DIARY OF A BIRD
BY AMARENDRA KUMAR
When I was born I looked like any other bird of my kind. My parents told me so, on a bright spring day.
Birds get the opportunity to gossip about everything, but they tend to overemphasize things to sell their experience. Even so everything about me seemed normal for some time.
My problem became obvious to others and of much concern to my parents only when I was getting my first lessons in flying. Initially they thought it could be overcome by my working a little harder, but they started to believe that it was a bit more than a normal difference.
Soon my inability to fly became the talk of the town, but my parents didn’t give up on me yet. However, we three were left behind -- bewildered, still together, though, on the first day of a formal flight of my batch of learners. Soon all the learners disappeared in the deep blue, shining sky of the early spring.
On that day, I imagined what a success could look like -- clear, bright, explosive, and radiant -- as crisp and distinct as the spring, but I knew what failure felt like. My parents and I were together but really a million miles apart. We went to a nearby wilderness, picked up our food, and thought of the future. We were worried, sad, and vulnerable...
It seemed like the longest day ever. The sun was like a ball of fire. We all three returned to our nest long before it got dark. My parents kept on talking softly, I guess about my future and me.
I heard the big uproar when other birds arrived at dusk. I was about to shout out as usual, but then I looked at my parents, dozing, eyes half closed, and I was not sure if they were actually sleeping or pretending.
By dawn, everyone was ready for the day. My parents left to search for better food and things necessary to repair our dilapidated nest. Many of my friends were preparing new nests, as they were pairing up to spend their lives together. Survival of the fittest prevailed.
* * *
By the time my parents had left, the entire colony was empty. I came down from the tree and looked around. I could fly only up to a certain distance, but now I started enjoying being alone. In fact, I wasn’t exactly alone. Squirrels, chipmunks, snakes, butterflies, and migratory birds were all around. I almost got lost in the wilderness. At noon I had a drink from a nearby stream, and soon after I had a nap.
I returned to consciousness only after I heard screaming and shouting all around. Dusk was upon me. I had to return to my place. I hurried, but it was almost dark by the time I reached home, and my parents were not back yet.
One moment my heart thumped with an unknown fear, and another moment I had faith in my able and caring parents, and I knew they would come back. I don’t remember how long I waited before sleep overtook me.
The Next morning when I opened my eyes, I had my first experience of losing something precious. Apparently they had not returned last night. Everyone else was gone, too, for another day. I am not sure what happened, but I always believe that they didn’t want to leave me alone. I didn’t even get the chance to say good-bye to them.
* * *
It was like a new start for me, but I was ready for it. I am not among those who want to blame others for their shortcomings. I knew I had a lot of natural gifts. I was healthy, breathing well, seeing all around, eating and digesting well, so what if I couldn’t fly longer and higher?
When I looked around me, I saw many tiny creatures which could lose their lives from just one wrong step by a bigger animal. I waited a little longer for my parents to return before I stepped out of my nest, but I accepted the fact that they were gone.
I came down, ready for my day to start. I went all over, exploring my surroundings, meeting new friends and greeting old ones, breathing the fresh air of spring. I was contented, and so I grew happier as the days passed. At the same time, I made friends with a group of my own age. When they were here I was with them and when they were gone I was with myself, in my world. This way I was able to see a balance between the creatures who could fly and those who couldn’t. My limitation helped me to connect the two worlds together.
* * *
One day, just about dawn, my friends first encouraged and then pressed me to give flying another try. I knew I was not ready, but I was surrounded by a group of zealots, and I, too, thought it had been a long time.
Eleven of us decided to fly past the nearby human neighborhood. I was amazed to see I could match the other ten, and in fact it all seemed to be working great, until I struck a large invisible window. I fell and blacked out. In a few moments, when I had regained my senses, I heard a voice from inside the house.
“Some bird struck our windows. Wake up, Siddhartha!” A Window opened, and a human face peeped out.
In a few seconds, a man was approaching me in his nightshirt. At the first sight of him, my friends flew away. I didn’t blame them. I probably would have done the same, and if I had had a chance to alert them before, I would have advised them to do so.
Siddhartha approached me quickly and carefully. I was still sitting in the bush, unable to move. He picked me up in both hands, the first time I had been touched by any human. He felt soft, tender, caring and warm. I got comfortable as he carried me inside.
“Looks like it is an American pigeon,” Siddhartha told his wife, who was still in bed. She jumped out to take a look at me. His son was still asleep, unaware of what was going on. My parents and our nest flashed into my mind. I was getting used to a human nest. “Home,” they call it.
They both inspected me. My wings and neck were hurt, as they realized after a close observation of my rumpled feathers. After seeing my eyes close again, the man’s wife told him to bring some water.
“Naina, let’s take it to the kitchen,” He said, and he crossed the hall to the kitchen still holding me in his hands.
“I can feel its heart beat as I am holding it”, Siddhartha told his wife.
