What is the best lesson love has taught you? This is a debatable question as different answers would come from different people. My son, Nishant took his first lesson of love when he was merely seven years old. Well, I know I have made an adventurous statement, but it’s true. 🙂
It was the time when Arun was posted as Commanding Officer (CO) in the field location of North-East India. I and Nishant were staying back at Pune. After Nishant finished his final exams, we both joined Arun at the field location.
The CO hut was located on a plateau. There was a large rectangular yard in front of it covered with lush green ornamental grass. On the farther two sides, tall trees with wide canopy stood to mark the end of plateau. A large number of birds visited those trees during early morning and afternoons to receive the warmth of direct sunlight. During our stay there, we also patronized a pair of Snow White pigeons. We did not cage them. They daily made rounds of flight over the CO hut and visited the yard to pick corn flakes or popcorn that Nishant used to spread on the grass.
It was just then my little son started taking keen interest in birds. He often tip-toed to go near a perching bird and get upset if it flew away on his appearance. He drew numerous paintings of birds – eagles, lovebirds, kingfishers, sparrows, hens, ducks, pigeons, and last but not the least, angry birds. 😀
When Nishant’s sixth birthday was around the corner, we asked him what he would like to have on his special day. He said that he would like to keep some birds as he loved them and always wanted to be near them. I was against captivating any birds; I still am. I like to see birds while they are flying, preaching on the place of their choice, and being free.
After a number of Nishant’s repeated requests and our failures to convince him on how he can have birds around without caging them, we submitted to his insistence and bought him two pairs of lovebirds on his birthday. So happy he was to receive that gift! Barring their caged appearance, they were indeed a treat for eyes. So stunning colors! 🙂 Nishant chose equally meaningful names for them. There was a completely white albino female. He called her Snow White. The other female was white too, with a deep blue hint. He named her as Blue Bell. Out of the two male lovebirds, he named the lemon-green colored one as Green Coat and the other male as Acqua Neck because it had very pretty aquatic-blue color near its neck.
Nishant had tuned all his daily activities with his four little pets. He would take all his meals sitting next to the cage. Before going to bed he would ensure to place the cage next to the bed. He prepared little toy ladder for them using wooden beads, string, and sticks. At night the lovebirds used to sleep by closing their mustard-like eyes. Sometimes they kept their eyes half-open and looked as if they were into a trance. 🙂 Early morning we used to refill their food and water dishes, and place the cage out in the mild Sun. We fed them cuttlefish bones as calcium supplement. They had weakness for coriander twigs and alfalfa. They chirped more during mornings and evenings. Overall, they were keeping good with us.
The existing cage was small, hence we prepared a large cage so that our pet lovebirds can spread their wings to take some brief flights. We tied two small clay pots at the corners of the cage and covered them with lids. When we transferred all the lovebirds in to the large cage, their body language and chirping showed that they were happier than before. 🙂
The days went on and Nishant’s vacation was soon over. We packed our bags and returned to Pune. The birds also accompanied us. We placed the cage in the backyard of the SFA. Because of their chirping, they became famous around. Nishant’s little friends visited our backyard often and it shortly turned into an everyday happening place. We were observing all little lovebirds and trying to understand them. Acqua Neck, the male, seemed very aggressive. He looked like an irritated and unhappy soul. Snow White was quiet. Almost every visitor asked Nishant if she was ill.
I must admit, for the small body and limited features, Green Coat showed a far better consciousness and expressions than all other birds in the cage. He was friendly and he always displayed playfulness. Whenever I or Nishant took millet in pinch and went near the cage, he used to approach us fearlessly and take his favorite food directly from our hands. He never bit. Till the time we took another pinch of millet from the food packet, he used to sit near the mesh and wait with a tilted neck. After 3 to 4 pinches of millet intake, he used to go away by sliding on the bar sideways step by step. We knew, that was his way of showing, “I am done.” Green Coat chirped and squeaked more when Nishant played nearby the cage. Blue Bell was like a matured, sensible young woman. She used to chomp coriander stems till her turn to take food from us came.
