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The lover bird
I had to sit for long hours working in my second floor office. More as an excuse than any genuine need, I would get up and walk down the corridor joining a row of rooms. There was a ventilator ledge a little below the level of the ceiling opening out from every room. A pair of pigeons found one of these as the safest nesting place out of reach of predators such as a cat or a dog.
It was invisible form the sky too so that no bird of prey could swoop down on the birds. As I walked down the corridor to the washroom, I would observe them from the corner of my eyes. Normally the male bird was seen dancing and going round and round the hen guttergooing in a language that must have been music to the hen. His neck swelled as it danced round the coy female in a ritualistic manner.

I wished I could communicate with the birds and always felt an urge to say hello every time I passed under their roosting place, a roundish nest of randomly placed straws gathered laboriously most probably by the lover bird for his beloved. Once in a while I noticed them mating shyly which was a rare reward for a keen observer. In due course, I noticed them taking turns in sitting on the eggs that hatched in due course but I never counted the days the hatching took.

The furry brownish lethargic and ugly chicks would make their entry into the world by and by with their eyes closed and there was a yellowish ring at the root of their beak much larger than the body and hardly enhanced their looks aesthetically. They would be fed by the parents taking turns almost without break perhaps a little rest at night when the chicks too could have been induced to rest by nature. The parents would take turns bringing worms or other bits of pigeon food.

The ugly chicks grew fast and soon were almost as big as the parents and showed no inclination to leave the safety of the parent birds but waited hungrily for food. But the birds do have a code of conduct. For them too enough was enough and the new pair had ultimately to leave the nest to start their own home leaving the parents free for their next round, to start the next love game all over.

I don’t know when I started sharing their joys and loved the routine as a part of my routine in the office. It was a permanent diversion, which energized my tired mind and gave me an excuse to ease my stiff limbs. It had been a routine for a very long time and I took their presence as a permanent feature; their perch on the ledge and guttergooning or cooing in silent communication like a tete-a-tete among human lovers.

One morning I was on my way to the washroom absent-mindedly thinking of the day’s work on my table. I notice a heap of feathers of various sizes, whitish, bluish with white tips and the quills with a little blood on the pointed tip. Unconsciously I felt a little unease and the mind recorded that there was something unusual.

I slowed down attentively looked at the feathers many of which had been scattered by the wind along the small wall of the corridor to the open side. I intuitively looked up and something in me snapped. There was only one pigeon, the smaller one, the female I guessed from its size. The lover had been eaten up by the stray cat that was now and then seen running slyly away from human beings who disturbed her forbidden haunts in the their world.

A surge of empathy and then sympathy made me feel drained of energy. I was reminded of a like tragedy in human world; the lamenting and crying, useless responses given by nature so that their grief could be somewhat alleviated. But the hen on the ledge was silent with her eyes alone reflecting its silent weeping and its body almost stiff as if stuck to the ground it sat on.

Only it turned its neck in a characteristic way trying to comprehend the occurrence and trying to make sense if birds are capable of doing this. I found it touching a chord in my heart. I slowly moved on as it were a sort of sacrilege to disturb it in its mourning. I could say nothing, do nothing and couldn’t sit by its side with my soothing arm on its shoulders to soothe her, share her calamity.

I left the office in the evening. The next day I purposely went to see the bird. It was there immobile on its perch. The straws of the nest had been thrown down and were scattered in place of the feathers that had been swept away last evening by the sweeper but she didn’t pay any attention to the straws. She fixedly looked at the spot where there were feathers the day before.

I moved on. It was about a month back. The hen visits the ledge every day and spends time looking at the spot that took away her mate. Perhaps she still has a hope that he would return soon from the journey that he had undertaken without informing his wife.

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