Naina brought water in a bowl, and Siddarth tried to put my mouth in it. I tried to sip, but my head hurt too much.
“Put it on the floor, and let it relax a bit,” said Naina, and Siddhartha set me very gently on the cold tile floor. They pushed the water bowl a little towards me. I stayed there, keeping my eyes almost closed.
I was about to faint again, when a tender hand touched me. I opened my eyes. It was Naina this time. I could see in her eyes her human care and sympathy.
“It must be in pain. What should we do?” Naina asked Siddhartha.
“I don’t know. We can give it something to eat. What would it eat, Naina?” Siddhartha said.
“Maybe rice” Naina said.
“Will it eat basmati rice? In India, birds eat that, but I’m not sure about the American birds.”
“Oh, well, they might not have seen anything like that, but bring some anyway”.
Siddhartha brought some rice and put it on the floor where I was sitting. I looked at it but didn’t know what to do with it.
“I think we should put it in a bowl,” Siddhartha said.
“You are right.”
Siddhartha brought more rice mixed with dal in a bowl and put it close to me. I was not in a mood to eat, so I lay still with my eyes closed.
“Is it all right? I am really scared,” Naina said. “This is our new home. I really don’t want anything to happen to it here.”
I opened my eyes. Siddhartha looked at me, and then at her but said nothing. I drank some water. Seeing this, a wave of happiness passed over their faces, and they hugged each other in great pleasure. I didn’t realize that my small step would assure them that things weren’t as bad as they thought.
“You know what,” Naina said.”If it recovers well, we’ll let it go soon.”
“Exactly,” Siddhartha said. “No point in keeping it here.” They seemed a little more relaxed, but I started to worry about them now.
In the meantime, their five-year old son came running and jumped onto Siddhartha’s arms. Siddhartha kissed him on his cheek. Naina hugged them both. I was watching and thinking of my days with my parents.
“Look, son. We have a bird” Siddhartha turned around and pointed towards me.
His son was startled. Holding his dad’s finger, he came closer to me. I moved away a little.
“Oh! It is now able to walk,” Naina said happily.
“Want to touch it?” Siddhartha asked his son.
Ankur looked curious and scared at the same time.
“Yes” Siddhartha pushed Ankur closer to me. The boy stretched his small palm towards me, slowly and gently, but I moved away. He turned back to his dad.
“No. Looks like it gets scared.” He jumped onto his father’s arms again. “What is its name, Daddy? He asked.
“Hmm, good question. I don’t know, really. Maybe it doesn’t have any name.”
“How come? Everyone has a name. You have, mommy has, and all my friends at school have.”
“Then we’ll have to give it a name”
“Ok. How about we call it Birdy?” The boy, still in his dad’s arms had a broad smile as he looked at me.
“That sounds great.” Siddhartha put him down on the floor. Ankur was approaching me gingerly, with affection and curiosity, but I was moved toward a corner in the kitchen that they called the sitting area. I stood there for a while.
Soon they started their day. Naina fed the boy, while his dad turned on the television. Sporadically, they would come and see me.
I had been half sleep and half awake for a long time when I heard them again.
“When you are done with prayer, Siddhartha,” Naina said “Please apply Sai Baba’s1 Udi2 to the Birdy’s injuries.” She was cooking in the kitchen.
Soon after, Siddhartha, his son right behind him, came, took me in his hand and quickly applied the Udi on my neck and right wing. I couldn’t really feel it.
“We know the power of the Udi,” Siddhartha said. “Birdy will be all right very soon. We will never know why it has come to the home of Baba’s devotees.”
“Baba says that we must treat everyone equally, and with respect, whether it is an ant, a pauper, or a prince. Also, according to Baba, if it has come to us we might have had some sort of connection with it in the past.”
“No one would really believe all these things today, and especially in America,” Naina said.
“Correct,” Siddhartha said, “but everyone has some type of belief system in this world, and one belief system is stranger to the other one. It doesn’t matter, though. You see how Halloween is believed in and celebrated here in the United States.”
* * *
Naina and Siddhartha kept talking. Ankur played with his toys and came to see me now and then. It was the late morning of a crisp summer day, and I could see bright sunlight coming through the patio door and large windows all around. Oh, those large windows reminded me of the accident I had had only a few hours ago.
Naina finished her cooking and took her son for a shower, so I had a bit of seclusion and I fell asleep until they all came back for their lunch-- a family gathering.
It reminded me of my time with my parents when I was a kid. I rejoice that this is so common among the families on our planet –- humans, birds, animals -- so much common among so many!
Ankur asked, “Mommy, what will Birdy eat?”
Siddhartha said, “We have given it some rice and water.”
“But it’s not eating that,” Ankur said
“We may have to bring some bird food from the store,” Naina said. “I don’t think that American birds are familiar with rice or wheat. In India, they would have attacked and finished these grains by now.”
