When I was about to be born, I didn’t look like a sparrow at all. My mother tells me that first, I was ensconced in an oblong white shell. Can you believe that? I couldn’t see anything, just felt my own soft incipient limbs wrapped around my little body. I could hear my Ma distinctly, chirping happily, imagining her, sitting smugly on my shell. Once it rained hard; very hard and I shivered even inside the shell. She spread her wings wide to envelop me tightly.
No no, I wasn’t alone! There were three more of my siblings in other shells, yes, I could feel them as well, wondering how they must be looking like. I didn’t know, but she did.
My little body grew bigger and bigger till one day the shell became too small for me, felt claustrophobic inside!
Oh my God, Oh my God… You see I had to break the poor fragile shell with my stubby beak. Fragments of the shell fell around me. Ha, Ha! It was so amusing to see it crumble down.
Wow! I saw my siblings around. I could vaguely make out they were all same, three of them, like me. It took me several days for my eyes to get adjusted to the bright light around.
We all were comfortable in our own house called nest that probably Ma had built, hidden in the dense foliage of a tree. It was a half-spherical basket, with a whole lot of coarse material on the outside such as, straw, twigs, paper, leaves, grasses, and other available material.
The inside was lined with feathers and fine grasses. Where did Ma bring these from? None of my business, as long as she brought food for the four of us.
We chirped incessantly all at once to draw Ma’s attention to get us some food.
My vision was still hazy but I could feel Ma as she brought food and shoved it just in my wide-open beak to be gulped down. I was ready for the next!
“Tweaky, you are too impatient. Why can’t you be well behaved like your brothers and sisters?”, She pulled me up once. I couldn’t help making a face at her.
Oh, I forgot to tell you about this. There was another bigger sparrow with a black band around its neck. He kept flying in and out. Ma loved him so we loved him.
“He is your Pa, Tweaky”, But tell me why don’t I have the lovely black band? I was too afraid to ask Mom.
A little later I could clearly figure out that our nest was on a big Champa tree (Plumeria) opposite a house.
Actually, the house was much taller than I could see. Ma told me that the house belonged to an aged man with a luxuriant tuft of grey hair on his head. Among all the siblings I was a bit nosy, ha ha. I tried to raise my head above the rest to see what was going on in the house inside that window. Are all men same? I must find out.
My Pa – yes, the one with lovely black band around his neck – playfully poked me with his large beak, “not nice to peep into anyone’s house, kid”. Miffed, I had to retract myself in the huddle. But why? Why was it not nice?
As soon as my vision got better and better, I often stared at that man, standing with a cup of tea in his hand early in the morning and straining his ear to catch the song by the sparrows teetering on an electric cable, just opposite his window. How I wish I could fly close to him, sit at his window grill and entice him with my own chatter! But I realized he only wanted to watch sparrows that sang melodiously.
What was he doing in that big house all day? Was there some food in the house for me?
Once he saw me, making me nervous. He picked up something that had two round openings that he held closely pressed to his eyes, with fervid intensity. Wasn’t he peeping into my house now? Not fair. I will tell Ma, – not to Pa; too scared of him, Oh yeah!
I made up my mind to learn to sing, from….let’s see… who else but Ma, silly!
“I cannot teach you. You have to watch me sing and learn to sing all by yourself”, Why, for God’s sake? I may be a slow learner but not torpid…
I wanted to make a face again but couldn’t. She was my Ma you know? She would know what is right for me.
But how can I observe what goes on in her voice box? I stopped talking to her for a few days. Two of my siblings somehow learnt to fly and simply vanished. The one with a black band around his neck – just like Dad – stayed back. I was a slow learner, don’t tell anyone ok? Oh, good, so now there was some more room for the two of us in the nest.
Then I saw Ma crying one day. Pa never came home. She sang even when she cried. I watched her closely and tried to speak to her, lovingly. It was at that moment I found I could sing as well; I could sing as I spoke to her. Whoa!
“Where is Dad? Are you waiting for him?”
“The big Eagle grabbed him and flew away, far …. away” She sobbed
“Oh, my poor Ma!”, I clung to her, “I would never leave you, dear”
My only nest-mate, with a pale black band developing around his neck, just like Pa, was more friendly with Pa. For Ma, both of us were equal but he didn’t appreciate that. He wanted to fly to far off places like Pa instead of just staying put in the small nest all day and sing.
