Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Shutting the door on my dark, winged friends

My winged friends have turned rowdy again. Six months ago I had to hurriedly weave a makeshift net across the kitchen window grill using discarded strings, as the crows were whooshing into my kitchen to feed on the milk (!) and the stock of bread atop the refrigerator. In a block of 24 flats, the birds display this roguish behaviour only at my window. Indeed I have spoilt them, as my sister says.
My association with these dark beauties began when I first entered the flat 15 years ago. As I stood on the newly washed kitchen floors feeling the frenzy of the morning’s activity in my lower back, I found the birds patiently lining up on my window sill. Maybe the previous tenant had been feeding them.
I only had a tiny packet of biscuits with me. Slowly I fed them, piece by piece. One-two-three and the fourth piece would go into my mouth. I was hungry too.
Long after the packet finished, the dark birds still waited. “The flat is still unoccupied dearies, no food here yet,” I murmured but just standing there and sharing my food with the birds calmed me down. My back seemed to ache a little less.
The birds always came back to wait whenever I visited the flat to move in my things, especially kitchen stuff. After all these years of feeding, I can recognise few of my friends, the regulars from others. Going beyond the ritualistic offering of first scoop of rice to the birds, I began to feed them through the day.
Leftovers at 6 am, hot rice at 10 am, food with vegetables or dal at noon, rotis at 4 pm and some bread crumbs at 6 before they go to bed. “Do you feed your kids this regularly?” my husband would snap at me. In fact whenever I eat, they get a share from my plate and they know it too. Nobody leaves my home hungry.
I just have to enter the kitchen and my friends will come knocking and banging at the window. They do not feel intimidated by me even when I stand by my sink washing a dish or two. These dark winged creatures are my friends, my messengers who bring me news from other orbits, my courier girls who take my prayers skywards, my sisters who share my food and portions of my weight gain.
But lately, one or two newcomers have come in the midst of my peaceable friends and taught them a whole lot of bad manners. These urban rowdies taught them how to enter the kitchen and perch on top of the milk vessel and dip their beaks into the fluid. When I enter the kitchen to shoo them off, they topple the vessel in their hurry to exit, leaving me to clean the floor, the vessel and the stove. Later I found that the bread atop the fridge was being assaulted too. I tried some wire mesh to keep these girls away, but it ending up blocking good sunlight as well. So a string mesh it was. My mother tied white cotton strings across the grill in a manner so haphazard and spontaneous that my window looked like a piece of modern art. Even while I was admiring my mother’s handiwork, an unruly creature put its beak through the art and pecked at my bum. I shrieked, and she rudely cawed in repartee.
These days I keep the glass window shut. My old friends nibble at the glass pitifully as if in apology. But I am upset over the litres of milk they have toppled over the weeks. I am upset my friends listened to bad counsel and compromised my love for the sake of few extra crumbs. For the first time in many years, I am shutting my door to them.

A dismal month of sore throats and broken limbs

Last December was a dismal one for me with two hand fractures, three severe ear-throat infections and one long fever shared between the four members of my family. In week one — my husband broke his right arm. “Aren’t you glad we have something called a health faucet?” I joked. Curse my tongue; in week two he broke his left shoulder. “What do you do to him? Thrash him around?” snapped the Ortho. From then on if anyone asked how he managed the double feat within a wee gap of six days, we unanimously replied, “The wife did it,” sparing ourselves the onerous task of recounting the bizarre sequence of events that lead to the twin twists. Week three my son developed this peculiar earache which struck nocturnally only. His nightly howls put the entire owl and dog population in our locality to shame. One more week of screeching and I would have opened a night school for owls and dogs to learn a thing or two from my son.
“It is punishment from the cosmos for playing deaf to your parents during daytime,” I declared.
My son toggled between victim and perpetrator depending on the sun’s status in the sky, whereas I was victim round the clock. What with his antics during the day and howls during the night, and with me enduring his painful activities by day and panicking over his pain at night. Phew! To add to the misery, my daughter and I also contracted the very same severe ear-throat infection. Despite the pain, I must admit that week three was the best, as all three of us could neither speak nor hear well. A rare peace and quiet pervaded the house and for once my husband’s wish came true — his voice was the loudest in the house. We all didn’t talk back and he (despite knowing the truth) presumed we all heard him fully. Week three was quite manageable as long as the phone didn’t ring. The only person in the household who could speak audibly had both his arms tied. The remaining three of us had our hands free but voices and ears tied. It was sheer torture when the phone rang. I would have to lift the phone and place it on my husband’s ear for him to explain the unique ear-throat-hand situation to the caller. Next he had to literally put his ear to my mouth to decode what I was whispering and speak the same into the mouthpiece and follow it up by shouting into my ear what the caller had conveyed. Between the three interconnected tasks of listening keenly to me, speaking normally into phone and shouting back messages into my ear, my husband got confused. He whispered to me, shouted into the phone and put his ear on the phone’s mouthpiece, instead of mine. Added to this confusion, his questions directed at me, “Are you able to hear me? Can you be a bit louder?” were enthusiastically answered by the caller. All this became too much for him. He slammed the phone and wanted to fight. But I could neither hear nor speak. So we hit upon the idea of a scream-type match. My husband would shout at me at the top of his voice with his Gtalk open (which I logged on to for him) and I would type out repartees to his shouts from my laptop using my free hands. Not a very satisfying, fulfilling, crunchy fight but it served the purpose. Week four, my ear-throat infection turned into high fever and I completely woke up to the truth that moms can fall ill but cannot report it or lose their “cool” even while boiling at 1020C. It is January that finally sent me a get-well-soon card.