They were talking while eating. It’s not that common among us birds. Maybe humans are more talkative, or maybe it is America! I was getting tired. It was a summer afternoon, when everything seemed to be dozing, intoxicated by the light and the breeze. I had to wake up and be alert, as the entire family was standing around and staring at me.
Siddhartha said, “Let’s open the door and see if it would like to go out.”
Ankur said, “Or maybe we can grab it and take it outside”
“No”, Naina said. “It is not well. How can you think of taking it out or letting it go? You see, it’s not able to even stand up on its own.”
So they decided on their own. Well, I myself couldn’t think of anything more than to just sit and sleep. It was a sultry summer afternoon. Siddhartha and Ankur went out and spent hours in the yard, wandering, chasing each other and playing.
Naina tidied the house for a while before she sat on the sofa flipping the pages in a magazine, before they all took naps. It was a long silent afternoon. I felt better and worse alternately, and occasionally I slept.
I woke up to hear Naina speaking.
“Sid, we need to do something, Birdy hasn’t eaten a single grain. Please go to the store and get some food for it.”
It was a typical mid-west late afternoon, still bright outside. The sun was shining like never before, but the heat was coming down considerably.
Sid said, “Let me check with the pet store to see if they have any idea how to take care of Birdy.”
Ankur was now inside playing and watching his mom while she cooked. I wonder if it is common to all humans, that much cleaning and cooking just for eating, or was it just Naina’s way? I felt very happy for my species. We just go out, eat, drink and come back.
I thought humans were so developed that they must have devised something to make life easier, but now I thought that was not the case for everyone, at least not for this family. Since the morning and the moment I arrived here, eating was the most intense act of the day at least for Naina, and it didn’t seem as if they had any lack of money. Their house was the biggest in the neighborhood.
* * *
Siddhartha said,” I called the pet store in the town. A lady at the store told me that their Veterinary wouldn’t see an injured wild bird, but she suggested that the wildlife department would help in this matter. She also gave me some names that specialized in rehabilitating wild birds.”
“Oh. Then call them up quickly,” said Naina, looking at me. “I feel so sad about it.”
Siddhartha was back on the phone again. After a while he returned. “I called and left messages. I think it’s hard to find anyone on Friday afternoon. Everyone seems to be gone for the weekend already. Anyway, let me get some bird food for Birdy before night falls.”
Before he left, Ankur ran to him, excited as always. “I’ll come with you, daddy.”
They both left, and Naina got busy preparing for dinner. She looked at me now and then with a heavy heart. After a while I heard a bell ringing. I looked around to see that Naina was in the prayer room, ringing a bell with one hand and holding some lit deeps3 in the other.
She was standing there singing, ringing the bell and circling the deeps in front of idols and pictures of gods. In the meantime, Siddhartha and Ankur came back and showed Naina the food and bedding they had brought.
“As you told not to bring any cage,” Siddhartha said,” I got this bed for cats. It is very soft and comfortable. Here is the bird food.”
“Right. We don’t want to keep anything in a cage. I feel bad about this. Birdy is a free bird. It’s staying here because of its injury,” Naina said, still engaged in the prayer.
“Can you bring Birdy here?” Naina asked.”I would like to give it the aarati4. God will help it to recuperate quickly,” Naina said.
I was persuaded to walk towards the prayer room. I was walking fast and ended up in one corner of the prayer room. It was like a beautiful garden, with trees, flowers, colored leaves, birds, and bouquets, all artificial but looking real. For a moment I thought I was in heaven, but soon realized that it was still a corner of the prayer room.
A decorated swing sat out there. Naina put one of the idols, called “little Krishna” dressed like a beautiful baby, on the swing. Then she sang some songs as if trying to put a baby to sleep. She took the idol in her hand and whispered in his ear while looking at me continuously as if praying for me to get well.
I was moved, but pushed myself to the farthest corner of the prayer room. Despite all our good thoughts and their good deeds, we are told to keep out distance from humans. It’s embedded in our body and soul.
Naina distributed the Prasad5 to Ankur and Siddhartha and told them to sprinkle some of it on the bird food which Ankur was holding in his tiny hand. Then she tried again to persuade me to move from the corner of the prayer room to the kitchen area where my new bed was waiting for me. I jumped on it as they wanted me to do. Oh, it was so soft, cozy, and warm compared to the cold and hard tile floor of the kitchen.
“Looks nice.” Naina approved the bed while Ankur and Siddhartha looked on. The bowl full of food was placed near my bed, as well as a small cup of water. It was getting dark outside and I was exhausted. I wanted to sleep more than to eat, or drink, but there was too much light inside the house.
They finished their dinner and had some family time together: talking, playing, and watching television. It reminded me again of my bed time in my nest, with stories, talking, thinking, worrying, occasional exultations, and all but gone old memories. I tried to sleep but could hardly get any.
Then the house became dark, they were all standing near me like giant shadows. They were talking softly.
“Looks like it fell asleep,” Siddhartha said, but my eyes were wide open. Probably the humans had hard time seeing me in the dark.
