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Fiction

The Long Lost Friends

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”That is the fan tailed fly catcher, Baba,” Rachana exclaimed. “It sings very melodiously. Both the male and the female make nest working together, using grass sticks.”

Satish and his wife Vidya with their only child Rachana had moved into their small little row house in a lovely natural surrounding even though it was in Mumbai. A small piece of land in front and at the back of the house gave Vidya ample opportunity to grow choice flower plants such as rose, mogra, night queen, ananta, periwinkles, cobra flower, nice looking but without fragrance addenium, ixora etc. Few chafa, bamboo and a couple of coconut and a mango trees graced the wilderness. Due to the affinity to the National Park, a number of uncommon birds came to the area. The mornings, particularly the dawns, full of melodious sounds was a regular affair. Koel, the familiar musical bird was known for cooing in summer days inviting the dark clouds to bring in the rains. But after shifting to the new house, the myth was cleared soon, as Satish heard Koel cooing at different timings of the day starting at 3:30 in the morning of different seasons. Bulbul was another rhythmically calling bird that frequented the residential area and added melody to the tuneful surroundings. The fan tailed fly catchers filled the atmosphere with its attention catching melodious singing. Often spotted in the mornings, was a Dew Pecker, a small bird moving swiftly, drinking dew drops on the leaves of various plants making shrilling sounds. Crows cawing started at around 5:30 in the morning. They continued cawing throughout the day. The egrets were seen flying in long strings far off in the skies. Sparrow chirping was getting rarer as the days were passing. The Copper Smith also marked its presence by its tuk-tuk in small bursts, at least 4-5 times a day. The rapidly diminishing population of rock pigeons also started the day with its gootergu sounds. Butterflies welcomed the rising sun with their brilliantly coloured wings kissing different flowers in the garden. They were joined by jumping and hopping, thin, active grey squirrels, one moment climbing up the coconut trees and the next moment sliding down to explore another tree. Often visited were groups ofmonkeys reminding the humans residing in the buildings that the place originally belonged to them.

Evenings were marked by the parakeets returning to their nests on the rain trees. Commonly found Mynas and many more birds were seen gathering on the trees after the sunset, making lot of noise.

Satish had observed a melodiously singing bird sitting on the overhead TV cable which was running at least fifty feet above the ground. Satish used to go on the terrace to take some exercise which he had learnt in BRAMHAVIDYA classes. He used to get up early at around 5 in the morning and managed to do some exercise on the terrace before going to his factory at 8. He had a busy schedule. His work place was a small scale industry producing some electronic units. But he never missed his exercise and rarely a day passed without the finely tuned greetings of the singing bird. Satish used to express his astonishment to his beloved wife and both used to wonder how developed the language of communication of that bird was. Later their daughter Rachana identified this bird as Fan tailed Fly catcher.

They realized the bird used to move across with his partner. Both the birds used to visit that area at a particular time never to be heard later throughout the day.

Years passed by. Rachana grew up into a capable lady and was married to an equally competent boy she had studied with. Satish and Vidya entered the cadre of senior citizenship. The music emitting of the bird at a particular time had lost its bewilderment.

The season changed and spring set in. With this, a terrible news caught the attention of the entire world. The COVID-19 pandemic was hovering over the whole world. The number of infected persons was increasing day by day, first in hundreds and then in thousands. The whole atmosphere became gloomy. The governments were taking drastic steps to curb the spreading of killer virus. The toll death was increasing by thousands in the whole world. Satish and Vidya were also worried about the anticipated troubles. Government was enforcing some disciplinary measures and that was putting lot of restrictions on the movements of the general public. The pleasing spring season eased the tension a bit. Satish welcomed the vibrant chirping of various birds. And after many years, he took note of melodiously singing bird- fan tailed fly catcher.

But this year something unusual happened. The melody of musical bird was heard even after 10 in the morning. Satish and Vidya were surprised. Tracing the source, they saw the same small bird which used to enthrall them few years ago, in the early hours of dawn, was sitting on the fence. And sure enough its partner was also sitting on the tree nearby. Satish was delighted with the feelings of meeting the long lost friends. With the days changed, Satish now possessed a mobile camera. Vidya photographed the visiting birds. After about few minutes their friends disappeared. But soon, an hour or two later, heart catching tune fell on their ears again. Satish and Vidya looked out of the window and there were the friends on the branch of the bamboo tree. After a short dialogue they vanished and again they appeared on the bamboo tree singing away to glory. The story repeated several times for several days. Satish was wondering what made the musical bird visit them so manytimes.

