Both my birds are free today; both have finally been returned to nature. The blue one is dead, and we buried its lifeless body in the earth. We let go of the green one, and it flew from tree to tree, celebrating its freedom, overjoyed at the new world it seemed to have stepped into. Its notes of happiness filled the orchard, while the cage hung in the courtyard, empty and void.
These were the fourth set of birds I bought in the last one year. Three parrots, followed by a pair of love birds. I bought them all for my own selfish needs, perhaps to fill some emptiness within my own soul. I tended to them, loved them, and set them free, one after the other. Until finally, I bought the love birds- a blue one and a green one. They seemed happier than the parrots, and while the cage rocked gently in the breeze, the two filled the courtyard with their chirping and cooing.
They called out to the other birds, they played with each other, and they fought with each other. I admired their chemistry; they were so different, and yet eternally bonded. They played and they pecked, they fought and they reconciled. The blue one was mellow and composed; the green restless and impulsive.
At night, I brought the cage indoors. They would be fast asleep by then, and in that state of deep sleep, they would let me stroke them, while they continued to sleep with their eyes open! I would indulge in what I liked to think of as ‘putting them to sleep’.
They connected us to the infinite world of birds. I fell in love with the sight, sound and spirit of all the birds that visited our orchard- the crows, the mynahs, the parrots, the cuckoo, the woodpecker, and numerous other birds the names of which I do not know.
It was on a Wednesday afternoon that I noticed the change in the blue bird. It was unusually quiet, and it had turned fluffy and sober, and its eyes lacked the spirit I normally saw in them. It seemed to be very drowsy. Now and again, it would sit on the earthen dish we kept aside for it, eat from it, and then instantly fall asleep. I brought the cage indoors. The green one failed to understand the attitude of its companion. It pecked at it and prompted it to ‘cheer up’, but the blue one had no energy to respond.
On the second day, the green one perhaps understood that something was wrong. It sat by the side of its companion, nestling close to it and giving it warmth. I peeked through the sheet wrapped around its cage, and found them thus, all evening (and perhaps all night). This morning, when I had a peek, they were still perched on the twig we had placed in their cage, and they were huddled close to one another. An hour later, when I went to check, I found the blue one lying on the floor of the cage, limp and lifeless, bearing an expression that carved itself into my mind and memory. The green one sat in mute silence. When we set the green one free, it perhaps left behind memories of a gone life…of a lost companion, but the two live on in my mind. They have taught me the pain of loss….loss of a dear one, and they have brought me a step closer to empathy. Empathy of pain and suffering- the binding force in nature. Despite the sense of loss, I have come to terms with the truth of death. I know that their bodies and souls have integrated with nature, and that though ‘I’ have lost them, they have become immortal in the larger picture of life.
It is a new day. The sun rises, the wind blows, the trees sway, crows fly in the sky, birds chirp on the trees. Nothing has changed in this world. But my dear bird is no longer alive, to experience the glory and splendour of yet another day in this miraculous and enchanting world.
The parrot next door calls out, perhaps to my birds. But they are no longer here to respond. For a moment, I hate the parrot. I hate myself. I hate us all for being alive….for experiencing what my darling bird can no longer experience.
A life is lost, but the world lives on- unperturbed, unaffected. I look on in agony as the birds orchestrate to the rhythm of the sun….nowhere in that picture is there a sense of loss. Is that the value nature attributes to life? “Unfair!!”- I cry out. Nature hears me, and perhaps understands my anguish. It tells me-“I am still whole. A life has been lost. Everyday, lives are being lost. I have borne every one of those bodies and beings, I have nurtured them and raised them, and finally, they merge into me. I gain nothing, I lose nothing. I remain whole.”
The view from the surface remains the same- the sun shines, the wind blows, the birds orchestrate….the absence of my bird makes no difference to this scene.
The view from the depth is the same too- nature remains whole.
It is only within the inner circle that things seem different, because ‘we’ are a part of this view.
Indeed, we are all part of this ‘view’. And while we are alive, let us all integrate into this view, work towards the larger picture, and make it more beautiful.
It is like looking at an old family photograph. The photograph portrays a theme- that of a family, and not an individual per se. The view from the surface is that of a family. The view from the depth is also that of a family-of all the bonding that operates within this family network. There is no significance attached to the individual as such. All that matters is how best each individual integrates into the theme of the picture, and contributes to the overall view and feel of the picture.
This is the essence of what my little bird taught me.
As the wind blows and caresses my bird’s grave, my bird lies still within its grave….in blissful sleep. Tender shoots are beginning to sprout from the grave….i like to believe that they carry within them the spirit of my bird.