“It’s sad that it didn’t eat anything today,” Naina said.
“Don’t worry,” said Siddhartha. “When it is hungry, it will eat, everything is there.”
“Can I say good night to Birdy, mom?” asked Ankur.
“Sure.” All three said softly. “Good night Birdy!” and they retreated slowly.
They went upstairs to Ankur’s bedroom, still talking, probably in his bed. I heard some giggles, and then bedtime songs -– sweet and melodious as if spring air was flowing through the summer night.
Ankur said,” I made a song for Birdy. Can I sing it?”
Family laughter and joviality floated down to me.
Ankur was singing in his best, sweet, five-years–old voice.
“Hi Birdy, Hello Birdy.
Get well, Birdy.”
God bless you, Birdy.”
The song sounded like a melody from a distant church bell.
In the end, there was a lot of clapping and excitement. Then the talking died away, and then slowly the whole house fell into a long silence. I fell asleep.
* * *
I woke up early the next morning. It was still dark inside and out. I was feeling hungry and thirsty. I ate the food, drank the water, and walked around the house, as the family was still sleeping. I returned to my bed, and waited for them to wake up. A relationship had been established between them and me by then. We all respond to each other one way or another, sometime knowingly and sometime unknowingly. It happens all the time.
It was a weekend, and they woke up a bit later than usual. Humans have weekends but we don’t. I wondered if they had to end the week why they had to begin it first place! They went to the prayer room, folded their hands and then came to my bed. I was still, watching their move. They were talking.
“Hey, it’s wonderful! Birdy ate some food. Look at the bowl!” Naina said.
“Wow! Glad that it liked it,” Said Siddhartha ”And look at the cup, too, don’t you think that Birdy drank some water?”
They all were excited. Pleasure and hope filled the air as the bright morning was turning into another bright summer day. How bright and airy it was inside the house as if I was sitting in my nest looking around me, all the greens around and the blue above.
I have to admit how bad it used to get when storms would hit our nests but in this house I could see the luxury of openness and security from the bad weather. That’s human smartness!
I wish our community could learn from humans. Humans learned how to fly from us, and how to swim by mimicking the fish. Then they went beyond and built railroads, cars -- you name it.
I was roaming around the kitchen, the patio door, and my bed, as they started their day with Naina feeding Ankur and Siddhartha with morning tea.
“We are planning to go to Sai Baba temple today.”Naina said.”I am worried. How will Birdy be here without us?”
“What do you mean? It will be just fine.” replied Siddhartha. “It will only be a few hours.”
“Well,” said Naina,” We leave in the afternoon and return right around midnight. It is more than a few hours.”
Ankur played with crayons, papers, and toys, while Naina pressed him to finish his breakfast. Siddhartha turned on the television to check the weather. After some time, Naina left to get ready, and Siddhartha went up to Ankur’s room to make him ready.
Soon they all met in the prayer room. I was happy to see a family together in front of the god, praying, singing, doing other rituals, but all together. I was shown the aarati (6) as expected and udi added to my water. Soon after finishing their lunch, they were ready to go. Before they left,
Siddhartha said, “Why don’t we try making Birdy fly? We have a two-story-high ceiling, and a long and wide hall, and I am sure that space is enough for Birdy to fly in.”
Ankur got excited, while Naina thought for a while before she agreed to this. Siddhartha grabbed me and took me up to the second floor hall. Ankur followed him all the way. Naina stayed on the first floor to just watch.
They uttered “Hare Krishna” and agreed once again that it would be fine. I wasn’t sure about flying but I thought it couldn’t be that bad either.
“One-two-three” and I was thrown in the air to fly. I looked down nervously and started to flap my wings. In a few moments I landed close to the opposite wall, almost striking it.
All three ran up to see me. I was sitting there clueless with my heart throbbing relentlessly. Siddhartha grabbed me again, “Oh, it wasn’t that good at all,” he said “It flew a bit but not enough. Thank God it didn’t get hurt.”
Naina was silent while Ankur almost panicked. They were all together, disappointed and bewildered.
“I can feel it’s heart thumping. We’re sorry Birdy,” Siddhartha said, looking at me.
Naina and Ankur came closer and put their hands around my neck and wings. I was gradually getting back to normal.
“Look at Birdy’s feet,” Naina said.”They are jammed with cotton or something. Ankur, go and get the scissors.”
Ankur ran away and returned with a tiny scissors in his tiny hand and gave it to his dad. The house was so large that they all used to run for anything instead of walking, especially Ankur.
Siddhartha held me in one hand and aimed the scissors to cut the bulge.
“Be very careful!” Naina said.
Siddhartha paused for a moment, and slowly cut the cotton tangle carefully.
Oh, I felt as if I was freed after a century of being chained! I opened my claws and felt much relieved.
Siddhartha said,“Did you see how Birdy opened its claws as I cut through the tangle?”
