Many years ago when I was in college, I went to a place called Kayal’er Bagan. It was a little piece of land in the heart of Narendrapur, a part of greater Kolkata. This piece of land was a bird sanctuary. I love escaping from human society every now and then (because escaping it permanently isn’t an option), and spending time in the wild. Someone had told me that Kayal’er Bagan was a good haunt.

I remember, when I walked along those forest paths, it felt like I’d dropped away from the surrounding city into a secluded pocket universe. Birdcalls sounded in the branches, close by and far away. Most calls I didn’t know. There were half-pecked fruits fallen under trees, fresh ferns thrived on mossy crevices along the trunks. In the bushes and shrubs, butterflies flapped around. Spiderwebs hung among the twigs.

Today, I got home just a few minutes ago. I had gone out to take a short walk, just around the corner, to check if the nearest grocery store is open. The lanes were empty. A stray scooter droned past, that was pretty much it. You could hear the rustle in the trees. And there was birdsong.

From the left, and the right, it’d be impossible to trace wherefrom exactly, I heard voices of birds on the trees. There were coos, cackles and chirrups, – I imagined it was a colony of birds after all, now that the noisiest, nastiest, cowardliest creatures on earth had finally fallen silent, shut up inside their holes. The birds were talking again. You could hear them, if you listened awhile.

Many of my acquaintances have expressed it in conversation – how it is finally so much better now that humans are quiet. But this outlook is not new to us, we’ve seen this before, perhaps most memorably in recent times in a mass-consumed movie.

Steve: You know, I saw a pod of whales when I was coming in, over the bridge.
Natasha: In the Hudson?
Steve: Fewer ships, cleaner water…
Natasha: You know, if you’re about to tell me to look on the bright side – I’m about to hit you in the head with a peanut butter sandwich.
Steve: Sorry, force of habit.

Back then, pettier minds had seen this little exchange as humour. I had seen this as a peppering of uncomfortable truth. Now, here we are.

A sunset is a beautiful thing.