But Pa was gone now. He just sat there in the nest, brooding about the future. Ma tried her best to cheer him to no avail. Sometimes he would not look at the food brought by Ma. That wasn’t fair. He was my brother. I cuddled up to him and told him Pa was gone now, never to return.
“Oh, but why?”, he was inconsolable, “Why can’t we have our Pa back?”
Ma, sitting quietly on the next branch of the tree, overheard it. She sighed and flew off. I shivered at the thought of losing both Pa and Ma. Who will fly out and bring food for us now?
Then we saw her, not Ma, but a huge black cat stealthily climbing up the tree, purring menacingly. We could clearly see her whiskers as she closed in.
One two and three, both of us, shell shocked, raised an alert, help, help!
The man in that house, with a tuft of grey hair, got up and looked at us from his window. He saw the cat getting closer.
He clapped loudly to scare the cat away. That didn’t work. He picked up some heavy bundle lying in the house and threw it at the cat, yelling at the same time to scare the cat away.
That worked. The cat hesitated and quickly retreated and disappeared among the bushes.
The man smiled as he saw our Ma flying back to protect us.
“Oh Ma, where were you?”
“Don’t worry, kids. It is time you learn to fly now”
The flying lessons started the same day in the right earnest.
I told you I was a slow learner but my brother was quick. He took to flying like the fish takes to water. Ma examined my little body carefully. My wings had not developed fully yet. I tried hard but they wouldn’t open. She was exasperated. Now the responsibility of protecting me from the predators fell on my brother whenever Ma was away in search of food.
Oh no! I was so keen to learn how to fly. I wanted to fly to that window, sit on the grill and sing for that man who was like an angel to us. What will he think of us? Sparrows have no etiquette?
Brother could fly but not sing. Ma was too busy. I didn’t want to be branded as an uncouth sparrow. Sometimes I heard strange but divine music from the house. I tried my best to sing along but my weak voice got drowned in the noise around the tree. Was he the one singing in the house? Or playing some instrument? I must find out soon.
It was spring time now. Cuckoo, the one with the most melodious voice, filled the atmosphere with divine songs. I saw the man always jumped and rushed at the window to listen to the Cuckoo. Once he even opened the wire net screen to listen. He had two big eyes, somewhat brownish, the forehead had some wrinkles that showed up as sharp lines across his forehead whenever he was looking at something with great attention.
Why couldn’t I sing like a Cuckoo? I will ask Ma when she returns.
“You can never sing like the Cuckoo, stupid”, my brother teased me.
“Why? What makes you say that?”, I didn’t like his negative attitude.
“Simple, you are not a Cuckoo, that is why. Ha Ha Ha”
“Shut up, will you? One day, I will sing better than the Cuckoo. Just watch”
“You cannot even fly”
“They are two entirely different things, understand?”, enough of the teasing.
I want to sing as well as the Cuckoo, even better. I will ask Ma. No, she never likes to teach how to sing. Oh yes, I can ask that man, behind the window in the big house to teach me. Crazy thoughts! I do not know him. But those melodious tunes that I hear from there?
I want to go to his window and sing. How stupid of me? I must be able to fly first.
It was spring time. Ma now brings insects and spiders for our meals, not the bland seeds of wheat grains and weeds. The tree was full of Champa flowers. Love was in the air. Ma looked happy now, I didn’t have the courage to ask her why. She is my Ma, let her be happy.
But one day the secret was out. She returned with another male sparrow. Together they flew in, singing love songs that I had never heard before. My brother joined me in welcoming them.
Ma told my new Pa to teach me to fly. He smiled, “Come on Tweaky, it is easy. Just let yourself go”
“But the wings don’t open up and my little body will plummet all the way to the ground”
“They will open, they have to, take my word for it”
“Ok, first I will try to fly to that window, just watch me”
I took off hastily and promptly fell to the ground. Luckily it was not a major fall. Pa flew over and comforted me, “It happens Tweaky, it happened to me, it happens to all of us”
“Just try again”, now Ma joined the party.