“Yes!” Naina and Ankur said. They all were very happy.
* * *
Before they left for another city, the three of them came to see me again. They looked anxious about me.
“Not sure how Birdy will feel and stay for so long?” Naina said.
Ankur’s suggestion came immediately. “We can take it in our car.” Naina and Siddhartha didn’t respond. I was sitting still and waiting.
Before they left they went again to the prayer room and folded their hands in prayer for a safe return, requesting little Krishna to take care of the house and me too.
I was amazed to see their great care for everything: themselves, the gods, the house and me.
I heard the door being closed at last, and a car start, and then it was all silence, silence much longer than I had imagined.
The hot day came to an end with some gusts of wind. I walked around the house, not sure if I was missing them or feeling free.
The house began to get dark, and still they didn’t return. I felt sad when night fell. However, they had left a few lights on inside the house, so I was not lost in the darkness. I ate the food and drank the water. I was tired and couldn’t remember when I fell asleep.
I woke up when they came back not sure how late it was, but they came straight in to see me and turned on all the lights.
“Oh,” said Siddhartha,”Looks like we disturbed the sleeping Birdy.”
“Hi, Birdy, how are you?” Ankur asked.
“Okay, let’s not disturb it.” Siddhartha turned off the lights, and that was a relief! “Let’s go to our beds. It’s already too late. I have to go to the office tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, the weekend is over,” Naina said.
I guess she didn’t go to any office, and Ankur’s school was closed for summer vacation. Again, the whole house went into darkness with silence stretched all over it, as they retired for the night.
The wind became a storm, as I looked at the trees through the windows. Glistening white clouds were floating over the twinkling stars in the late hours of the night. And then I didn’t remember anything at all.
* * *
I heard Siddhartha saying to Naina, “Please remember to pick up the phone when the rehabilitators call.”
“Sure I will.” Said Naina. “Looks like Birdy was not able to get a good sleep”
“You are right. We came back late last night and made Birdy wake up with lights and noise, you know.”
I was thinking it wasn’t so uncommon for me to get sleep only in small spells at times as we have to be cautious all the time back in the wilderness. At least there were no such worries in that house. Another good thing was that they didn’t have any pets. I wished I could tell them all these things.
Before he left, Naina hugged Siddhartha tightly, and he gave her a kiss. After Siddhartha had left, Naina got busy organizing, cleaning, and cooking. I walked back and forth in front of the patio door, wanting to go out. After a while I looked back and saw Naina and Ankur staring at me. I stopped, went back to my bed, and lay still.
This became a routine. Naina would clean the kitchen every morning. She would gently urge me out of my bed, and then clean the floor and my bed too. I would be near the patio door looking out and waiting. When it was all ready, she would come and urge me into my bed again. She even put my bed in the washer and drier after a couple of days.
* * *
The phone rang.
“Hello. This is Naina” Naina was talking with the phone in one hand, feeding Ankur with the other.
A deep thundering male voice emerged from the handset. “Mam, I am returning your call. Someone from this number left a message for us over the weekend. We were out in the wilderness north of here.”
“Thanks for calling us back. Is there anything that you could do? Did Sid tell that we have an injured pigeon in our house?” Naina sounded a little nervous.
“Oh--yes, he did. Unfortunately I don’t specialize in the rehabilitation of pigeons. I specialize in Eagles, and we are currently taking care of many of them. However, I can give you the number of Ms. Linda who is the well-known rehabilitation expert on pigeons in our region.”
“Oh, that will be great.” Naina took the number down. After a few moments she called and left a message for Ms. Linda.
In deep speculations, anxiety, and uncertainty, I was again walking back and forth along the patio door. I would strike the door with my beak to see if any part of it was open for me to get out. Naina and Ankur both looked at me, sad and concerned. I returned to my place.
As the time passed a strong storm jolted the surroundings with thunders and lightning. Ankur and Naina looked worried.
I was relaxed inside such a comfortable house which wouldn’t feel a single drop of water and or a blow of the strong wind until Ankur opened the door and wanted to go out.
Naina advised him to wait. The storm continued for a while, but, like everything else, it calmed down after some time.
Siddhartha returned home after the work and the conversation resumed again.
“Did any rehabilitator call today?”
“Yes. One called, but he specialized in some other bird. He gave me the name of another rehabilitator called Ms. Linda who specialized in pigeons. I called a couple of times and then left a voice message.”
Ankur came running to Siddhartha, and took his laptop bag, but was unable to carry it so he left in the middle of the wide hall.
“And Birdy was so restless all the time today,” Naina said.”It was running back and forth, hitting the patio door at times as if trying to go out. I feel so sad. It is recalling its relatives, I am pretty sure. You know everyone of us remember our near and dear ones and want to be with them.”
Siddhartha listened while Ankur was again busy with his games. I was moved by Naina’s feelings and thoughts. However, I was sure I was not waiting for any relatives or friends. Since my parents were gone, no one would be close to me for the rest of my life. I was sure about that. Nevertheless, good thoughts and cares always vibrate even if they may not apply to you directly.
