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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Airports

Disha's

Cornflower blue overalls, yellow sneakers and a matching yellow snapback with dozens of tiny Spongebobs masquerading over his head.

He looked so tiny.

He sidled up to me, peeking through brown curls that lay plastered across his forehead like rain soaked yarn. I stretched out my hand, my fingers slowly trotting across the metal armrest that lay between us. Like startled butterflies, his arms flapped up and down as I tickled his chin. Peals of laughter bubbled out of his soft, pink lips. Squealing with unrestrained glee, he wriggled in his chair and threw his head back, curls flying, legs kicking the air conditioned nothingness around us. Gasping for air, he placed one plump finger on his nose; our mutually agreed upon white flag. I retracted my fingers and planted a noisy peck on his cheek. The airport continued to ring with the echoes of our tickle battle.

Seven pairs of eyes darted in our direction. Staring. Visibly uncomfortable. I ignored all of them.

Turning towards him, I wiggled my eyebrows and grinned.

‘What day is it today?’ I quiz.

‘It’s my birthday, Mama!’

‘That’s right, it is!’

‘Can I eat an extra slice of cake?’

‘You can eat all the cake in the world, sweetheart’

‘Will there be candles?’

‘Of course!’

‘All thirty-two of them?’

‘Every single one’

He smiled.

Six feet and two inches tall.

Cornflower blue overalls, yellow sneakers and a matching yellow snapback with dozens of tiny Spongebobs masquerading over his head.

He looked so tiny.

 

Picture credits: Disha Chatterjee 

It isn’t yours, Martha

Saunters to the door. Revolver whistles in holster, smoking at the barrel, humming presciently.

Raps. Mahogany rattles. Time hiccups.

Oiled ‘stache greased to ginger knife-edge, spits a still-smouldering butt out on to the fifty-seven times beeswax-polished pleasewipeyourshoesonthedoormat floor before watching said butt kiss horseshoe boot heel.

Snickers. Old batty won’t know what hit her.

Raps. Again. Mahogany rattles. Again. Time hiccups. Again.

Eyeballs old Grandma Fate as she waddles over, opening the door wide for seven feet of ginger mane crimson visage purple veined tattooed neck dust brown limbs and flannel wrapped torso to squeeze past. Grandma Fate stares, patiently.

‘Can I help you, Ginger?’

Takes in the mouse hole cottage, each window with its own spectacular view of a single grotesque cactus. Here lay the spoils.

Glass knick-knacks on the mantelpiece, little bottles of wood littered across the carpet, puppets hanging from cyan crystal light bulbs – their pink, pinched faces lit up like a carousel in a carnival – charred photographs of wheat fields, a framed certificate of participation from that time Jimmy almost won the potato sack race, wedding rings chained into curtain blinds, dust bunnies floating in to settle between that rascally cat’s ears, an album open to show an indecently yellow birthday cake with lilac icing, mutilated moose antlers mounted above the mantelpiece, vinyl record lamp shades and an old radio in the back that crooned

And it isn’t yours, Martha. It isn’t yours to keep.’

Cheap foam garden slipper shod foot taps on thankyouforwipingyourshoes floor. Grandma Fate stares, impatiently.

‘Cat got your tongue, son?’

Time hiccups. Reason trips itself over a fold in the carpet. Sanity lets out a snort and a chuckle, sitting in the corner, knitting a violently purple sweater. Memory drowns itself in a vat of bubble bath and

Revolver hums.

BAM.

Desert sun projectile vomits fuchsia-gold rays into the room before dragging its weight behind the dune blankets.

“And to think I’d just gotten the carpets dry cleaned,”

Grandma Fate mops away ginger mane and shredded flannel. Shuffles back to her game of Bluff with Time.  Hands her some gourd tonic spiked with a bit of star anise to drive away the devil of a hiccup that’s threatening to blow her white-mopped top off.

“Nutter,” Time hiccups as she calls Grandma Fate’s bluff.

Barrel smokes.

‘No it isn’t yours, Martha. It isn’t yours to keep..’