And after a few days, Vidya literally screamed looking out of the window. There was a nest in the bush of the bamboo, a nest made of grass sticks glued together by cobwebs. Yes. There was a white egg shining brightly when afternoon sun rays fell on it. Satish and Vidya were glued to the window watching the egg laid in the nest. Suddenly the friend glided on to the nest and made herself comfortable covering the egg. Few hours later when Vidya had a peep at the nest, the birdhad gone and there were two eggs. With added pleasure, she ensured that no move of hers should disturb the guests lest the guest just abandon the nest. Next day a third egg was seen in thenest

Now the duration of the bird sitting in the nest increased. Vidya and Satish realized that two birds had a different shade of color on the back. First bird they noticed was dark black and sometimes they could see the bird of brown color in the nest. Presumably while laying the eggs, the female used to be in the nest for longer time and that was with dark black colored back. Now sharing the responsibility was the male of brown back.

The days were passing by. The amused human couple was getting excited more and more. It was the trimmed bush of the bamboo trees that offered them the opportunity to witness a great occasion of hatching of bird eggs.

One day there was a big thud in the back yard. A spine chilling feeling was created in the human couple and they rushed behind. The 50-60 feet tall coconut tree had dropped a coconut. Luckily, it fell quite away clear of the bamboo bush. But then there was sad feeling that this unharmed incident may create some sort of scare in the birds’ mind. Now the human couple started praying for the safety of the guests.

The Covid-19 virus was spreading all over the world. The infected number was in millions and number of deaths jumping by thousands every day. The movement of the general public was completely controlled and the senior couple was tied down to their house. Except TV, and communication through cell phones the entire world was cut off. But Satish and Vidya were kept busy with the new friends who had arrived a couple of weeks ago.

The birds had made themselves comfortable and were taking care that the eggs were protected. The crows sitting on the fence nearby were flown off by these small little birds declaring the surrounding area as belonging to them and nobody should trespass it. The growing leaves of the bamboo plant were getting denser day by day. To watch the nest from above or sides of the bamboo bush was becoming difficult. Satish and Vidya had discovered the approach way of the parent birds and quietly used to have a glimpse of the nest and the eggs in it.

And one day, Vidya noticed there was some different movement in the nest. She tried to get the view inside the nest. But except some movement of the wings of the mother bird nothing was visible. They concluded that the eggs must have hatched and the three young ones had arrived in this unsafe world.

Satish and Vidya were delighted to take a note of new born melodiously singing young birds. But in the back of their mind they were worried about the news of their friend falling victim to the COVID-19. Their friend in the adjacent town was declared positive of the virus. He was admitted to the hospital but was not approachable at all. His children were all worried as doctor had declared him not responding to the treatment given. There were no hopes.

Days passed by. The lovely three young ones with their emitting sweet sounds were seen in the nest from a particular angle only. Totally invisible from any other side, these innocent little young ones were fully protected from the enemies. Two days passed observing, on the sly the cute melody makers.

In the evening Satish and Vidya were enjoying the fledging attempt of the young guests. And the phone rang. Satish picked up the cell and heard the sad news. Their hospitalized friend was no more. Satish could not control the tears flowing. Vidya guessed the bad news. Both were extremely grieved. They were looking at the nest. One of the three was trying to spread its wings and after a while he took off. He literally flew.

But Satish and Vidya could not forget their close friend who left this world in a matter of a week, never to be seen again. The sweet melody emitted by the young ones could no longer elevate the mood of the depressed human couple.

Vijay Likhite

The author is a B.E. (Electronics) from Mumbai University in 1971. Owned a manufacturing unit. A few science and technology based articles in Marathi were published in Sunday Edition of local newspaper.

9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    The descriptions of birds that visited Satish’s garden transported me into a charming world. The end is heart rending. Exactly when a new born bird fluttered its wings to fly into the sky for the first time, the soul of Satish’s old friend departs on its heaven ward journey. Strange indeed are the ways of God… V Venkata Rao

  2. Avatar
    Dr. Sharad Gogate Reply

    Very nice article, Vijay! Shows your love and knowledge of birds! I feel the end could have been, how the melodious song birds helped the couple in overcome the grief!

  3. Avatar

    A deep thought in the form of story … best use of time to read it.

  4. Avatar
    abhijeet chandurkar Reply

    People think happiness will overcome the sadness. Like satish we also enjoy happiness for longer period but one short incident will overturn or inverse our feeling and for that period we think sadness is biggest giant in our life, at that period we don’t think about other things which give us happiness.

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