While Indian classical literature is littered with romantic references of chatak (pied cuckoo) as harbinger of monsoon, my own bird of choice for ushering a season far more accurately is Asian koel, a cuckoo family bird very often inaccurately referred to as common cuckoo that is (just like another famous matching misnomer, the common sense) not very common!
For most of the Indian subcontinent, waking up to a rising crescendo of koel calls is a wakeup call for summer. As our koels have hired crows as surrogate parents, we can still find them living in our cities to remind us of impending summer.
If you are an Indian birdwatcher, it would be heartening for you to know that Vajasaneyi Samhita of Yajurveda refers to koel as anya–vapa (raised by others) whereby proving that we were far more observant of nature 4000 years back than today.
This Yajurveda reference tempts me to bring forth yet another ancient text where cuckoo finds a mention. A 2500 year old play “The Birds” written by Aristophanes talks of a new city built by birds called Nubicuculia or Cloud Cuckoo Land. The play has led to coining of this phrase to describe a state of unrealistic and idealized fancy, beyond the realms of possibility.
As I have meandered across a landscape full of birds and ancient texts, I see the need to tie it all up, and hence the only tool of stitching these far-flung areas has to be a metaphor.
I always feel that though koels scream their heads off early in the morning to remind us that summer is arriving in our tropical nation, we have a special group of people who insist on remaining in cloud cuckoo land, i.e. our policy makers.
The real salient feature of Indian policy makers is their complete and total agnosia about local climate in every possible way.
By remaining blissfully ignorant of our location on the planet, our policy-makers make us live with 10 to 6 jobs that expect humans to work during hour where all other warm-blooded life-forms rest, build round-the-year water-retaining structures that make our cities mosquito heavens, promote glass-fronted architecture that needs constant air-conditioning, build public transport ideas that imagine that people can walk in 40 C and more on the same theme that India is not a hot tropical country but a nation located somewhere in Europe.
The same agnosia is also extended to social climate of India where our policy-makers imagine equally unrealistic things and wish away five thousand years of cultural and religious context of India. On the economic front they prefer to remain blind to abject poverty of the rural masses.
This miracle is possible for our policy-makers to perform because they live in the comfortable cocoon of elitist empowerment that has power to silence the raging climate outside their windows, be it real, social or economic. As they rarely experience the reality, they imagine all kind of Indian climates to be inconveniences best ignored.
This absurdity is augmented further as, even after seventy years of independence from an occupier who came from an alien climate in every sense, we still look westwards for answers to our problems. As India remains obsessed with the idea of learning from “international” best practices, the homespun wisdom finds no real recognition in Indian policies.
As I have woken up to a morning with a cuckoo screaming loudly outside my window, I am struck by the absurdity that we live with as a nation. We are a real cloud cuckoo land that needs to wake up to the realities, especially climatic, social and economic that our nation can’t afford to ignore while making public policies.
The koel is calling. I hope we are listening to her, sorry his warnings!