THE LONG LOST FRIENDS
THE LONG LOST FRIENDS
“That is the Fan-tailed flycatcher, Baba” Rachana exclaimed. “It sings 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, a rare luxury 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 and also, without fragrance Addenium, Ixora. and a few more. Also, a couple of Chafa, Bamboo, Coconut and Mango trees graced the wilderness.
Due to the affinity to the National Park, several uncommon birds came to the area. The mornings, particularly the dawns, full of melodious sounds were a regular affair. Koel, the familiar musical bird was known for cooing in summer days inviting the dark clouds to bring in the rains. After shifting to the new house, this myth was cleared soon, as Satish heard Koel cooing at different timings of the day starting at 3:30 am 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 flycatchers filled the atmosphere with its attention-catching, melodious singing. Often spotted in the mornings, was a Dew Pecker, a small bird moving swiftly, drinking dewdrops on the leaves of various plants making shrilling sounds. Crows cawing started at around 5:30 am 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 CopperSmith 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 of monkeys 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 a 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, when he used to go to the terrace for exercise. His work started at 8 am. His workplace was a small-scale industry producing some electronic units. Usually he used to have a busy schedule. 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 a Fan-tailed Flycatcher.
They realised the bird used to move along 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, the terrible news caught the attention of the entire world. The COVID-19 pandemic was hovering all over the whole world. The number of infected persons were increasing day by day, first in hundreds and then in thousands. The whole atmosphere turned gloomy. The governments were taking drastic steps to curb the spreading of the killer virus. The toll of death increased by thousands everyday in the whole world. Satish and Vidya were also worried about the anticipated troubles. The 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 birds fan-tailed flycatcher.
But this year something unusual happened. The melody of the 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 enthral them a 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.
Vidya photographed the visiting birds. The friends disappeared. But soon, an hour or two later, a 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 wondered what made the musical bird visit them so many times.
After a few days, Vidya screamed as she looked 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, a white egg shone brightly as the afternoon sun rays fell on it. Satish and Vidya were glued to the window watching the egg. Suddenly the friend glided onto the nest and made herself comfortable covering the egg. A few hours later when Vidya had a peep at the nest, the bird had gone and there were two eggs. With added pleasure, she ensured that no move of hers should disturb the guests lest the guest just abandons the nest. The next day a third egg was seen in the nest.
Slowly the duration of the bird sitting in the nest increased. Vidya and Satish realised that the two birds had a different shade of colour on the back. The first bird they noticed was dark black and sometimes they could see the bird of brown colour in the nest. Presumably while laying the eggs, the female used to be in the nest for a longer time and that was with a black coloured back. Sharing the responsibility was the male with a brown back.
As the days were passing by, the amused human couple were 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 backyard. 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. There was a sad feeling that this unharmed incident may create some sort of scare in the birds’ minds. The human couple prayed for the safety of the guests.
The Covid-19 virus was spreading all over the world. The number of infected numbers were in millions and the 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 for TV, and communication through cell phones the entire world was cut off. But Satish & 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 shooed away 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 for 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 note of newborn 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 for the virus. He was admitted to the hospital but was not approachable at all. His children were all worried as a doctor had declared him not responding to the treatment given. There were no hopes.
Meanwhile as the days passed by, the lovely three young ones with their emitting sweet sounds were seen in the nest from a particular angle only. Invisible from any other side, these innocent little young ones were fully protected from the enemies. Two days passed observing, 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 hospitalised friend was no more. Satish could not control the tears flowing. Vidya guessed the bad news. Both were extremely grieved. They looked at the nest. One of the three was trying to spread its wings and after a while, he took off. He 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.