Madhav came back seven months later, but his voice had taken on a strange, foreign lilt and Jagan was reminded of Peechook, his little green parrot from when he was ten.
Peechook had fallen in love with the sound of the brass wind chimes and tried to squak along whenever the wind blew. He would exhaust himself in the boiling hours of the afternoon, trying to simmer down his cackle into fragile, metalic shivers. It was pathetic really, but he never seemed to give up. He’d gaze longingly at the gangly tangle of pipes and wooden stars until his cage was taken back into the living room at dusk.
One night, there had been a terrible downpour: windows shuddered, and the thunder rolled overhead like a charcoal beast, hungry for its next prey. Jagan had sidled closer to his grandma and buried his head within the folds of her saree. Eventually, he fell asleep.
The next morning, Jagan’s father found Peechook’s cage empty. They searched for him high and low, but their feathered friend was nowhere to be found. Sometimes, the wind blew the door of the cage open and Peechook would waddle out for a quick flight over the courtyard, but he would always be back before sunset. They dismissed the disappearance and the day crawled on.
Twenty four hours had swept by and Peechook still hadn’t returned. The scent of rain hung over the threshold like a newly knit blanket, clouding everything with cold drops of water. Jagan stepped outside to feed the squirrels with a handful of salted peanuts.
On the threshold, scattered between twigs and storm blown leaves, was a mangled web of brass pipes, string, and wooden stars. And inextricably entangled within this web, was the limp, green body of Peechook. His eyes looked like little brown beads of glass, and his beak was open wide like an opera singer about to deliver the highest note. His feathers were soaked through.
And now, Jagan watched carefully as Madhav pecked at his lentils and bread: the curry was gingerly scooped and was never allowed to touch his fingers. He wore starched shirts now and always carried a floral, silk kerchief. His voice shimmered and tinkled as he spoke of how there were at least five different flavours of popcorn at the movies and did you know the discos were open all night? All night, Jagan, can you imagine?
When the bill arrived, the waiter placed a bowl of salted peanuts on the table and slipped the square of paper beneath it. All of a sudden, Jagan didn’t want to be at the restaurant anymore. He hastily crammed a wad of bills beneath the bowl and scurried away. Madhav called after him, but he dashed out of the door and in his hurry, collided against a branch of low hanging wind chimes.
The brass pipes and wooden stars began to sing, but all Jagan could hear was the squaking of a hundred green parrots.
– Picture sourced from Pinterest –