A Guide to the Birds of East Africa
For the past three years, the widower Mr. Malik has been secretly in love with Rose Mbikwa, a woman who leads the weekly bird walks sponsored by the East African Ornithological Society. Reserved and honorable, Malik wouldn't be noticed by a bystander in a Nairobi street—except perhaps to comment on his carefully sculpted combover. But beneath that unprepossessing exterior lies a warm heart and a secret passion.
But just as Malik is getting up the nerve to invite Rose to the Nairobi Hunt Club Ball (the premier social occasion of the Kenyan calendar), who should pop up but his nemesis from his school days. The jokester Harry Khan, good-looking in a flashy way and quick of foot, has also become enraptured with the object of Malik’s affection.
So begins the competition cooked up by fellow members of the Asadi club: whoever can identify the most species of birds in one week’s time gets the privilege of asking Ms. Mbikwa to the ball.
Set against the lush Kenyan landscape rich with wildlife and political intrigue, this irresistible novel has been sold in eight countries and is winning fans worldwide.
Malik it was never enough and never could be. But today he was not here to reminisce, he was here to see birds. Mr Malik left the cemetery and wandered back into the park. He sat down on a concrete bench beside the fountain, and within twenty minutes he had seen seventeen new species. Among them were a black-backed puffback, a red-cheeked cordon-bleu (looking very dashing in its plumage of lapis lazuli) and a small flock of cut-throats. Why, he mused, looking at the mixed group of male and
of the Tiger. ‘Hello, Malik. What, no Khan yet?’ He looked at his watch. ‘Oh well, another fifteen minutes to go. So, how many scalps for our warrior today, Patel?’ It took Mr Malik only a few minutes to explain to the Tiger the salient points of that day’s proceedings, the salientest being that his notebook had been stolen. ‘Well, think back. Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem. How many do you think you saw?’ ‘I’m pretty sure I’d counted seventeen new ones. But I can’t even
so far away?’ ‘The electricity, sir. Here there is electricity, but not in the village, not yet.’ Mr Malik could see that the thin power line that they had been following since the turn-off did indeed end at the schoolmaster’s house. They were now heading towards some low hills, bare and brown as the country all around. The road began to climb and got rougher. Mr Malik slowed down, guiding the old Mercedes between boulders and wash-outs. ‘There, sir. There is my village.’ They had reached the
parched landscape, it was an oasis for birds. At a little puddle near where the old people lived, he and Mr Malik seemed to have seen all the birds of the desert. They were mostly small birds, birds that eke out a living from the seeds and insects of the dry country, but a species is a species no matter how diminutive its representatives. Various finches, waxbills, pipits and wagtails were the commonest, but there were starlings and weavers too. Doves were frequent visitors to the puddle—tiny
and opened the camphor-wood wardrobe. He took down dinner jacket, trousers and shirt. He shaved and showered. The trousers and the jacket were a little tight, but the trousers had an adjustable waistband and he could leave the jacket unbuttoned. At least his black lace-up shoes still fitted. He went to the dressing table and tied his bow tie, then picked up the comb and, bending further towards the mirror, carefully arranged his hair. ‘Well, daughter,’ said Mr Malik as he re-entered the sitting