One morning, carrying a heavy, imbalanced handbag on my shoulder and with my mother in tow, I spotted two turkeys strutting outside the Churchgate station.
The turkeys are no metaphor– they really were there, the turkeys. Outside the garbage strewn back-gate of Western Line’s last point, the birds, males I presume, walked proudly in the lane full of early morning commuters.
Then my mother displayed typical Mumbai behaviour. ‘Oh that’s ok, she said, ‘they are here usually in the morning and disappear by evening.’ I watched them chase a female. A female turkey, that is. The third bird was almost inside the Stadium restaurant. I wished it safety. ‘Let’s go. We may not get a cab till CST and then we’ll miss the train and then how will we ever reach Pune,’ she said, hoping to take my mind off what must be a regular sight for her. All this she poured before I could mumble ‘Shivneri.’
And what those birds did through the day, she must not have ever spared a thought to. She must see them every day, then perhaps hear some train announcement coming from the station nearby, realize the time or rather the shortage of it, and rush into the busy day. So, wondered the non-Mumbaikar me, what could these birds that weren’t seen so commonly even in the jungles of India, be doing on a busy Monday in the middle of a Mumbai road? A little shudder reminded me of the heavy handbag as I thought whether my mother saw the same birds every day.
They were not led by any human. Or a dog too. I decided to scan the restaurant menus of South Mumbai the next time I happened to be in one.
How magnificently they walked, pecking at bins occasionally. There was always this other angle, a slight chance, and Georgio Tsoukalos would agree– what if the underworld was actually rife with shape-shifters and unfriendly aliens? The turkeys did seem to know their way well. Too well. And they hypnotized the public enough to not get themselves into anybody’s conscious thought.
Imagine– three gangsta turkeys, plumes shining and stuff, boarding a local from Virar early morning. The crowd dispersing, respectfully and not in their senses, letting them get in before the train moved. The birds standing at the door through the journey with élan, cluck-clucking through some secret conversation. Maybe I should pay close attention to their clucks. It could be in Morse. Because it’s extremely funny, funny in ‘this chicken tastes funny’ way, to spot foreign birds strutting on the roads of Mumbai. Or maybe, I just didn’t pause enough, like others around me, to discover the reality.