I met Tipu one rainy, breezy afternoon in Pune. She was standing all by herself, on her spindly long legs, in a lonely corner of a dirty, crowded crate. Squawking loudly to be heard amidst the steady din of her fellow inmates.
I would not have noticed her, but for her feathers, or rather the lack of them. In a busy cage of colorful parrots, she was the only one with a naked pink body. Her thin skin stretched tightly over her shriveled frame. A few wisps of yellow, clung doggedly to her head and wings, her only claim to her feathered origin. But it succeeded in making her look like ET with a funny head-dress.
Her cage was outside the pet shop, under an awning, exposed to monsoon and other elements. A cat sat patiently close by, awaiting her chance.
Miss Mighty No feathers (her name till then) trembled in the wet breeze, but never stopped chirping. As if only by chirping, she could convince herself of her existence. The other birds seemed oblivious to her plight. They had probably long abandoned her cause. Fighting for survival, amongst a crazy bunch of frightened noisy, fellow companions, doesn’t exactly put you in the mood for compassion.
I stood there a moment, watching her, wondering what to do. But then chided myself and marched inside the pet-shop.
I was there to buy food for my fish and that’s what I would do.
In defense of my decision, I had taken sick birds home in the past and had miserable experiences. It’s because the vets in Pune, though ever helpful, were unable to diagnose or treat such tiny birds. The only birds who merit some attention in India are either too high up in the food chain, like eagles or some fancy endangered species, or downright, les miserables – poultry destined for slaughter.
So every time it would be a slow and long trudge for my fellas to bird heaven, prolonged only by my desperate attempts to cure them.
Plus there was the additional risk of infecting my own birds.
Yes, its true. For all my talk of love for animals, I am guilty of curtailing the freedom of a few, to show them that I love them. Lol, I know the irony is inescapable. But coming back to her…
After making my sensible purchases of some potent fish food, which promised to make my fish super colorful and happy, I walked back calmly towards my car. I was careful to avoid any sideward glances, lest I weaken my carefully constructed resolve.
But all through the day and night, Miss Mighty No feathers kept interrupting my thoughts. For those who know me, given the complexity of my pointlessly busy mind, this was a mean feat. And it was always an apparently casual, but carefully orchestrated sort of interference.
There I would be dreaming about buying that yet again, To Die for Zara Pants, and in she would walk by, on her spindly legs, squawking away the futility of pants and all other forms of cover-up.
So after lots of inner dialogue and guilt trips to bird fairy, I sheepishly went back to the shop, and brought her home.
The pet shop owner had put her in a small cardboard box for the ride back and seemed relieved to have got her off his hands.. By the constant litany of scuffling noises, you could be sure, the lady was not too pleased about it.
Back home, I placed her box gingerly on my study table and opened the flap.
As if on cue, Ms. Miss Mighty No feathers came out, furiously stomping and squawking away, complaining to all and sundry about the gross injustice of being shoved into a box.
In a bid to prevent her fall (because Ms. Miss Mighty No feathers was too busy to see where she was going), I tried to straddle her in my hands.
In response, she gave me a sharp little nip on my pinkie. And she continued to hang on to my finger, till I hurriedly surrendered her back to the table. As I glared back at her, mumbling angry unmentionables and nursing my finger, she scowled right back at me, all her twenty grams, standing resolutely on those awfully long legs apart, calling my bluff.
It was at that moment, I named her Tipu. Given her gender, maybe Rani Laxmibai would have been more apt.
But there was something about those gangly legs, scrawny body, funny little headdress, all rallying around a tiny but mighty spirit, which called out to the one warrior, who stood up against the entire British army.
And Tipu she was…
Tipu makes Peace….