The parrot

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 –

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Kat

Disillusionment is the house cat that quietly pads over onto your chest at 06:30 am every morning and bats at your nose with its paw. 

Claws are not daisy petals. 

The hare married the tortoise

Ears a-twitch, she invites us in to her burrow. The scent of fuming benzoin wafts over the strains of a harmonium placed reverently in a corner beside a camphor lamp. Fumes and strains tangle into each other and land pell-mell over our clothes. 
Paws all a-flutter, her fur glistens in joy as pure as clarified butter seeping into thumb-dug wells in slices of warm rice cake. Tears do not make an appearance. It has been seven years since we met, yes, but a hare has her sensitivity quotient to protect. 

We pad into the burrow, softly, stepping over hurried ‘When did you arrive’s and ‘Would you like some buttermilk?’s.

The tortoise, limbs askew over the red velvet couch, shifts his gaze slowly away from the television screen where the Mumbai Indians are furiously chasing down a target of 155 runs to beat the Royal Challengers of Bangalore. A frantic flurry of beige Willow and crimson cork.  

Sinking into reed mats piled one over the other like the Tower of Hanoi, we settle down with mugs of buttermilk (spiced, tempered, salted, cooled) cradled in our hands and the hall comes alive with the chatter of old friends taking turns in petting the past that romps in – domesticated canine like – and sits squarely on everyone’s feet. Turn by turn. 

We throw treats at it. Point out how it’s teeth aren’t sharp anymore. How the coat has lost its shine but look how the eyes still sparkle like a pool of mango-shower mud! Occasionally, the rabit steps on it’s tail and a whelp! emerges from the mutt followed by a lot of cooing and ruffling of fur and ‘Oh well, it was nobody’s fault’

Meanwhile, the tortoise has managed to crane his neck towards us by a colossal 2 inches. He still cannot see our faces. 150 runs to go

The hare begins to fill us in and we learn that,

Aunt Ratna still has a tumor the size of a tropical bitter lemon lodged within her bladder but at least the recurring dreams of clowns on bicycles delivering soiled laundry have stopped so, thank the Lord Almighty, that’s a relief. 

(4 inches, 133 runs to go)

The magazine seller who wore a table around his shirt collar, fanning out the glossies three hundred and sixty degrees around his head, gyrating wildly like a cotton-clad spinning top to show us his collection, now has a store of his own. He has no use for his neck accessory anymore. His son wears it now. 360 degrees of cheap alcohol, bless his soul. 

(7 inches, 100 runs to go)

And did we know that old Subramaniam now has three children of his own? Twenty years of breaking pots against kitchen walls, barren womb, and the smell of burning chillies. Three little tykes dot his garden now. People have pointed out that their beaks possess the same slope as magazine seller’s son, but really, such talk only makes the tongue curl in ways it shouldn’t. 

(10 inches, the television has been muted)

And of course there’s the story of…

(12 inches, a tooth struggles over the upper lip)

But we never even heard of…

(14 inches, the eyes have seen us, the lips separate‚Äč)

And who would have thought..

(16 inches, a gleam of recognition lights up the irises)

Leaving already? Well, okay.. this was wonderful! Such a short visit, really. The next time..

The tortoise is now wide awake. 

He raises an arm,

Scaly lips break into a grin at the speed of molasses oozing down a perfectly horizontal plane,

He wheezes,

‘Welcome back home!’

And that was the happiest farwell we’d had all day.