Nov 15, 2006. Yet another beautiful sunny day at the Animal Rehabilitation Centre. The grass has grown higher. Tension and Sonja, the dogs, come running to greet you.
Cleaning, and cleaning. You thought you were stubborn. Until you met dried bird shit.
You realize you are small enough to fit in the mongoose cage. The small snake has recovered, and has been set free in its habitat in the Sakleshpur ghats. A rat snake is trying to catch a rat above the monkey cage. Much drama.
Saleem has been ill, with a slipped disc - he is overworked. Today he is out and active, narrating stories, cracking jokes, eagerly showing me his stunning collection of bird, insect and snake photos. All his photos are taken within that half kilometre of wild grassy land, in which no one other than him can spot anything at all. Saleem is a lesson in seeing.
Today he is excited as he spotted a booted eagle amidst all those kites up there. You manage to cook lunch for all four of us, in the midst of seeing his photographs and learning a million amazing lessons about the natural world. This man is a walking Discovery channel.
We sit down and have our lunch, outside. Two more volunteers have come. None of us know each other. But now we are all of the "Saleem's friends" family. After lunch and much laughter and varied conversation, we work for some more time, repair the scary owl's cage, change the drinking water for the bats and the squirrels and the koels, and then sit down for coffee.
Outside on the cement place, leaning against the building wall. Tension and Sonja sit down with us, enjoying the warmth of the group. Tall grass in front of us, teeming with unseen life. The blue sky is brilliant blue. The white clouds are brilliant white. And for just that shot of black, a few kites glide in and out. The wind in the neem tree. Quiet and peace. Saleem brings out his guitar, and starts playing.
A simple happiness settles on you, and washes away all the grime of the week behind. You redefine the meaning of belonging, in this group of people who hardly know each other. You want to just sit here forever.