Naina said, “We humans think that only we are wise, but it isn’t like that. Even these creatures have feelings, and wisdom, surely.”
I couldn’t agree with her more.
I went near the patio door to see how it looked outside.
“Let me call Ms. Linda.” Siddhartha picked up the phone.
“Hello, Ms. Linda,” he said softly and politely. ”This is Sid. My wife called you a couple of times and left a voice message for you.”
“Don’t call me again.”She said.” I have stopped doing this work totally now.”
Siddhartha was left looking at his lifeless handset. “Oh, well. She hung up on me. I was astonished at how she reacted.”
“But why did she, Sid?” Naina asked. Ankur looked on.
“Well, you know today money runs everything. Gone are the days when people used to get funds for scientific discoveries, research, art, charities, you name it.
Today the world is facing so much economic uncertainty that nobody bothers about others. Today, who cares about the wilderness, or wild animals?
When humans aren’t treated well, forget about everything else. Millions of people have lost their jobs over the years. My guess is that Ms. Linda doesn’t get any funding anymore, so she has lost her interest in birds. I could be wrong, though. Who knows?”
Siddhartha’s reasoning prevailed, while Naina looked on silently. Ankur was back to his games.
“It’s sad, but this is what it is.” Siddhartha sat on the couch and loosened his tie. After a few minutes, Naina and Siddhartha had tea together.
After hearing all these things, I was as upset as they were. I really wanted to go out. I’m not sure why, but I started banging my beak, body, and feet on the patio door.
They looked at me anxiously, and Sid said resolutely,“Well, I guess there is no further hope for any of us. Birdy is so restless. Let’s let it go.”
Ankur hearing this came running to them. “Birdy will leave us, Daddy?” He asked, with worried little eyes and a sad face.
“Are you sure, Sid?” Naina asked. “Is Birdy well enough to go out on its own? I am afraid something might happen to it. Some animal might attack it. It will not be able to fly.”
“Well,” said Siddhartha,” If Birdy doesn’t want to stay here any more what can we do? I think it is worried about its relatives and wants to go back at any cost.”
The words ‘Birdy doesn’t want to stay here anymore.’ penetrated me, and I gradually calmed down. I went back to my bed and gave them time to decide about what I had heard.
“Ankur,” Naina said,” Birdy is leaving us. Please come and say good bye.” Ankur came running and held his mom’s hand while Siddhartha slowly opened the patio door.
I looked back and forth, and started walking back to the patio door.
“Looks like it will go out today” whispered Siddhartha.
“Oh my God, may God save Birdy!” Naina folded her hands as she prayed.
I stumbled at the door bump and I heard them all saying, “Be careful, Birdy”
Then I was out of the door, free, and breathing the fresh air, walking on my two feet. I heard Ankur singing “Bye Birdy, Bye Birdy, God Bless you Birdy.” I wanted to look back but, I knew I could prove weak easily, so I kept walking straight out on my two trembling feet.
They were talking. Naina said, “Where is Birdy going? See, it’s walking, not flying, I told you.”
“Right,” Said Siddhartha, “Look at it, it is struggling to walk through the freshly cut weeds. These weed remains are sharp, too.”
While they were now talking softly, I stumbled and lay still in the middle of their back yard full of half-cut weeds. I saw they all came out this time and came towards me carefully. I couldn’t go any farther.
“I am sure Birdy got hurt again with these weeds,” Naina said.
“Let me go and see.” said Siddhartha as he approached me. He grabbed me again. I didn’t resist at all. I couldn’t, and in a few moments, I was back inside again. They were all inspecting me for any injuries.
“Thank God, Birdy is all right!” Naina folded her hands again as if praying. Ankur was ecstatic, and so were Siddhartha and Naina. Once again, the house was filled with happiness. I wanted to retire that moment after my small expedition. Still, one has to keep trying. One day I would go out and be back where I belonged. Till then, I would have to wait, patiently, I had learnt one lesson today…
* * *
In a few more days I was feeling better and stronger than ever. I took small flights in their large living hall. They used to watch me and they kept talking about birds, humans, pets, and lives.
One afternoon a boy from the neighborhood showed up and banged on the patio door. He was of Ankur’s age and they were friends.
Naina opened the door and said, “Ankur, Jimmy is here to see you.”
Ankur came running. Jimmy was holding a plastic cup and looking all around. He showed the plastic cup to Ankur, “Look what I got.”
Ankur peeped in, “What is it?”
“It’s a frog.”Jimmy pulled it out of the cup.
“Where did you get it from?” Ankur was as excited as always.
“I caught it in the backyard.” The frog got sticky in his hand. He put it back in the cup.
“We’ve got Birdy,” Ankur announced to Jimmy, but Naina and Siddhartha tried to interfere. They probably didn’t want even Jimmy know about me.
