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.