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Published:October 9th, 2005 07:16 EST
Soon the Chortle will Stop

Soon the Chortle will Stop

By Noopur Shrivastav

October is making the mornings hazy now, the visibility is deteriorating, and cool air touches our nose and hand. I am ready to see the new shades of nature, but I fear my friends will stop visiting me very soon. Every morning, before I see anything, I hear their chortle. The House sparrows and the Singing sparrows out of the many breeds of sparrows visit me every morning. They clatter their wings near my window, peck their beak over the glass, and chortle to wake me up. I feel them calling me, perhaps they say, “Get up honey… it's morning" ...I hear them like this. I scatter some rice in my balcony; they come flipping their wings in the air. Clutch the railings, observe for a while, and tap their feet on the ground. Their beak pecks the floor and gently picks up the rice.

I was new to this country when I met them. They were the ones who reminded me of my native land, watching them tap their feet I smelled my soil. Unlike the developed countries, underdeveloped and developing countries and their rural sites are marked by muddy huts and thatched roof. Bushes and Pipal and Shesem trees envelop them on all sides, and birds chortle among the leaves as the first ray of sun falls on them.

Sparrows are still a part of my ancestral house. Since my childhood, I have seen their nests in window shelves, above the almirah and in the aangan (a roofless space in the house, rooms and veranda are built on its sides) that mark most of the rural houses.

They flocked in there, lived in as we lived. There was song and music always floating in the air of that old house as they swung in veranda and the aangan fearlessly, ate the maize, rice, and wheat or dip their beak in the uncovered vessel as if it belonged to them. They were the righteous members of the family. And whenever the nest was disturbed during the cleanliness drive, they flapped their wings fast, flew round, and round in the air, house bustled with their cheeeeeen cheeeeeeeeen cheeeeeeeeen... but this was not song any longer. They were mourning and we felt their complaints.

They screamed over us, strewn their twigs and other stuffs of house in such a fashion that my grandma finally asked us to leave their nests.

Some day we found tiny white eggs shining like pebbles in the circularly woven twigs. In another day, a new life would be lying in the nest. Small beak tried to speak something from the nest hung in the corner; soft pink bones were covered under almost transparent furless skin. It was not even of our finger size. The mother bird would feed and it remained in the nest for a couple of days. After growing somewhat old and gaining strength it learnt to fly, first from the nest to the ground, and vice versa, then out of the house and by and by it took long swings from houses to trees bringing twigs and cotton balls to the nest.

Today my air-conditioned apartments cannot accommodate them inside, nor can I make them a member of my family. But definitely, they are my friends and my guests these days.

The first thing I hear when I wake up is their cheen cheen… they call me by my window. I scatter a handful of rice and they come flipping their wings from all sides. Tap their feet, dance on the floor. I give them a handful of rice but they give me much more. I don’t know exactly what. Is it some eternal peace, do they rejuvenate my childhood or do they take me to my birthplace, my soul?

Now I fear very soon they will stop visiting me, as the fog will thicken, mercury will dip low, they will stop waking me up.