Right then I saw the kind man opening the window grill. He smiled benignly.
I must try now. He will teach me to sing like the Cuckoo. Fly baby, fly.
This time there was no fall. Ma and Pa chirped with joy. The lazy brother didn’t stir at all from his slumber.
I landed safely at the window grill, and chirped back at Ma and Pa. Ma looked a bit worried seeing me settled on the window.
The man took some steps back from the window and watched me in amazement from the center of the large room. Had never seen such a big room. I turned and signaled the happy parents that I was ok.
It really was a spacious room. There were huge sofa sets arranged in front of the TV. A beautiful dining table in one corner ready with some plates and spoons laid out.
But who are these people in the photographs? His family?
I flew inside and sat on the dining table and then hopped onto the sofa set and then out of the main entrance where I saw his name – Raj – on a nameplate. Easy!
So, it was the family of Raj in the pictures. But it is not nice to ask too many personal questions right in the first meeting – my first Pa had advised me.
Raj was amused to no end at my moves in the room. He took out his mobile phone and tried to take a video but I kept flying around with agility now. No wonder it was hard for him.
Arey baba, I will keep flying in and out, now that I have spread my wings. Don’t be so impatient capturing me in flight!
He seemed to understand my thought process.
Wait, how is this guy going to teach me to sing like a Cuckoo? Oho, it must be the music from the TV program! No, it can’t be. I distinctly recall his singing some tunes for long hours.
He realized I must be hungry. He emptied some grains from a jar in an open dish for me and stepped back to see if I eat.
The grains were so good I finished everything he had laid out for me! Had never tasted such mouthwatering grains in my short life. It seemed I overate. Inevitable! My stomach started hurting. For a while I felt miserable. He felt guilty. Did he offer something I shouldn’t have eaten?
Ma called me out from the tree.
“Dinner time, Tweaky, fly home now. Pa will be here soon”
I wasn’t hungry at all but had to fly home.
The music? May be tomorrow. And about the faces in the photographs – tomorrow?
As I flew back to the nest, he saw me all the way, waving bye.
Ma was very happy at my new friendship with that man – Raj.
“Be careful, Tweaky. Always on your guard”
“Not to worry, Ma. Wanted to say “I will sing like a Cuckoo soon”; but not today. She might think I am crazy.
I couldn’t wait to fly. Dreamt of flying to the distant hills, meeting more friends, but it had started raining at night. Rain in the spring? Ma said sometimes it happens. My frail body shivered in the cold winds that swept across the sugarcane field. I crept close to Ma and slept.
When I woke up the next morning it was still raining heavily. The big drops of rain water, aided by the leaves of the champa tree, fell all around me. The sun hadn’t come out yet. How would I fly today? Ma said it was all right. No need to show off. Your soft wings will get wet. Hold it, Tweaky!
I saw the window across was still shut. Raj hadn’t woken up it seemed. Was he also feeling cold like me? But he had no Ma with him, I saw no souls in the house that day. Poor Raj!
“I have to go, Tweaky. Now behave yourself, Ok? Just stay put in the nest. I will be back soon.” And she flew off to get some food for me. She had to.
God knows where Pa and my brother were. Why was only Ma worried about me?
The nest was getting too small for me now. I crept out of the nest carefully and settled on the curvaceous little branch where the Champa flowers swayed in full bloom. I could now clearly see that there was at least one other nest down below my branch. There were three chicks in there. What had happened to the fourth one? How stupid of me! All the nests may not have four chicks. It was so funny the way they looked. Is that the way I looked then? Hope not!
It had stopped raining now and I was ravenously hungry.
Suddenly the window opened with a bang. The wind made it difficult to keep the window open till Raj appeared and bolted it securely. He appeared disheveled, his uncombed grey hair fluttering in the wind.
He, yawned, looked up at the sky and smiled. I chirped to draw his attention but he didn’t hear, perhaps because of the wind whistling through the window. I longed to get close to him but was too scared. What if I fall? Ma would be angry. The mother sparrow of the chicks in the nest below had returned with large chunks of meal for the them. My stomach protested.
