enjoy finger-licking food, endless rounds of wine and foot-tapping bhangra, all under one roof.

After hosting the flamingos and the foreign families for the winter, we gear to bid them a tearful goodbye.

The nip in the air gets replaced with soft, balmy breeze. Layers of clothes get shed. There is spring in the air, and the geraniums are in full bloom.

It’s now time for the northern pintails and the non-resident Indians to go back to their native lands, until next year.

Isn’t it truly fascinating how the migratory breed of both birds and beings have managed to spread the fragrance of their presence and perseverance world over — all with a pair of wings and sheer will?

seeratsandhu25@yahoo.com

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 11:48:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/anticipation-and-arrival-winters-trills-and-thrills/article8381928.ece

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