Sometime in March of last year, I wrote a very long account of our encounters with a certain species called ‘pigeons’. Since it was rather long, I decided to split it up… Hope you enjoy…
A sheet of fibre glass and an awning supported by an iron frame cover the largest open space of our 2nd floor house – the balcony. And like every city balcony, ours also has its fair share of visitors in all shapes and sizes. From lizards and ants to squirrels and pigeons.
Most visitors keep to themselves. But pigeons are rather friendly.
During summers, whenever we water the flowerpots in our balcony, they make it a point to sit around a small puddle of water on the floor. They wet their wings, dip their beaks in the water, rub their necks, shake their heads… It all looks like some funky dance routine.
The birds are a lot like spoilt children. And like children, there are times when they start making noise and throwing tantrums. “You are sitting so comfortably within your concrete den while we are outside in this harsh weather. Have you no concern for us?” Well, at least that’s what we imagine them to be saying. More often than not, we try to pacify them by spreading bread crumbs on the outer railing. Most of the time, they wait for us to step inside, before attacking the crumbs. But there are times when they shed their inhibitions and very boldly take food away even before we finish laying the platter.
We would often see pigeons sitting in a nest in our neighbour’s balcony. And I have always wondered what it would be like to have a nest in our balcony. As children, we’ve seen nature programmes on television. How eggs hatch, how absolutely adorable the chicks are, how the parent feeds the chicks and how the young ones take their first step and tumble around. Seeing that happen, in reality, would be so wonderful.
When we moved into our house, construction workers left behind all sorts of scrap material. And our balcony had become part junk-yard and part garden. We had some problem with space, so blocks of wood and some surfboards were propped up on the frame of the fibre glass. We intended to clear up the mess – little by little. But before that, something else happened.
They say be careful what you wish for – you might just get it!
And that is what happened. Our neighbours moved out, and with them, so did the pigeons. In summer, they were in our balcony. And our blocks of wood and surfboards were enough for them. The birds began building a nest on the little space that they got. Before we knew it, the pigeons not only had a makeshift nest, but also an egg.
Birdwatching became our new pastime and a regular dinner-table conversation. During the day one pigeon would sit on the egg (We assumed it to be the mother) while the other would bring sticks to complete the incomplete nest. Their nest was always a work-in-progress. Some sticks would fall down, and the pigeon would continuously keep working to mend the gap.
They must have been superstitious, for they never picked up the sticks that had fallen down. It was almost as if they thought, “It fell down. It is bad. We need a good stick that will not fall”.
There was a tiny gap between the awning and the sheet of fibre glass. While bringing the sticks, the pigeon would use that tiny gap to enter the balcony. There were open skies just beyond the awning. But it would not use that to enter. The larger open space was used strictly for exiting. It would then return with another stick, held firmly in its beak. Again it would enter using the small gap – not the larger open space. It was as if it had designated the two spaces as in and out. The in gate would not be used for flying out and the out gate would not be used for entering.
This ritual continued for many days and we loved to observe their daily routine. We simply could not wait for the egg to hatch.
But fate had other plans.
That little space was not enough to support the nest. And the egg that she had laid came crashing down.
There was an unbearable stench. The broken egg and its lifeless contents were cleared away and after sometime, the stench had reduced. But our disappointment and heartbreak would take a lot more than cleaning, to get over. It is hard for us to know whether they had the kind of emotions that we had. They expressed their grief by simply flying away.
For many days we felt their absence. They would occasionally visit, but they did not attempt to build another nest. Perhaps memories haunted them…