We could understand a bonding being taken place between Green Coat and Blue Bell. For few days, we saw Blue Bell going into and out of their pot frequently. Then we found her spending most of the time sitting inside the pot. Like a caring and loving partner, Green Coat fed her coriander twigs and cuttlefish pieces from outside the pot. Their family count was about to increase. Nishant noticed and narrated every small detail about the couple’s affection for each other. 🙂
One fine morning, we opened the top lid of the pot to see four small nestlings. They were without feathers and looked little ugly. Naturally, Blue Bell‘s appetite increased and she remained busy in bringing up her pot-dwelling babies. A few days later, we found four little tiny-tailed lovebirds sitting at the bottom of the cage. They were a beautiful blend of blue and green colors 🙂 I used to think if the new birds would ever learn to fly…And what if Acqua Neck does not behave well with the babies?…But he behaved like a good boy for more than a couple of the following days and we thought everything is going on fine.
To stir the situation, Acqua Neck started harassing Green Coat. He would just bite Green Coat on the neck and stomach. Poor Green Coat would try his best but eventually would fail to retaliate. One rainy night we found Acqua Neck being furious towards Green Coat a bit too much and we decided to keep the two males separate as soon as possible. We took out the old small cage from the loft. I required a helping hand to catch and transfer Acqua Neck in to that small cage. Hence we waited for that night to pass.
The next morning we got up early as usual and opened backyard door. It rained all night and it still was drizzling. We went out to see how the lovebirds are doing. And we could not take the sight! Green Coat was no more!! 😥 He was lying on back with legs in the air and his beak open. His chest was torn and bleeding. His lovely lemon-green feathers were shattered on the cage floor…He must have fought for his life…The culprit Acqua Neck was sitting quietly in a corner as if he had nothing to do with the matter! We blamed ourselves to have believed in his deceiving quietness… 😦
Nishant was heart-broken to see his favorite pet still…He went to bedroom, slipped his head under a pillow, and started sobbing. Simply inconsolable…He denied taking breakfast or going to his friend’s place. We both were sad. I was also feeling low for being unable to separate Acqua-Neck immediately. The rain had masked the noise of their fight…The day had broken morose but the life had to move on…
There was only one option for me to see Nishant smiling that day: to take him to his most favorite person, Small Aaji. (Nishant calls his maternal granny as Small Aaji and grandpa as Small Aaba. He listens to and follows everything his Small Aaji tells him.) On reaching their place Nishant ran into her arms sobbing and told that his favorite Green Coat lost his life. She wiped his tears and gave him water to drink.
Small Aaba said, “Don’t worry, Nishu. See, your birthday is approaching soon. We will bring you a new green bird, just same as that one.” His tempting offer did not seem to work.
Small Aaji said, “It was a small bird, maybe it was ill?…”
Nishant screamed out of frustration and sorrow, “No, Green Coat was healthy. He died because Acqua Neck tortured him. Acqua Neck is bad…”
Small Aaji said, “There you are, my baby! Your little friend was healthy then he could have escaped from his rival if he was not confined to the cage…” Nishant understood the gravity. He turned very sad and started crying more helplessly.
She held him close and let him cry for a while. After the burst of his cries gradually subsided, she pacified him saying, “I know, you love birds very much and you like them near you. You can always feed them grains and bits of food so that they come near you. We all can go for bird-watching at nearby places. But you see, birds are happy when they are free. You should not confine the ones you love…”
Then she reminded him of the uncaged pair of pigeons that used to visit his yard the previous year. Nishant listened to her carefully. After their long talk, he started feeling better. He understood he would have liked Green Coat being alive more than being with him and dead. He realized it will not be the same Green Coat, even if his grandfather brings a same-looking lovebird.
That evening we returned to the SFA. Just after we performed our usual evening prayers, Nishant told me that he wants to release all his pet birds. I was not surprised to hear what he said. Just a couple of days later, it was his seventh birthday. On his birthday, he opened the cage and released all his pet lovebirds free.
Nishant used to follow the sound of birds when he was merely nine months old. Today, he clicks beautiful pictures of birds and does not miss any opportunity to feed them. He continued to love them with a perspective that was changed for better. He learnt the most important lesson of love:
“Do not confine your love. Be courageous to set it free…
If it is meant for you, it will be with you.” 🙂