They knew that unlike Ankur, Jimmy was uncontrolled, doing anything he wanted on his own, not even asking if he could. As soon as he heard about me he came hurriedly to the kitchen corner where my abode was.
“Oh, be careful!” Naina said and averted an attack on me.
“Can I take it outside?”
Jimmy’s question wasn’t well received. He got quick and immediate responses from Both Naina and Siddhartha. “No!” They said, and further directions followed, “Ankur, please take Jimmy to the basement and play there.”
Ankur and Jimmy disappeared for a while, but before leaving, Jimmy was sure to make another visit to me, although I was heavily guarded by Naina, Siddhartha and Ankur.
As soon as he left, the three breathed heavily and felt much relieved. Naina said, “Oh, good that he is gone. I was afraid of what would happen to Birdy. Did you see how he was treating the frog in that little plastic cup?” All three were on the same page.
* * *
That very evening, Ankur asked,“ Why can’t we keep Birdy here?”
Naina said,“ Birdy isn’t a pet, it is a wild bird, and it will be happy out there in its flock. That’s why we won’t keep Birdy here.”
Siddhartha was looking at his laptop while Ankur played nearby and asked questions,
“So can we keep a puppy?” Ankur was trading and negotiating.
“Well, we’ll think about it, Ankur.” Naina said. I thought she wanted to avoid the topic of having any pet inside the house. Then how about me? Well, I wasn’t a pet, she said.
Why do I keep forgetting? Are the closed walls, and humans’ company starting to take me over?
That shouldn’t happen! I don’t say they aren’t intelligent, but, we have a certain cognizance level that the humans lack, and they admit it. For example, we could sense a storm before humans could. Humans have advanced greatly over time. They have built bridges, roads, planes, cities, etc. Still we birds are birds, born intelligent, ingenious, and sweet. I almost forgot that.
Naina said once, “I love birds,” and Siddhartha said, “Me too. Even I wrote stories about birds.”
“And I made beautiful albums of American Birds for one of my school projects,” Naina said.
Then Master Ankur joined in.
“I love birds, too. I made a song for Birdy. Can I sing again?” and he started singing even without waiting for permission.
“Can you search on the computer what it means to get a pigeon in your house?” asked Naina, and Siddhartha went to work on it.
Soon, he found answers. “It has many interpretations, including some bad ones.”
“Bad? What do you mean?” asked Naina.”It can never be like that, because pigeons are so dear to goddess Lakshami. I can’t believe all the rubbish you find on the internet these days”
“Well, leave it,” Siddhartha said.”I read somewhere that your ancestors return to see you in the form of birds.”
“I agree,” she said. “I don’t know, but I sometimes think that someone very dear to us has come to us in the form of Birdy.”
I wasn’t aware of any of these things, but, all this was private family talk in an eerie setting.
* * *
Day after day went by. They talked about everything, I listened, they cared and I had almost forgotten where I had come from. Then I realized I must go. It was not my place. I knew they didn’t want me to go, but also they realized I didn’t belong to them and their place.
This was one of the situations when it is terribly difficult to decide. I was restless, and once again started circling around the whole house, banging my head, body and beak where I could to let them know that I wanted to go.
They knew very well that the time had come to say “goodbye,” this time finally...
On one weekend they were talking about releasing me. Everything was happening as usual, but something heavy and damp was in the air. They would stop and stare at me. They took pictures and made videos of me.
It had rained yesterday and when Siddhartha opened the door, he said
“It’s really cold outside today. I hope Birdy will be fine.”
I was hoping that they wouldn’t change their minds again, and they didn’t.
It was bright outside, when all three gathered at the patio door for my farewell. Ankur recited his poem again, “Bye Birdy, Bye Birdy” He sounded as if he would burst into tears at any moment. I was not trying to hide either. I knew it was hard for them to let me go, but then it was equally hard for me. Probably they would have realized that by looking into my eyes, but they had stopped coming near me and touching me as I recovered.
Siddhartha opened the patio door and all three stepped back...
I went near the door, looked at them finally and stepped out briskly. I knew there was a bump on the way out and I didn’t stumble this time.
I heard someone really crying, who else would be but Naina? For only a moment when I looked back, I saw three hands waiving at me with the words
“God bless Birdy, come back some time again..”
Naina, with tear-filled eyes was in the middle, and Siddhartha and Ankur were hugging her tightly, like a family.
I moved on. They watched from a distance. I flew and landed on their next neighbor’s lawn. There were bushes where I hid from their sight.
It was cold and damp. They were right. Well, those were the final days of summer, the summer that everyone waits for so long and then it passes by like the water splash of a small mountain stream. I rested for while thinking what I should do, before it got dark. Clouds were all over, and it drizzled now and then.
After some time, I could see, at a corner of the bushes, Siddhartha holding Ankur’s hand in his, and looking towards the bushes as if searching for me. Drizzle turned into rain, and they stopped for a moment. Siddhartha pointed toward the bushes to show Ankur where I really was.
