Eventful was the winter morning when mum had come home cocooning something in her palms. Other children and I flocked to see a pitiable creature- dull green, bald in patches, with one claw missing and eyes partially closed. It was obviously in great trauma. One wondered if it would live at all. It was apparently being attacked to be devoured by crows on the side of a road when my mom had vociferously shooed the crows away and rescued it. A bleeding bald patch at the crown of the avian where the crows had mercilessly pecked made me break into tears. "Will it come through?" my glance asked. My mother nodded reassuringly. "It is wrong to enclose birds in cages", she said." But we'll buy as big an aviary as we can find (and afford) until the wounds heal and it recovers completely. Otherwise it might become a victim of predators again. It will be free when it's all right." I was enthralled because the idea of imprisoning any living being didn't appeal to me either. I had one more question- "Are crows cruel?" "No", she replied after a moment. "It's the law of nature. The food chain works this way. The crows need to survive too."
The bird was a parakeet, I learnt in the days that followed. A diurnal bird which sustained on fruit, chilly, seeds et all. Under the panacea of love and nutrition, "Polly's" foot healed, its plumage turned plush and verdant, its crown was lush with soft feathers and it made indecipherable albeit confident sounds. Come spring, our Polly radiated unalloyed health and cheer. It had lost all fear and had regained it's appetite for life.
Contrary to the popular notion that parakeets loved chilies, Polly didn't particularly relish them. It would indifferently peck at the skin and leave chilly seeds scattered all over the aviary. My mother would then use the garden hose to clean the aviary. Polly would alternately frolic in and drink from the little jets of water being sprinkled in, It was such a delight to watch it spread its wings wide and enjoy itself in this drizzle. It didn't have a regular bath, but preened itself, thus.
Apart from being the cynosure of all eyes for its pulchritude, Polly was immensely gifted as well. It could whistle a plethora of songs accurately with their cadences and undulations and all. It was a delight to the ears to listen to it's rendition of "Que sara sara". Our patiently repeated chanting of "Ram" didn't make an iota of difference though. It eagerly took to bhajans. Maybe it was a musical parakeet, not a loquacious one.
Polly's confidence soon turned to hegemony. When it didn't want to be spoken to or disturbed, it would make querulous noises and would often turn abusive. "Kuchu Kuchu kuchu", it would cluck with a frown to express its displeasure. We would all turn sober after a bout of its scurrilousness. The self-willed parakeet would often jeopardize our board games by running away with the dice. No amount of pleading or coaxing would make the recalcitrant birdie budge. Finally we'd throw our hands up in defeat. The little fledge invariably won.
One morning I'd neglected picking my toys up in spite of repeated admonitions by my mother. I went off to school not heeding her advice. When I returned home, I found Polly had gouged the eyes of my favorite doll with its sharp red beak and had torn the hair of my golly wog. It had taught me a lesson for not having listened to an elder!
One dark night we heard the piercing screech of the door being opened. On checking we found that all the doors were firmly latched and locked. Presuming ourselves to be delusional we were about to return to the living area, when we heard it again- the same screech, unmistakably real. The adults looked baffled. I nearly died of fright as I recalled stories of "Mohini bhootas" and "Kamini dhevas" my classmates had been narrating. When the sounds were repeated a third time, our eyes traced the source from where they emanated- Polly! It was so skillfully imitating the sound of a latch being opened!
Polly soon started showing an inclination to fly. "Fly me high", its spirit seemed to speak loud enough for us to hear. We used to encourage it with great enthusiasm. Owing to its missing foot or a lack of confidence, Polly would soon lose its balance and land on the ground after a brief flight. Still, this was a silver lining and a very bright one at that.
Polly's "FLY ME HIGH" cry became more powerful by the day. We were elated and wanted to set it free but were wary because of many reasons. Was Polly capable of flying long distances without dropping to the earth? Would it be able to adapt itself to the wild after having lived a tame existence for a year? Would it be accepted by other parakeets now that it had lived with humans?, were some of the questions that plagued us.
That day at twilight, we took a decision. The whole family spent time stroking and whispering personal messages of good luck to Polly. Then in one fluid movement, it was released. It started off, dauntless and unfettered. There were tears of joy in our eyes as Polly soared high and disappeared into the wild blue yonder.