An ornithologist at the Bombay Natural History Society was talking to me this morning: "There seems to be some confusion between the Pied Crested Cuckoo and the Indian Pitta. According to the cuckoo, the monsoon begins today, but the pitta says it is still three day off."
"Who is more reliable?" I asked.
"Oh, they are both equally reliable. As you know, the cuckoo and the pitta are heralds to our monsoon. When the cuckoo comes, can the monsoon be far behind! And when the pitta gives its sharp, loud, double-whistle, do the rains not follow!"
"Yes, yes," I said. "But whose forecast do we accept right now, the cuckoo's or the pitta's?"
"They are both birds of a feather," said the ornithologist. "The cuckoo has forecast for today mainly clear skies with thundery conditions developing in the ghats towards evening or night. Day temperatures will be high. The pitta has forecast cloudy conditions with intermittent rains. One or two showers may be heavy."
"I still don't get it," I said. "Do I take my umbrella with me today or not?"
"According to the cuckoo, the south-west monsoon is building up in North Karnataka and parts of Goa. The umbrella may not be absolutely necessary today, though as a precautionary measure it may be taken. According to the pitta, though the monsoon has moved up the west coast and entered some regions of Ratnagiri, it is still a weak current. An umbrella today is advisable but not imperative."
"This is getting to be more and more difficult," I said. "Well, in any case, one thing is definite, we are in for an early monsoon."
"Yes," said the ornithologist, "both the Pied Crested Cuckoo and the Indian Pitta are agreed on that. However, they differ on how early it would be. The cuckoo agrees with the MRF man and forecasts that the monsoon will break later today. The pitta goes along with the weather bureau and says there are still three more days to it - June 6."
"Do they say what sort of a monsoon we are going to have?" I asked.
"Of course, they do, that is their job," the ornithologist said. "The cuckoo has forecast a normal monsoon, the pitta an abnormal monsoon, though it wants time before it forecasts whether it will be less than normal or more than normal."
"And the temperatures, will they come down,?"
"Yes and no," said the ornithologist. "The cuckoo says they should be down by tomorrow, the pitta says you will have to suffer another week of sweltering heat."
"Don't these birds agree on anything!" I said. "Is there nobody who can give us more definite information on the monsoon."
"The blue-tipped, yellow-breasted kingfisher is expected to arrive from Bangalore any day now," the ornithologist said. "It should give you a more accurate forecast."