There was silence. Nothing moved. I have left behind the blaring horns of the busy streets and the impurities of the vitiating air and headed for the banks of the river Thames. I have even deserted the little stream behind my house where a reservoir of calm, clear waters languidly flows through the middle of the small Broadwaters neighborhood, giving it a tranquil feel. Along the banks of the stream, weeping willows dangled their branches lazily upon the water below with pleasant reflections. I used to spend most of my evenings there, sitting on one of the ageing brown benches beside the willow tree lost in contemplation. But now that has changed, for the Thames River provided a cleaner air, a better view and a vast space.
As I sat along its banks, some grass beside me, tickled by the soothing breeze hissed continuously, swaying from side to side. The surface of the water, unruffled and silent except for the tiny waves created by the wind sailing across it, shimmered in the setting sun, reproducing a picturesque scene patterned with intermingling colours of orange, grey and gold. And as they floated across the surface, the crests of each wave created a magnificent interplay between the tones of the colours reflected. A few feet away from me, soft splashing sounds emanated from the gentle lapping of the waves against the banks of the river.
Inhaling a lungful of the clean air, I lifted my eyes up, slowly, to the Docklands and above to the skies. Under the glowing clouds, the sky was bustling with activity – a stunning display of aerobatics and some spectacular dives were in effect. Several birds have taken to the air, soaring and diving before gently landing on the serene water surface. Then the black plumage of what appeared to be a blackbird flipped its wings a few times and looped around the surrounding trees in gentle twirls before landing on another tree and disappearing from sight, but not from my ears, as its melodious sounds wafted soothingly through the air. It wasn’t long before others of its kind joined and a cacophony of sounds pleasant to the ear, strangely enough, erupted.
At some distance away, but not far from sight, another bird landed; a rather shy bird, keeping its distance well away from me. And beautiful too; with black and white markings highlighted with a lustrous tinge of blue, green and purple and a long gleaming tail. The Magpie is a striking bird and its flight is delightful to watch. A bane for most gardeners though, its hoarse cackling call alone is enough to send shudders down their spine; and it is often associated with evil. What such a humble bird could have done to warrant such loathing and how anyone could find the sight of such an elegant creature objectionable is totally beyond my grasp, but I caught sight of it as I sat there along the banks of the Thames. And it looked magnificent.
Conspicuous with its elongated tail, the Magpie started flapping its wings once or twice before soaring up to the lower branches of a tree. Enclosed in the ovoid overlapping leaves, it then began its lively chatter. In England it is, traditionally, unlucky to see one on its own or so they say. The victims, it is widely believed, must either cross themselves, spit three times over their right shoulder, raise their hats or chant ‘Devil, devil, I defy thee’ upon the sight of a Magpie, but these are mere superstitions; just as the thousand superstitions we have in our country involving animals. I stood there, transfixed, eyes set on the tree, pleasantly admiring its delightful cackles.
Several other birds were gliding effortlessly above. I watched them in earnest and mulling over their exceptional sense of freedom, I felt a lovely breeze running through my body. It was then that the limitations in my life became apparent. I envied their infinite independence. They too, I thought, must envy something about us. But then, by just watching them, a feeling of stillness descended upon one. I sat there, quiet and composed. I wished I could sprout wings at that very instant and fly with them and take to the skies. And for that short moment the thoughts occupied my mind, I was with them. I felt the wind on my winds, combing my feathers and caressing my tail. I saw London from above. Well, one would be lost in contemplation standing on that bank on a cool summer evening watching the sun lowering into the horizon. And though I tried to describe it here to the best of my effort, the impalpable feeling this place gives me is beyond measure. Tranquil is the word I thought of as a myriad of fancy thoughts absorbed my mind and I surrendered to the influence of the lulling atmosphere.
One word of advice – don’t stay there too long, you might be sucked in to tranquility!