My kids had been pestering me from a long time to get them a pet but I was totally averse to this idea of having a pet at home as I knew that it would mean a lot of extra work for me. So each time they asked I kept eluding and postponing it. It was soon my son’s birthday so I asked him what he wanted, he pleaded that he didn’t want any party, gifts or any celebration all he wanted was a pet animal. It was a very straight request that he put forth and I couldn’t evade it anymore. I tried to talk and explain to him about the responsibilities, the extra work that it would involve to care for a pet but he begged he would do anything to get a pet home. So finally I gave in but the next question was which pet? Both my boys screamed that it had to be a dog! Being dog phobic person I dreaded if I had just made a mistake, I quickly told them that they had only two options either Love birds or Fish in an aquarium. They negotiated hard for a dog but I wouldn’t budge. So finally they decided they would go with the birds as it involved some action and interaction for them.
The following weekend we went to a pet shop to get the birds. The shop appeared as if it was customized for us, the shop was lined with a wall of aquariums with many colorful fishes of all shapes and sizes, on the other side were a splendid variety of chirpy birds twittering away to glory in their confined nests. The kids were excited and began deciding on the birds they would take home. My younger one tried his luck and checked if he could get both the fish and birds I signaled a strong no shaking my head hard. These love birds had to be taken in pairs to give it some companion. So we decided to pick the ones that were sitting together. We got a beautiful green colored cage and four flamboyant inmates for it. They were quiet and scared as we drove home with our new family members.
But there was a gutsy green guy among them who did not wait long to explore his new home, he was daring and extra smart so my kids instantly named him ‘Ranchod Das’ inspired from the movie ‘3 idiots’, there was another one the calm and serious types who sat in a disciplined way so he was named ‘Gambhir’ which means decent and quiet in Sanskrit he was soon prefixed with a ‘Gautam’ and called ‘Gautam Gambhir’ in awe of the Indian cricketer, the third guy was portly and mature so we named him Moti lal(fat kid) and the last one a very chirpy bird whom we called ‘Chulbul’ for his talkative nature.
Summer had set in and the birds became the center of attention for the kids they would sit in front of the birds all day feeding millets and cilantro seeds. They called their friends and showed off their new avian friends with pride sometimes even put their fingers into the cage as a sign of dare-devilry and got bitten. The enthusiasm was high and curiosity got better off than digital addictions. We took turns to clean up and feed them. Although I personally didn’t like having any pet at home I must admit that watching these colorful buddies was very relaxing and soothing to the mind. I wondered what they might be communicating to each other when they tweeted yes quite literally tweeted.
One morning I was teaching my son how to pull the tray and refill it with fresh water as we were replenishing the food the grey rogues of high rises ‘the pigeons’ appeared fluttering noisily and looking as if someone had encroached their space. These city lovers often flock into my balcony trying their luck to get some food. I instructed my son to shoo them off. But they were adamant and a gutsy lot who did not fear the small stature of my child and still stood there shamelessly with pleading eyes occasionally tilting their tiny heads as if to cry __ “This was racism”! a clearly discriminative act of pampering the beauty and shooing off the ugly. I wondered why they were present so excessively howling everywhere like old hags but they seemed to counter question as to why there was only a ‘save tiger’ campaign when millions of their clan were butchered mercilessly and relished, what was so regal about those yellow black stripes that it got all the attention?
I drifted to think what if these pigeons were an endangered species would we have a ‘save pigeon’ campaign? Humans often care about endangered species but what do we do till they become endangered? We burn beehives and wonder where the sparrows disappeared? We save the snakes but glade away their homes diminishing their food supply, we cover the river beds with buildings and count the scant number of frogs and wonder why? But I can’t help it as that is the norm in the human society it’s not my fault if there are so many fairness creams asking people to become fairer by skin and not by heart but I wonder why? I watched the love birds and the pigeons, the beauty was caged and the ugly was carelessly free. I thought who are we to control their lives? I suddenly felt guilty for curtailing the freedom of those beautiful birds who sat there as if envying the pigeons.
I told my son ‘did you know if we were to free these birds they would be so happy and glee flying wherever the sky took them’? Instantly he refused and reasoned out that they would be eaten by the eagles if released and said he did not want to part with them. I told him that we could be harming them by enclosing them in our polluted gadget-stricken world but he was adamant. I wanted him to understand gradually so I let go of the topic.
A few days later ‘Moti Lal’ fell sick and sat in a corner without any movement he did not even peck from the food tray, we panicked and quickly got some medicines from the pet shop guy who often acted as an avian vet doctor. The other birds pecked the grains and starting feeding Motilal with their little beaks taking turns, it was heart rending to watch this scene. For a moment I felt belittled in front of these tiny creatures that cared so much for one another and stood together even during a crisis in a locked cage I imagined myself being locked in a single room all my life even the slightest thought was unbearable. I felt very strongly that if I couldn’t help them I didn’t have the right to harm them as well. I decided I had to let them go once Moti recovered. Minutes later the little bird died and my kids went into a shell but that was temporary. A week later everything was back to normal but I could make out that my kids had turned more sensitive towards nature. They were more concerned towards the birds’ well-being now.
Days passed by but the flock was still mourning and looked dull. Surprisingly one day my son suggested that the birds should be released as they would be much happier in their natural habitat. He had realized that cage was not the right place for the happy and fair survival of those birds.
We chose a corn field to release them as they loved corn. On the green pastures we slid the cage door open. They flew like on a great escape but shockingly they fell down unable to fly. It was as if they had forgotten flying their natural instinct. At this point my son understood that these poor creatures were probably caged even before they had learnt flying and was overwhelmed in compassionate tears. They rose again and flapped hard this time and eureka they knew no bounds. My kids cheered for them and promised never to tamper with nature.
It was a truly an emotional experience for my kids and of course me too who learnt that the world is all about kindness, compassion for one another and importantly respect for every little life that existed without which we are incomplete.