Unseen Passage: Pied Cuckoo

If one early June morning, you are suddenly stopped in your walk by a ringing ‘pip-piu-pie-pee-piu-piu’ call coming from the trees in your park or garden, you will feel your heart suddenly lifted. Look around and you may see two large, handsome, black-and-white birds with long coattails chasing each other among the trees. They are pied cuckoos, that have come from Africa, and are said to announce the arrival of the greatest show on earth-the Indian monsoon. Be assured, the curtains will rise in a month or so.

To get a proper view of the onset of the monsoons, you really need to be stationed on the coastline of India or up in the hills. The grand show of grey clouds approaches like an airborne army, preceded by cool breezes, filling the air with electric charge so that you feel very happy. Spear of lighting flickers in the sky and the sound of thunder makes you feel excited.

And then, it pours. The cracked earth without any green cover sucks down the flood of water, and then Mother Nature goes mad. Seeds scattered or buried like grains of sand of pebbles in the ground suddenly come to life. Shoots of plants rocket skywards, roots plunge into the soft, spongy earth sucking up water and nutrients. It’s a hint the grasshoppers have been waiting for. And bugs, beetles, caterpillars, centipedes, etc. emerge in their billions, feasting on the fresh green plants in the fields (to the annoyance of many a farmers) as also on each other.

There are miracles and there is music too: singing golden frogs appearing in large numbers in rain filled ditch, taking part in a group song that bollywood would have envied. They vanish the very next day. They’d been waiting patiently all through the blistering summer, deep underground, conserving whatever moisture they had soaked up. Fireflies wink through the trees in the hills, sending their greenish signals to one another in codes as precise as any we may use for our most secret messages.

All this is what the birds have been waiting for. Most birds have spent the spring and summer courting and now it’s time to settle down. Baby birds need a lot of high protein at frequent intervals, which the rich supply of insect life so happily provides: caterpillars are eaten up in millions, as are furry moths, earthworms slurped down like noodles, spiky dragonflies beaten to bits to soften them up into baby food. The long-legged storks and herons get busy with fishing. As for the big guys like lions and tigers in the jungles: they too had it relatively easy during the summer when their thirsty prey came to the waterholes. Now, with water easily available, in streams and ponds all over, they need to work harder for their meals. But yes, this is, perhaps, compensated by the arrival of baby deer, and fawns are sweet and soft, not very experienced in the merciless ways of the lions and tigers, even if they may seem more like a snack than a main course meal. The animals get a rest from us, parks and sanctuaries too close down, not so much out of kindness as because the roads become impassable.

And then, just as you are beginning to get tired of the green mould on your shoes, belts and bags, and of all the sniffles and snuffles that the rains also bring (bacteria and viruses also love this season), the clouds begin to disperse and float away in large armies. But before this happens, at least once, do go out in the midst of a downpour, raise your face to the heavens and dance and sing and celebrate this, the greatest show on earth.

Q. Based on your understanding of the passage, answer any five of the questions given below by choosing the most appropriate option:

  1. The winged messengers from Africa:
    1. bring rain from Africa.
    2. bring the message that the rains are coming soon.
    3. create a lot of horrible noise.
    4. are not welcome.
  2. Baby birds benefit from the rains because:
    1. the mummy bird cannot fly in the rain.
    2. they need a lot of noodles.
    3. the rain brings a lot of insects which they eat.
    4. they like wet nests.
  3. Humans don’t visit the animals in sanctuaries during the rainy season because:
    1. humans don’t like to get wet.
    2. the paths to the sanctuaries become waterlogged.
    3. baby animals are born in the sanctuaries.
    4. humans get bitten during the rainy season.
  4. The green mould that grows on leather comes:
    1. from the creepy insects that come with the rain.
    2. because grass becomes very green during the rainy season.
    3. because of the moisture in the air during the rainy season.
    4. from fluffy clouds in the sky.
  5. Lions and tigers have easy life during summer because:
    1. there is easy availability of water everywhere.
    2. they are not able to catch fawns.
    3. humans visit the sanctuaries a lot during summer.
    4. thirsty animals come to the waterholes as easy preys.
  6. With the rain, we find:
    1. that most of the birds court.
    2. that the clouds begin to disperse.
    3. parks and sanctuaries close down.
    4. clean shoes, belts and bags.

Answers

  1. bring the message that the rains are coming soon.
  2. the rain brings a lot of insects which they eat.
  3. the paths to the sanctuaries become waterlogged.
  4. because of the moisture in the air during the rainy season.
  5. thirsty animals come to the waterholes as easy preys.
  6. parks and sanctuaries close down.

Q. Answer the following questions briefly:

  1. Who are pied cuckoos?
  2. Where can one get a proper view of the onset of monsoon?
  3. What changes do we find in nature in monsoon?
  4. Where and how do frogs express their joy in monsoon?
  5. What is the great show on earth and how should we celebrate?

Answers

  1. Pied cuckoos are large, black-and-white African birds which announce the arrival of the Indian monsoon.
  2. To get a proper view of the onset of monsoon one needs to be stationed on the coastline of India or up in the hills.
  3. A number of changes can be seen in nature in monsoon. The seeds come to life, shoots of plants rocket skywards, bugs, beetles, and caterpillars emerge in billions. Frogs appear in large numbers croaking.
  4. Singing golden frogs appear in large numbers at rain-filled ditches and in groups they sing and croak.
  5. The author asks the reader to go out in the midst of a downpour, raise the face to heavens and sing. This is how we should celebrate the great show on earth i.e. monsoon.

Q. Find words or phrases from the passage which mean the same as each of the following:

  1. declare (para 1)
  2. disappear (para 3)

Answer

  1. announce
  2. vanish

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