The Sacred Bird





“Fly away! You must! What keeps you from spreading your plumage and soaring into the reign of Zeus? What keeps you inclined to this mirage of worldly possessions and artificial contentment? Look forth! Your freedom awaits. Time has come for you to go,” I tell her.

 

And she just stares at me blankly while I say this.

 

Little Pihu is a Zebra Finch, a small bird that I have been keeping as a pet for almost two years. Oh! How much I love her, for she is the only empathizer in my struggle through life.

 

Bereft of my father at an early age, I lived with my mother in a small flat. Maa, I used to believe, was a saleswoman and because of her incredibly tentative work hours, I mostly ended up alone. Relatives abandoned us thinking we might eventually ask for help, and another reason which I quite couldn’t comprehend then. Living in isolation, I grew up to be a recluse. At the age of 13, I had no friends and was devoid of any human interaction save for my mother. Maa was my single greatest source of inspiration to carry on with life. She would keep reminding me how her life had worth only because I was a part of it. I longed to make her proud some day, to let her know that I valued whatever she did to raise me.

 

Rare were the occasions when my facial muscles exerted themselves to give my lips a slight curvature. That was until I saw Pihu; caged inside blue bars, shaking her neck adoringly, as if enticing me, out of all people in the Chandni Chowk market, to take her away from the callous seller. I brought her home after the seller told me that it was considered a sacred bird. The initial days with Pihu were the most pleasant ones of my highly unpleasant life. However, the next two years weren’t that fortunate. I began to notice several things which led to some startling revelations. I understood the incomprehensible reason behind our relatives abandoning us: My mother had never been a saleswoman, but a prostitute. Moreover, she was suffering from depression. She always had been, but I was too naive to see the tears behind her smile, hear the screams behind her laughter, feel the agony inside her mind.

 

I was broken. Guilt overpowered my senses; after all, Maa wouldn’t have to do this if it weren’t for me. After Maa realised that I was aware of the truth, our relationship could never be the same again. She couldn’t look into my eyes, and we barely ever heard each other’s voices. Nights were spent crying myself to sleep while sweet reminiscence danced on the tune of Pihu’s chirping during the day.

 

The next thing I knew was that she was on Valium tablets and sleeping pills. She was getting old, and traditionally, her demand was decreasing so she started staying home more often.

 

Formerly, that used to be a blessing for me, but this time, it was a cruel curse. I couldn’t bear the excruciating pain of watching her go through this addiction and choking on her words every time she opened her mouth. I wanted her to be free of sorrow and shame and live with pride. My deepest desire was for her pain to go away, for I loved my mother, regardless of what she was, or what she did, and it was in her lap my salvation dwelt.

 

One day, as I arrived from school, a man standing near Pihu’s cage caught my attention.

 

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” asked the man in a cheerful voice, looking at Pihu.

 




“Indeed. And you must be?” I asked.

 

“I’m Dr. Anand, your mother’s psychiatrist. Just came to check on her. They say that these birds are sacred. Wherever they reside, they take away all the problem and suffering from that place with their departure. But one must never force them to go, as devastation would befall those who force these birds out.” With that being said, I knew what I had to do.

 

***

 

It has been two months since the incident, and most of my time is spent hoping that Pihu goes away or dies. I left the cage door open that night and it has been the same ever since. But she doesn’t leave. She stays inside, calmly listening to my rants with the same compassion, which I, unfortunately, cannot reciprocate anymore. Forgive me Pihu, but destiny’s sleight of hand has left me helpless in this debacle.

 

Halfway through another day of wishful thinking, I arrive home from school only to find Pihu’s cage empty. A smile comes over my face and heading straight for Maa’s room, I bang the door open. She’s lying on the bed. As I approach her, my foot stumbles upon a plastic box lying on the floor. I pick it up and see that it’s an empty box of Fentanyl tablets. My eyes widen and I rush to the bed to find a bottle of alcohol by her side. Her body; Cold. Pulse; None. Breath; Zilch. She’s dead.

 

Looking back at the empty cage, I witness the dawn of knowledge. My deepest desire was for her pain to go away, and here she is: Serene and tranquil as the winter snow. Her eyes are open. I behold her with moist eyes.

 

“Fly away! You must! What keeps you from spreading your plumage and soaring into the reign of Zeus? What keeps you inclined to this mirage of worldly possessions and artificial contentment? Look forth! Your freedom awaits. Time has come for you to go,” I tell her.

 

And she just stares at me blankly while I say this.

 

 


Image Source: flickr.com


 



 

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