Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Nest

“The egg has hatched!!” I was accosted at the door by my excited ten year old when I returned from work, her eyes sparkling with delight as she dragged me to the balcony to take a look at the object of her irrepressible wonder. And I must admit, I was quite unprepared for the emotions that the sight was to evoke in my heart. For there lay a fluffy little ball of flesh, unimaginably tiny and so very fragile, nurtured by its protective mother as she gazed warily at us from her nest. Although her gaze was cautious and guarded, I thought I perceived in it, an undeniable element of trust – as if to say – you’re a mother too so I know you mean no harm. That instant bonded me to her forever.

It had all begun a few weeks earlier with a couple of pigeons collecting twigs and other paraphernalia everyday and placing it in a corner of our balcony, hoping to have enough to be able to build a nest soon. But no sooner did they store a few twigs than the cleaning lady (on our instruction of course) threw them away. Blame it on the indifference and insensitivity that has become part and parcel of our adult lives that had gripped me in its vice as well. A bird’s nest in the balcony would mean nuisance, unnecessary bother, not to mention a whole lot of mess to clean up. Even the imploring glance of my little one did not succeed in softening my stance.

Much to our surprise, one day we found an egg on the bare floor of the balcony – the pigeons had not been able to build their nest “thanks” to our regular “cleaning” but unable to disrupt nature’s plans – the egg had been laid by the mother. The sight of that little cradle of life on the cold hard floor unleashed a wave of guilt and remorse, and the magnitude of my thoughtlessness hit me like a thunderbolt. Aren’t we all in pursuit of a safe haven that we can call home – a place where we can nurture and nourish our young ones and shield them from every danger? Why then was I denying these birds the right to build their home? Couldn’t I even spare a small corner of my balcony, when providence has blessed me with abundant generosity?

The decision was made at that very moment and the girls were beside themselves with joy to see the change of heart. The contrast struck me for the umpteenth time – the difference in the way adults and children perceive situations. Children are simple and naïve – they act according to the dictates of their innocent hearts while as adults we use complicated logic to justify our actions, often driven by petty motives. For my part, I was grateful to the powers that be to have made me seen better sense before it was too late – before the same insensitivity surreptitiously sneaked into the characters of my girls.

Then we witnessed the miracle of life unfold before our very eyes – something that we so take for granted. We watched first hand as the mother incubated her egg, sitting patiently, waiting for the life within to stir. The girls would throw a handful of grains for the mother everyday and even kept a little bowl of water for her to drink from. Then the day arrived and the little fledgling broke its way through the egg and into the world. The girls would give me a “report” of the daily progress – “it’s looking bigger now”, or “today the mother pigeon fed her baby by putting tiny morsels into its little mouth.”

The fledgling all but became a member of our family as we marveled at its growth – the ball of fluff got bigger and bigger and in just a few days assumed adult proportions. But it still had not taken to the skies – it would just wobble around the balcony and pick up the grains thrown for it. The mother was not by its side at all times now but she always came to check on her offspring every few hours. However when the big moment arrived, unfortunately neither of us was around to witness it. The circle of life was completed - the baby bird had finally spread its wings and reached for the sky. It had achieved what nature had meant it to do. That evening I returned home to mixed emotions – elation that “our” fledgling had learnt to fly but sadness at the sight of the empty balcony.

Looking back at this entire episode I marvel at the workings of nature and feel humbled by the power of life – by its indomitable spirit to win against odds. But more than everything else, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude towards the almighty for eclipsing, even if it was for just a while, the streak of indifference that had numbed my heart. The bird, her nest and her baby had created a memory that our family would cherish for a lifetime. It was indeed a matter of privilege to have been a part of the fascinating cycle of nature – to have been an instrument, albeit an insignificant one, in helping a bird aspire for the skies in its quest for freedom.  

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