Right when I decided to have a go at the window Raj closed the window again. I managed to fly to the window and started beating at the window pane with my beak, “Open up Raj, I am here. I am hungry”
Thankfully, the wind got calmer. I stopped knocking at the window for I could hear some music from inside the house. It was so sweet I forgot all about my being hungry. I could just sit there all day and listen to the melody. Was he singing or playing something? I hoped he would never stop, even to open the window for me.
I wanted to listen to that divine music. I had realized it was important to listen to good music to be able to sing like the Cuckoo.
“Tweaky, come and have your breakfast”, Ma was back.
I shook my head vigorously, “Shhhhh…Just a minute”
“But the window is shut. It is too cold and your friend won’t open it for now”. Now how would Ma know that I had been listening to his music?
But she was hell bent up on fulfilling her duty as a mother.
“Tweaky I told you to behave. Come back quick”
No use telling her to stop yelling. I had to fly back to the nest in exasperation. Music gave way to surrendering to worldly pangs!
“Why can’t you eat slowly, Tweaky?” Ma saw me devouring the insects she had brought. Just then I saw a beautiful Peacock flying past the Champa tree, making a peculiar guttural sound. He was flying low while his feathers were barely able to drag along his flight path. He looked stunning.
“Ma why am I so tiny and not as beautiful as that peacock?”
“Sis, you are a sparrow and will never be as beautiful as that peacock”, it was my mischievous brother who taunted me again.
“Shut up, will you?” Ma was quick to admonish him.
“You are as beautiful as you think, Tweaky, but do you want to be happy as a sparrow or waste your time in trying to be a peacock, or sing like a cuckoo?”
“Ask your Pa”. That was her ploy to get off the silly conversation.
“Very clever you are, Ma”
I will get into the house and watch myself in the huge mirror that I saw that day. Maybe I could use some of those bottles lying next to the mirror and have a makeover. But I won’t tell Ma about it. I want to see the surprised expression on her face when she sees me after the makeover.
I will sing like a Cuckoo, I will look as beautiful as a peacock one day.
I saw Raj again in the late afternoon. He looked as fresh as ever, with an enigmatic smile on his face. Did he approve of my eavesdropping on his music in the morning?
I sneaked out again while Ma and Pa were busy in some conversation away from the nest. It was funny the way they snuggled close to each other, very very close indeed, picking up some ticks from their bodies and then looking at each other, ending up by locking their beaks together when no one was looking, finally hiding in the thick foliage of leaves. It was a bit funny but I didn’t care and confidently flew to the window across.
The rains had stopped and a cool breeze was blowing through. The window was open. I peeped in. There was no one in the main room. Where was Raj? I sneaked in the room and looked around and settled on the blade of the ceiling fan that started turning the moment I sat on it.
There were picture frames neatly set up just below the TV set. The biggest picture showed a lady with an enigmatic smile on her face. Who was she? Then there were other people in the frames next to it. They all looked happy, Raj flanked by two young girls, a young family with two little girls playfully posing for the picture.
There was something in the smile of the lady that was familiar. Had I seen her somewhere? She looked so endearing! Oh, the mirror was right there on the opposite wall! I turned my head from that picture of hers and tried to look at my own reflection in the mirror. But where was me, Tweaky? I just saw exactly the same lady smiling at me from the mirror. There was no Tweaky! Where is she? Why can’t I see myself in the mirror? I turned again and looked at the lady. Her smile had grown even wider. Was she trying to tell me something? I turned once more and looked into the mirror. There she was looking back at me from the mirror! It was as if I was that lady and the lady was looking into the mirror!
I was breathless! How could that be? The mirror shows me up as that lady.
The door of the bed room opened. Raj emerged into the living room and looked at me, puzzled. Was he looking at me as if I was that lady? He rushed towards me. I got scared and hastily flew back to the open window.
He stopped for a moment, looked at the picture and me in disbelief. What was wrong?
I saw him crashing on to the floor, weeping unabashedly.
Poor Raj! What had happened? I just couldn’t take it anymore and returned to my nest. The window remained open for a long time. Raj wouldn’t appear at the window, perhaps never? Don’t know why but I longed to see him.