I knew Naina must have sent them to look for me to see how I was doing. Having had so many days with the family I had started to know them very well, even what they were thinking sometimes.
They stopped for few moments and looked at me from the street. It was now dark, with one side of the sky deep blue.
They returned slowly, turning their heads back many times to get a glimpse of me, but I could read in their eyes that they weren’t able to see me any more, as the darkness prevailed.
I decided to stay inside the bushes that night. I could feel the openness, breathe better, and look at the vast sky. This is all a bird wants.
I woke up much before the dawn. The sky got clear and the stars still twinkled. It was another day, another life for me again.
I made another attempt to fly, and to my surprise I went farther. With each attempt I went farther and farther. I was thrilled. The dawn was bright, the sky beautiful, the trees green, and flowers were all around.
There was huge uproar. Everyone was getting ready for the day, hopefully filled with much fun and excitement. I was back in the wilderness, and I joined the crowd. At times, it is much better to go with the flow. Get whatever you get. Let yourself free. Don’t worry about anything.
Amidst all these, at one corner of my heart I had the notion that the family, Siddhartha, Naina, and little Ankur were still in the bed or getting ready for their day to start, talking about me, missing me. Well, I was missing them too. I realized when I was with them I wanted to go out and when I am out I miss them. This is crazy thinking, but so be it!
* * *
After some time, one day I returned to the family along with many other pigeons. Sidhartha, Naina and Ankur were there sitting in their backyard.
“Mom, dad, look at the pigeons. Birdy has returned!”
Both Naina and Siddhartha looked at us. They wanted to smile but turned sad. “That’s good, Ankur. But how can we know which one is Birdy?” Naina said this while she was looking at me only. She couldn’t recognize me.
I even shouted to help them recognize me but to no avail. Even Siddhartha looked aloof. I was shocked, shattered, and regretted that I had returned. Better, I should have kept alive my desire to see them some day. I was wavering between anger and anguish.
“We could have put some marks on Birdy or a band on one of its feet so we could recognize it.” Siddhartha said looking into the air.
“You are right.” Naina said. “I hope Birdy was fine that night. Not sure how far it went after that. I didn’t really see IF it was flying well or not. Only God can save these creatures.” She was as kind and thoughtful as ever.
Once again I saw the family together, holding each other’s hands. I went near to them too, nearer than I had ever been, even when I was a guest at their home. They looked at me, filled with kindness and tenderness but like strangers. My heart pained me but I was as helpless as they were.
* * *
I didn’t return to them for long time, but gradually disappointment melted away, anger vanished and anguish became transformed into compassion.
At last, I returned to their roof top and stayed for hours, not alone this time, but with my soul mate. Yes, I found one. I was excited to show her to them, but was afraid they wouldn’t recognize me.
I saw a car came and park outside their garage. I saw the three step out of the car. Ankur was first to notice us. Siddhartha and Naina looked at us, and Naina said, “Sid, I think this is Birdy. I am sure this is Birdy, sitting on our rooftop along with another pigeon. I think Birdy got married!”
Siddhartha smiled, looking at us and then at Naina.
“Yes,” I told my sweetheart, “This is the family I mentioned.”
The family on the ground looked at us, smiled, and waved their hands with great exultation.
* * *
Sometime later, four babies were born to us. We both were blissfully happy, but at the same time I was worried about their ability to fly. I had to wait till they were ready for it. It was a long wait, and painful too.
The day arrived, and I was ecstatic to learn that they all could fly easily. I can’t thank God enough for that. I thanked God too for everything I learned from my human family. I couldn’t wait to see them and show them our babies. One summer morning we all flew to their house and sat on the rooftop.
We waited and waited, but nobody turned up. Various thoughts passed by me. Had they left the place? Were they were off on vacation?
I was about to suggest to my family, with great disappointment that we leave, when suddenly we saw the three, returning up the driveway, with Naina pushing a stroller. The moment had arrived.
Wait a minute, who was that in the stroller that Naina was pushing? Ankur was excited to see us again and was the first to speak.
“Mom, look at Birdy’s family. They got babies too. Oh my God, how many are they, one-two-three-four!” Then he showed his brother or sister, I wouldn’t know which to us. Oh, it was so cute! Both Siddhartha and Naina waved their hands, and in return we flapped our wings.
While we were so happy about our reunion, I was thinking in the back of my mind –- we beat the humans at least in one way –- they were only four and we were six!
1. 1. Sai Baba was an Indian saint.
2. 2. Ashes collected from holy fire. Sai Baba used to distribute Udi as his blessings.
3. 3. Wicks or cotton soaked in clear butter.
4. 4. Hindu ritual performed at the end of prayer.
5. 5. Edible food offered to the God during prayer and distributed among devotees thereafter.
6. 6. Showing aarati – Showing light of aarati as blessings.