I sat in the garden in my backyard, relishing the mild breeze after a hot day. I looked up to see that my fruit trees looked green, and played host to plenty of animals still, but the fruits were no longer there. Could the trees have lived past their prime? I do not know. My botanical knowledge is excruciatingly narrow for one who enjoys nature so much. I watched squirrels scurry up and down on the very trees I was looking at, with a sense of purpose. How sincere, how single minded in their pursuit and yet, how completely at ease on the trees they were and how beautifully they fit into the complex pattern of life and their place in the food chain?
As I looked at the little creature who was mildly peeved at finding me in my own backyard, I realized with a shock that in spirit he knows and accesses the fruit trees far more than I do, and he probably helps the trees in my backyard by seeding them elsewhere. Then I think about how little I do know about the complex interdependencies of species. We all learn, while young, about the food chain and all that, but we need something to remind us about these marvels every now and then.
Sometimes that gentle reminder comes in the form of a marvelous book. Every once in a while you stumble upon a book that you wish you can thrust upon everybody and have them read it. But they don’t. Do you give up? No! You write about it, you read snippets out to them in the hope that they will relent and read the book.
There is nothing quite so lovely as observing nature and seeing how we are all interdependent species within this planet. Mockery Bird by Gerald Durrell is one of the most endearing books I have ever read. It is a beautiful tale of man’s ignorance and greed. Set in the picturesque fictional island of Zenkali, the book is humorous and satirical to the point of wanting to read it back to back again. It shows us how we are all part of an ecosystem – trees, flowers, insects, birds and man.
In The Mockery Bird, I sat amongst the Ombu & Amela trees, and took in the exotic scents of the tropical island, immersed in the world of Kingy, Peter Foxglove, the tribes, the side sweeps at religion, the absurdity of greed, and the twisted aims and means of the media. The book sparkled with laugh out loud moments. Like the one and only newspaper of the Island run by Damiens, that contains so many typesetting errors, it is a beauty it functions at all.
“Poor old Damiens is like that. he threw the nursing fraternity into a rare state of confusion some time ago with his article on Florence Nightingale entitled ‘The Lady with the Lump’.”
The Mockery Bird, became extinct due to the culinary prowess of the invading French colonies some years prior. The Mockery Bird is the God to one of the tribes on the island, and obviously they were not happy with the extinction of the bird. It turns out that the Ombu trees survived only because the Mockery Birds ate the fruit of the Ombu tree and not being able to digest the seed, germinated them elsewhere. Now with the Mockery Birds gone, there was only one surviving Ombu tree on the island. Plans to have an ugly airstrip through the dense forests in the island are thwarted when Peter and Damien’s daughter accidentally see that 30 Mockery birds are still alive deep in the forest amongst a long lost patch of Ombu trees. This throws the island into a state of chaos, and the ruler, Kingy, is stretched to find a solution that satisfies the international community, the locals and the environment.
Does anyone remember Lorax? Written by Dr Seuss, in which he shows us what greed and ignorance can do, and made into a lovely movie? Now imagine a similar theme, written with endearing characters, a brilliant sense of humor and an exceptional setting? That is Mockery Bird.
It is a pity this book was not made into a movie. If you can read the book, please do.