It was hard to sleep that night. How could I? The rains came lashing at everything. The nest had fallen off but I didn’t need it anyway. Grown up I was! But in the midst of the fury of rain my mind was filled with doubts. Doubts about my identity. Who was I? Ma had recognized me all right when I flew back but it was too painful to see Raj weeping uncontrollably on seeing me. I yearned to see him but maybe I shouldn’t venture out into that house again. It makes him sad for some reason and I love him so much.
Oh, perhaps that mirror was cursed. Why am I blaming myself for the pain on Raj’s face? That is a way to rationalize but not enough to put my mind to rest. Oh mine? I am torn between the two worlds. It is that mirror, Tweaky. Go and break it up to pieces tomorrow with your beak, yes, go and take your revenge. Instead of brooding over what I experienced let me act and resolve it. That was enough for me to get back to sleep. With that resolve, my little mind made truce, the rain subsided into a light drizzle in sympathy. The Subconscious mind emerged on the scene with vengeance in a dream that showed a shattered mirror, my beak bleeding profusely and Raj running over to pick me up in his large hands, caressing my frail body gently. But there was no lady in that photo. It was blank; completely blank. I wonder how I looked but that mirror – oh my God – that mirror was now broken by the silly Tweaky.
I woke up in the morning to see Ma staring at my face – strange!
“What happened to your beak, Tweaky?”
Did I beat the thick branch of the Champa tree with my beak while asleep? How could that be?
“It’s nothing Ma. It is swollen because of some insect bite”
Ma wasn’t convinced.
“Tweaky, would you like to fly out with me to catch some insects today”
Was it a question or a gentle command? I tried to steal a glance at the window, ignoring the mild pain in the beak that the movement caused. The window was open. Even the grill was open.
“Tweaky! Did you hear me?” Now Ma’s voice was like a commandment. “Come on grow up. I can’t go on feeding you all your life”
What is my life? Is it my life? Am I sparrow? Or someone else? Wasn’t my life there, with Raj, in his spacious house? But what will happen to my longing to be like beautiful peacock or singing like a Cuckoo? When? How?
Presently, I had to obey Ma. I was her Tweaky, little young Tweaky. What if I can’t fly far enough to catch an insect all by myself? What if the mirror stays intact and that lady stays in the photo?
As we flew past, I threw a final glance at the window. He was nowhere to be seen. I almost missed hitting a branch hanging low.
“Careful, Tweaky, you must watch out as you fly out in the open.”
“Yes Ma. Can’t afford to aggravate the injury anyway.”
But the scar was burning like red hot coal inside my little heart. I went through the motions of catching some insects, got some grains. This training process went on for a week. No sign of Raj. Where was he? Was he all right? Ma was hell bent on finishing the training. There was no way I could check inside the house.
That evening I got a shock of my life. I saw him. But he drove in the compound in his car and there was someone else with him, seated next to him. It was an attractive girl, but not like the lady in the photo. Who was that? And why am I feeling jealous?
My heart sank. He doesn’t care for me. I resented Ma insisting on me accompanying her to the food gathering mission. I had learnt enough now. Time was ticking by and I must be looking like a grown up Tweaky now. Do I still want to sing like a Cuckoo? Do I still want to look like a peacock? Or like that lady?
Raj never appeared at the window. What was he doing in there with that charming girl? I could sense some strange yearning in my heart now? Sign of growing up? Ma watched over me and smiled mischievously at times. How would Raj react to my new avatar? What do I care? Let him be with that girl….
I don’t care. I flew off one morning without informing Ma. Let her worry. Let Raj worry, if he cares. I will fly out far away where even Ma hasn’t ventured ever. But I will return for sure. I want to see Raj flustered and apologetic for not caring for me. I will teach him a lesson. It will be nice to see him kneeling before me and ask for forgiveness. Hmm…
Spring was in the air. I tried to forget everything and sang as I made my way over op the open fields of sugarcane, the air was crisp, and I could sing well now, but not as well as the Cuckoo. I saw a flock of birds flying in formation just above me. Lovely. Sparrows don’t fly that high. But why can’t I make friends? New friends. Perhaps I will find a handsome male sparrow and we will fly together, sing songs, lock our beaks together just like I had seen Ma and Pa do, many months back.
Yes, that’s what I will do. Find a new friend, and fly back together to that Champa tree, make Raj feel jealous. I flew around a cluster of houses next to a hillock and sat down on the branch of a tree.
