My Feathered Friends and The Book of Poems by Sunil Bhatia is a self-help and self-examination book wrapped in fictional stories and poems. The first part of the book is a story, whose protagonist is a man who shares a unique bond with his feathered friends, birds of all kinds, big and small. The stories capture his encounters with these birds and the conversations he has with them. The second part of the book is an anthology in which there are short poems under several categories.
The narrator is a young man living alone in a city. He has a special ability to be able to listen and talk to animals, birds especially. This ability of his enables him to have chats with his friends wherever he goes and at times helps him to understand their problems and point of view and provide any help if needed. While he surely extends an ear to those willing to talk to him, he also gets his share of talking. He shares his thoughts with the birds and in return gets advice from the wise ones, retort from the haughty ones, sympathy from the kind ones, and a hand of friendship from the happy ones. They share a symbiotic relationship, the birds get help from the narrator and he in return, gets to engage in thought-provoking conversations with them.
To begin with, I found the book to be childish. Not in a sense that it’s not written in a good way, but the kind of writing of both the story and the poems is relatively simple to the books that are meant for adults. The selection of words and other descriptions seems apt for a children’s storybook, and for an avid reader like me, it was a little too irritating to read stories to myself which I would in future be reading to/telling to my little girl. Narrated in the first person, the language is simple, and on reading it feels like it has been translated into English from Hindi as is.
The stories explore the relationship between man and nature, effects both have on each other and the consequence that they suffer due to others’ actions, mostly other being than humans. Apart from this, the stories also deal with a variety of topics related to everyday life and its aspects, love, friendship, family and world current affairs, global warming, deforestation, overpopulation et al. The stories were a source of insight in terms of understanding nature. They reflect upon human behavior towards nature and what repercussions it has had on the other living beings. The views of the birds on the urbanization of the forest lands, the scarcity of living spaces for them, and the problems they face in general due to human neglect and arrogance is eye-opening. Also, through the stories of birds and their fictional personal lives, the author has tried to give us a look into the ideal way of living, both singularly, as a couple and in a community.
The poems have been written in a simple way. Most of them are to the point, stating facts about the topic it is on, for eg. if a poem is on a cat, it goes on like “I am a cat, I drink milk and meow, I have a tail, and a paw.” Frankly, I wasn’t much impressed by these poems, since they were too straightforward for me. I think a little more effort into writing these poems, and choosing the topics wisely instead of writing on any random topic, and that too multiple poems, could have helped.
The message this book provides is that of the value of living in peace and harmony, along with enriching one’s life. One is forced to relook and reanalyze life as we know it.