Flying Lessons

The other day, I walked around in the flea market, a lot. Several kilometers. My feet began to ache above the soles of my flat shoes. The road got to them. I was trying to shed some loneliness that day, wanted to get home late at night and then sleep.

On a long stretch of such walking, I entered a by-lane and crossed several soothsayers. None of them oozed clairvoyance. In fact, they looked like business women, down to business. Sitting on their haunches, with a photo of a beautiful goddess adorned in roses and a cloth spread out and some loose change sprung on it. A couple of young girls were having their palms read. I had some curiosities too, thought I should ask. Unforsaken wishes. A plump and pink baby, a spunky little breezy apartment, flight to a distant land, a bit of success, and so on. So I paused, but the soothsayer spoke an alien language and there would be the dearth of a translator, among the dearth of other things. So I didn't pause any longer.

Came back home to find that a pigeon won't budge from the pot that housed my hibiscus house plant. Turns out that was a hot breeding spot for pigeons. She had built quite a nest with twigs and leaves. If you've noticed, I've written quite a bit about these pigeons, how much I have tried to help them nest. And just when I thought they were an infertile clan, she laid a pair of eggs under my favorite plant.

I thought I would keep the eggs outside the pot, on the floor, the moment the bird left, and she would come back and carry them away, to wherever. But she didn't budge. For days, never left sight of the eggs. Warmed them endlessly. I waited for her to give up. I knew she would. Those eggs never hatched, I've seen before.

Whenever I watered my plant, the mamma pigeon would scowl at me, flutter her wings and scare me away. Suddenly on a Saturday, I sensed movement under the mamma. The eggs had hatched and the baby birds with their eyes shut were there, like dollops of flesh with tiny hair and eyes shut. I was overawed and quite happy to their family. The father visited diligently.

Over the next week, I saw the parents, alter and sit on the baby birds to keep them warm and feed them mouth to mouth. I sprinkled left over rice and water. The baby birds grew quickly, swelled up. Their hair slowly grew thicker, their tough black beaks became prominent. I was afraid they would poke me in the eye.

I kept giving them rice and they kept growing. Their parents visited less often. The two babies took up most of the pot, there was not much space for the mamma anymore. Given, it is the monsoon, it rained on several nights, throughout. One night I woke up at 4 am to the sound of thunder and went to the balcony to see if the birds were doing okay. I pulled the pot further inside, where the rain couldn't reach and covered it with an umbrella. The mamma who was there, thought I had caged them all and fluttered like a mad woman. And escaped, leaving her children in my peril.

But they returned in a few. To reach the baby birds how to fly. The babies thought I was hostile, probably. Because I would sit by the pot and talk incessantly and softly to them. Clap my hands and make them stand up and sit down to my claps. Whenever I watered my plant, they would flutter their new wings and try to scare me away. Nevertheless I sat with them, waiting for their parents to return, with food of their kind, and more stories of the world, dreams, perhaps, a few.

The babies had grown very big and they had covered my pot with shit. I googled the lifespan of pigeons to find out when they were flying and vacating my space. I am to leave for a break in a week or two and if they birds didn't fly away by then, it would be a problem, because I am planning to give the plants to a neighbor who would water them when I am gone and I clearly can't give it to them with the birds in it.

The papa bird gave them flying lessons, sitting on the ledge of my balcony. Soon enough, one of the baby birds, flew away, to the glee of her parents and of me, and of her brother. I waited for her to return at night, I was worried she was so new, she might fall off the branch of a tree or something. I have seen pigeons sleep on telephone wires, and let me tell you, precarious! But she didn't return. I am hoping she's alive and well. But her brother, the other baby bird, who is the bigger one, fatter one, hasn't been able to fly.

And I cannot fathom why. Perhaps, he had heard a scary story or two. Because I've checked, his legs and feathers look normal to me. He's just afraid I am hoping. The parents come sometimes now, counsel the bird, who is almost a fully grown pigeon now. But to no avail. All he does is stand up and sit down. And flutter his wings when I water the plant or throw some food on him to make him try to fly away. But nothing works.

I think this one is a homing pigeon and has found its way home. 

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