There he was! No Raj, silly. He was a fully-grown male sparrow, looking at me with disdain. What did he think of himself? A peacock?
“Hello there? What has happened to your beak? Ha Ha Ha”
I didn’t like him mocking at me.
“I am Tweaky, and who are you?”
He crept closer and rubbed his beak sideways twice before answering.
“My Pa calls me Zap”, he kept staring at me to make me uncomfortable, I guess
“What a funny name, Zap, Ha Ha Ha”, I mimicked his style
“May be, but that’s my name, Tweaky. But you are looking great”
I did the same routine with my beak that he had displayed.
“Where are you from?”, now there was a genuine interest.
“Oh, I am from far far-away place. I bet you cannot fly that far”, I challenged him, “my place is far better than this”, I provoked him intentionally. I had begun to like him, honestly.
“Aha, look who is challenging the macho sparrow like me”
I danced around him to seduce, “Does the macho Zap accept the challenge or sit here all day to rub his beak endlessly?”
Whereupon he swiftly came close to me, very very close and planted a kiss on my beak.
That was a macho kiss, very adventurous of him. I liked that. It felt really good beyond imagination. I kissed back, my wings fluttering like crazy. I could see his full body as he opened his wings. I noticed a big red mark on the left side of his face.
“What is this mark, Zap?”
“Oh, that’s my birth mark. You won’t lose me that way!”, he laughed. I loved the way he laughed.
My mind went crazy. For a moment I forgot all about Raj, about everything.
“Come on let us fly together back to my place. You will love it.”
The fire in my mind was still burning bright. I must go and show my new prized catch and make Raj go green with envy. Our romance can wait.
As we flew together, we crossed beautiful fields, huge green trees welcoming us, even the flowers smiled at us and swayed in the wind. We sang all the way.
“Look Zap, that is where we are going”, I pointed in the direction of the Champa tree as we neared it. Going home! I flew even faster and faster. Poor Zap appeared exhausted.
My heart sank on seeing Raj looking out of the window for something or was he looking out for me? Poor Raj!
He saw me flying past, waved at me weakly. I know why he appeared a bit puzzled.
“Who is that man, Tweaky? Zap’s curiosity had nothing to do with jealousy. How would he know about Raj and what he meant to me?
I ignored Zap’s question. Ma welcomed us, looking at Zap a bit mischievously.
Raj shut the window with a bang. Let him be angry. He deserves that. Where was he hiding all these days? Go and make merry with your girl.
Honestly, I wished that girl wouldn’t be there now, that Raj would wait for me to fly in his room, that he would wish Zap to get lost.
Spring was in the air. I would wait till tomorrow for the spring to burst into a thousand flowers. Hope the mirror was still there.
…To be continued
There was a nip in the air at night. The onset of spring does magic to the young minds, like me, and like Zap, I suppose. The rustle of the leaves sounded like a harp, or did that sound like the magic instrument that Raj plays? Was I dreaming of Raj playing the divine instrument?
Zap was fast asleep on the branch next to mine. Poor Zap was tired from the long flight.
The music made me restive. How I wanted someone to cuddle me up, like the other night when Raj lovingly held me in his palm and caressed me, feeling sorry for my bleeding beak? An owl hooted from somewhere close, disturbing my magical dream.
Get lost you dirty Owl! I screamed. My anguished cry didn’t wake Zap up, he just stirred a bit and went back to sleep.
Good. He would have asked me all uncomfortable questions. Why would I want to reveal my secret? He is just a decoy, for me to get back at Raj. Sleep, sleep Zap, I need you until tomorrow morning. Once Raj is captured in my web he can fly back. I smiled like a conniving villain – but thankfully no one noticed it. It was a spring night you know; people can dream away their blues.
At the stroke of dawn, Zap woke up, refreshed and huggable but did I care? I rubbed my beak on the slender branch hanging next to him. He thought it was a courting ritual. Stupid Zap! Good! My scheme would remain a secret. Ma watched me flirting with Zap, visibly happy and relieved. She was oblivious of my obsession with that man at the window. Tweaky, the eve in the garden of Eden, was ready to eat the forbidden apple! Everything is fair in love and..
