The first thing you should know is that few people care that it is Christmas Eve, and that’s okay. The drivers honk just as loudly and as often at one another, the lines move with the same frustrating slowness and corruption (SIR NO CUTTING OKAY PLEASE), and the odds are still just as good that you will tip one man too much and another too little—and that the shame they make you feel will ruin your appetite.  

But, if you are lucky, you will be taken far across the city, down a tree-lined road that requires permission to enter, past the bright and hollow façades of Film City, to a small centre in the forest. There, a young woman in a beautiful wine -red salwar kameez and turquoise scarf will take you on a nature walk. You will see a dozen butterflies, macaques, spotted and barking deer (the latter, you will even, what luck! hear bark), a paradise flycatcher, a gray hornbill, drongos, tailor birds, a forest chelotis, and a skink. You will imagine leopards watching as you both move through the trees, up and down the stone steps, in and out of clearings. 

You will wake up the next morning, and it will be Christmas Day and you will be sick—not from last night’s dinner, as you’d worried, but from people, your throat sore, head aching. It will feel like it does every Christmas that you are far away from however or wherever you make your home these days, which is to say, a bit sad and a bit adventurous. 

The skies at dusk are full of house crows and kites (both paper and avian). You’ve seen street dogs, and more rarely, cats. You’ve seen alleys literally filled to the windows with moldering garbage. You’ve seen an eight story building framed in hand-tied wooden scaffolding, men crawling across the poles with trowels, scrapers. You’ve seen the Arabian Sea and the dozens of young lovers perched on the low retaining wall along the edge of Back Bay.

The rooflines are full of only pigeons and house sparrows, now. You’ve been here for three days and haven’t seen a single vulture. At the conservation headquarters, when asked how long it will take to bring them back to the city (from their own brink—such a word can describe so many modes of desperation—of extinction), a specialist in bird habitats will tell you, “I think it is impossible. They are gone for my lifetime, and maybe forever.”  

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