Birds at Sanskriti


Artists at the Sanskriti Kendra often find themselves inspired by the natural surroundings. Maya Khosla, a poet and an artist in residence, dedicated one of her works to the birds of Delhi found in and around the Kendra premises.


Dawn 1: Peacocks

Only royalty can entice green
to redefine itself as the sleekest hybrid
of satin and velvet
to ornament practiced gatherers.
An eye within an eye is echoed
over and over in their tail feathers
of turquoise, gold and indigo-blue.
Catcalls and caterwauls declare
that the morning’s infinities
of misted grass are theirs alone.
To roam and choose between aim
and design, blade, bloom and shrub,
with strides that confirm the strength
of Jurassic past and unseen future,
join in a singular, white-eyed moment.

Dawn 2: Rufous Tree Pies

First light resuscitates the world
of color, breathing silver and tan
into stone walls, pink into pillars,
brick-red memories of flame
into clay horses. Leafy filigrees
are dusted with greens that shift
and flicker from within,
then emerge: tree pies dressed
in cream, black and russet
their chilled wings chasing warmth
from perch to perch, ficus to vine
with ancient precision and purpose.

Dawn 3: Rose-Ringed Parakeets

Dawn is rose-ringed, leaf-winged
with sweetness, a spring that spans
all seasons: parakeets who possess
the physique of a collective mind.
Their voices in chorus are one voice,
their thoughts one thought, their flight
one flight, rushing, like a whole sky
turned green. Like the flash of one moment,
dazzling with fire, into the next.
Small planets, they orbit each other
as if oneness were gravity itself, as if
a common hunger can crack the sun
open, and pick apart each seed of light
with sharpened, nut-cracker beaks.

Dawn 4: Shikra

Blade-sharp, clean as a cliff,
her swoop is fast, perfection
without prance, fuss or waver.
Whistle-swift light turns still,
the world of sounds turns still
her eyes locked on a point below:
one in a flock of oblivious prey.
Hunting is a moment stripped
of thought, purer than velocity,
calmer than the quick-silk
of speeding feather against air.
Her instinct operates entirely
in a juxtaposition of the mind’s
darkness and the body’s light.

 Dawn 5: Babblers and Barbets

They are ancestors, all—reborn in cloaks
of green, dust-laced wings and sooty beaks
proclaiming the earth’s re-creation.
Chants, cackles, whoops of joy, printed
on page after page of increasing
brilliance. Notes from fluty throats
and mandible of bone, warbling rhythms
from heads tilted back, chests puffed,
claws clenched, tarsus taut, ready
to replicate sunlight a million times over
in sound. Each song released in a flurry,
so light’s next-brighter sheet too, can be filled
to brimming: double ribbons of voice and flight
upon each hovering page of light.

Dawn 6: Long-tailed Minivets

Mass movement in minivets is prearranged:
minds emptied of everything but vector—
one ethos with miles to fly shoulder
to shoulder with no room for argument.
Each bird holds an internal magnet of hope,
swiveled to snap ties with cold terrains,
to greet the warm: open wings and bodies
that so startle with vermilion and black
that each is the pairing of night
and setting sun, cleaved like lovers.
Migration is their call, migration
their answer to winter, to sun-hours
turned thinner than leaves falling.
Arriving, they peek from behind shutters
of green, utter their chorus and consume
the fruit and buzz of winter.

Dawn 7: White-throated Kingfisher

Cold plumps his feathers into thick flakes.
all around, the half-light fires pale glitter
across the lawns. A prattling emerges:
his quilted blues-blacks and whites
are ready for flight through fog,
towards freshwater and marsh.
Where he perches, preening and waiting.
When the moment comes he will dive
then stumble out of water, beak burdened
with his catch, which is realigned
for a straight, quick swallow.

Night into Dawn 8: Spotted Owlets

Last night I dreamed of a rock
that burst into rapid wings.

In their shapes, dark movements slid
over murky grass, wiping it—owlets

who rose to fan the stars and moon
who, hours later, were bestowed
with the weight of dawn on their backs.

Their return was marked, streaks of silver
that vanished into arboreal realms.

Dawn 9:  Red-Whiskered and Red-Vented Bulbuls

Sun’s balm warms. Now breezy scissors
slice light into ribbons the shape of leaves.
Now winter’s held breath exhales
the long night. The bulbuls’ chatter flows
over bougainvilleas draped on stone,
over the plum-dark globes they seek.
The birds are matched, with pearly vests,
a half-cherry on each ear, light-footed hops
silver-gray pirouettes too quick for the eye
to catch the milliseconds before the sweetness
of berry is clamped between mandibles,
swallowed with a quick shiver of crest feathers,
so each bubble of syrup goes down whole.

Dawn 10: Ring Doves

The doves’ answer to rising light,
to genetic unity, swirls like a current
in the sky. Their wings stay blurred
with a flight that is so much
about turbulence and rush,
about mind under wind-cloud,
that it is less doves in flight
than the hurrying of a gray-veined river,
less a wing-beaten conglomeration
of airborne probabilities than storm,
less restlessness than an a cappella
more ancient than decision itself.

Dawn 11 and Dusk: Asian Koel

Heard first, seen long after, its notes
rise higher and faster while all else
stills to listen. Hidden, a heart-shaped
pair of leaves the color of night
trembles in one moment, take wing
in the next, to perch on dawn’s rim.
Listen: feather brushes leaf, glossier
than air. Well-matched with darkness,
one red moon rises in each of its eyes.
Eons of sun have taught it to wait
all year for a moment of co-evolution
to hatch: fooling the common crow
with koel-eggs it will raise as its own.

Dawn 12: Purple Sunbird

Look, sun and curls have crept in
to concentrate on petite purples
bound close and perfect. Too large
to be bee, almost to small to be bird. Everywhere it flies, petals are half-opened
to light’s flame and sweetness.
Everywhere it flies, it is tuned
to the upward surge of nectar
into a flower’s throat, sweetness
that hungers for beak and tongue.
Surely its twirls and trembles
are a form of rhapsody, praising
pollen, bugs and the whorls of honey
where it hovers and drones and sips.

Dawn 13: Oriental White-Eyes

Five, maybe eight to a flock,
their collective outline, a line
drawn from bird to bird,
forms a larger bird, a larger mind
the shape of the neem tree’s crown
where light seems to flicker, switch
and dart like acrobatic sparks
of yellow and olive-green, sparks
from sun’s earliest fire,
determined to snatch up
the earliest insect, to pronounce
the infinities of green upon green
as shifting world, world of twitter,
nectar, and ever rearranging hearts.


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- Birds at Sanskriti
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