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A Ficus Feast

The ficus tree growing in the abandoned stone quarry is at its generous best these days.

The quarry is used as a garbage dump by the villagers, and the old ficus tree clings to a large rocky outcrop in the eastern edge of the quarry, encircling it with its branching roots, like a land octopus. About eighty years ago, the quarry provided the stones for all the houses in this corner of the village. Amongst all the garbage at the bottom of the quarry, it’s nice to have the determined and quiet presence of the ficus, especially in these spring months when it holds out its hands full of ripened figs for the birds.

The birds—mostly koels, barbets and bulbuls—come twice a day, once at about 10 in the morning and then at around 4 in the evening (tea time), and snack noisily on the figs for almost an hour, chattering and hopping excitedly, chasing away competition, leaning dangerously to get to the tastiest morsel — of course, it’s always the one that is furthest out. Bulbuls trill and sometimes seem to jump up on a branch with excitement. It’s a short hop on a branch. Meanwhile, the barbets stuff their mouths with several berries at a time and make a purposeful dash out of the quarry. It seems to be greedy behaviour, but they are quite obviously feeding their young somewhere close by. Koels are the largest birds feeding on the ripened figs. All the birds are quite systematic in choosing the best figs, picking off the yellow and purple ones expertly in their beak and tossing them down their throat.


I await for the feeding congregation every day, especially in the mornings when they are more animated. Somehow, I think, so does the ficus.