Zap’s amorous, half open eyes almost melted my heart but I was not to fall in the trap!
“Who was that man at the window, waving at us yesterday?” , his question was as innocent as it could be.
I was zapped, literally. Is he getting jealous?
“Oh, just a friend who feeds me exotic grains. Do you want to have some?” I put on the façade of an unwary partner
“Well, I don’t mind, but only if you come along”, Zap was now inviting trouble!
But was I getting into troubled waters? A plunge into untold misery, if Raj ditched me. Can’t stop Zap from flying away, far away from me. But the tender, wide brown eyes of Raj playing that magical music beckoned me.
The sun rose majestically. Cock-a-doodle-doo said the roosrter and I took a deep breath of the crisp air! The window opened with a bang. He’s is calling me, go Tweaky go.
I flew-off to the window, Zap was close on my wings.
There he was, smiling at me, playing his magical music! The lovely woman was still in the photo right in front of the mirror. The moment I looked at the mirror she disappeared from the photo and was standing right beside Zap. Where was I? I looked around. No Tweaky? What was Zap doing next to the lovely woman in the mirror?
Raj got up and walked up to the woman- I could see everything through the mirror. I dared not look at the photo.
Did Zap see anything? He was dazed but all right otherwise.
The next moment he looked in the mirror. Where was Tweaky? He didn’t find her.
It didn’t matter what was happening in the room. Whatever was happening was in that mirror.
In the mirror Raj stood close to the woman, Oh, he was actually next to me! Zap just couldn’t take it anymore. He flew into the mirror, hoping to find me. Poor Zap! He dashed against the mirror and his body dropped on the floor.
Raj lifted him and looked at him, lovingly, just like the way he did to me. Both appeared to be in a trance. The woman in the mirror extended her hands towards them.
The very next moment the mirror came crashing down, breaking up into hundreds of pieces that fell around Raj and Zap. It was hard to see what was happening to them.
I shivered in the wind gushing in from the open window and closed my eyes.
When I opened my eyes, I saw Raj and Zap emerging from the shattered glass pieces. There was no mirror now. There was no woman either. I felt myself back- I was Tweaky!
Raj walked towards me with a strange gait. Zap in his hand was unhurt. Something was amiss. This was no Raj. He looked weird.
Oh my God he had a red mark on his left cheek!
Zap hopped back to me. He had that look in his eyes that I had never seen before. He sat close to me, and I saw him. His look was like Raj’s. He had no red mark on his left side.
That was a miracle! Zap was no zap. He was my Raj – in the form of a sparrow!
Raj with a red mark on his left cheek sat down in his chair, wearily and looked away. Their souls got exchanged!
“Let us go, Tweaky” Zap beckoned me.
I had one last look at the human Raj and settled beside my Zap. His eyes had the same magic that Raj had.
The open swaying field of sugar cane was dancing in the spring air. Ma looked at us and bade us good bye. We flew away to distant land, distant rivers, distant mountains, untiring, singing songs that Raj used to play. I felt tremors running through my little body as I sang like a Cuckoo, with goosebumps that I had never experienced.
“Ma, here, I am singing like a cuckoo, see?” But she was not there to see me. It was magic. We belonged to a different world now. Is this what they call heaven?
Little children watched us in flight low enough for them to see. “Look at those heavenly birds, looking more beautiful than peacocks”
Here we were, more beautiful than even the peacocks that flew high above the land. I had promised Ma that one day I will look as beautiful as the peacock. She wasn’t there to see that either.
We didn’t know how far we had flown and flew. Raj, in the form of Zap was with me, my eternal partner, my soulmate.
Never realized we circled the entire earth till my Champa tree slowly emerged in front of us.
There! Zap look there! Our Champa tree! We were exhausted but ecstatic.
And that window? Did Zap still live there, in the form of Raj with the red mark on his cheek?
I flew inside the window that was slightly open. It was a full moon night. There was no one in the house. The mirror was gone. There was no sign of life. Where was he?
For a moment I felt scared, all alone in that haunted house. What if the window shuts itself, locking me inside?
I looked around and slowly turned. The full moon beam shone brightly over the lovely woman’s photo. Next to it was another photo. That of Raj, with the red mark on his cheek.