The Sparrows

July 21, 2008

Summer is giggling at us, with all her teeth out at 50+ degrees. She claps her hand when she sees people rushing to their homes and into the coolness of a/cs. Its difficult to get out for a walk even at night. I wonder how the people at construction sites are going through the day with the hot sun on their back. When sitting in my room, I can see the workers sweating under the severity of the hot sun. Birds are flying in search of a window or a/c hole, to take rest and hide from the sun. A myna came and sat on my rope on which I put my clothes to dry. I got up to shoo it away, but on second though I decided to let it stay there to secure itself from the sun.
I thought of the days at school. When while coming from school one day, a sparrow fell infront of us. It was small and cute, but very tired. I and my brother Nasweef took it in our hands to our home. Umma ( mom) gave it some water. It opened its eyes slowly and looked at us. It didn’t try to fly away. Just sat in our hands. Umma broke a small branch from the tree outside our home, and the sparrow perched on it. We took some snaps, and when evening came, Umma took out the branch along with the sparrow. We asked Umma to keep the sparrow indoor, so that we can make a pet of her. But Umma asked us how we would feel if we are taken away from our family by some strangers. At last, we decided to give her freedom. She looked at us thankfully, opened her wings and flew away. The foto show Nasweef with the sparrow.
There was another incident when a parakeet came to our home. It was 10.30 at night and we were cleaning the table after dinner, while my younger brothers have gone to bed. Suddenly, there was a knock on the kitchen window. We got frightened at first, and called Umma. Umma came and opened the window, to see a parakeet trying to get inside. Nasweef got out with a torch. But when he tried to catch it, the parakeet bit his fingers. But it was not able to fly. At last, with some effort and a piece of cloth, Nasweef caught it and bought it home. Umma gave it some water and the leftovers we had after dinner, and we went to sleep. Next morning, we got up early to find the parakeet still in our kitchen. We had a thorough look at her, to see that her wings had some cut. She was a green Indian ring necked parakeet, with red beaks, rose ring around her neck, red eyes and a long tail. We brought her some fruits from the garden and a cage from our neighbor. We put some grains also in the age, as we didn’t know what she ate. Someone told us that parakeets eats leafs of a certain plant, so we went in search of leaves in the near by bushes. It was a busy day, running to find out what parakeets eat! But it seemed she didn’t like anything we gave her, and she was not able to fly to search her food by herself. Something happened next day. My younger brother, not more than three years old, got angry with Umma for something, and threw his milk over the parakeet. The parakeet, already dying with hunger, now fell down in the cage. There are no veterinarians near by to take her to the doc. We tried to dry her up with a cotton cloth, but she breathed her last after some hours. We all became very sad and even my younger brother became sad. He cried a lot. He loved animal and animals loved him. I remember the goats at my uncle’s home, they jumped when they saw him or heard his sound. They ran behind him, tickled him and played with him. And when Uncle sold them, he cried so loudly that the man who bought them asked uncle to give one to Nadeem, my brother. The goat was also very reluctant to go with the man. It came backward to Nadeem several times before finally going away with its new owner. Does animals have a loving heart, bigger than humans?
We also had a pigeon come to our one day. It didn’t come, actually. We were playing outside when we saw a group of boys throwing stones at a pigeon. We called Umma. She came and got rid of the boys and took the pigeon, who was very weak, home. We fed it and gave water to it. The pigeon stayed with us for a week, and then when she was able to fly, she flew away to her destination.
There were many other birds too, who flew into our home in search of shelter, food or water. I don’t know some of their names. We had a huge tree infront of our home, and so there were many birds on it. Some nests and some small eggs. A small bird, once, made her nest in the hole in out roof. She laid two cute little eggs. We became so friendly that we would pat her head when we pass by that place. She would put her beak on our hand, as if kissing it. She wasn’t afraid of us. But one day, when there was a big storm at night, her cage fell down along with the eggs – and the eggs broke. She never came there again.

“Hey, you have got a dog in your house!”

It was my brother Nawaz. I turned around to see a dog in the kitchen garden, looking at Nawaz, with its innocent eyes. There is nothing special in having a dog in our house for many of us, but it is not the case in an orthodox Muslim family in many parts of Kerala, who considered dogs as untouchables, and have to bath 7 times if we touch one! We were at our uncle’s house, who was a Muslim scholar and the Principal of an Islamic University. So, it was unusual to find a dog in his house.

“Where did you buy it?”

“From Perinthalmanna” Aunty replied, but I understood she was just joking and they haven’t bought the dog. Uncle was not a person who spends money on anything like that, not at all on dogs!

“Is it your neighbors’?” asked Nawaz.

“No, ours. I told you” replied my cousin.

But it was difficult for us to believe it. A dog in their house? As usual, we were also taught that touching dogs was Haram, and we should bath seven times, once with mud, if we touch one. So noway people just bringing a dog home and bathing 7 times daily – suppose the dog touch you more than once? Multiples of 7 began revolving around my head.

“Ok, aunt, be serious” Nasweef, also my brother, who was quite until now, started losing his patience. “Where did you get that dog?”

“Okay, I’ll tell you.” She showed us a basin half filled with water in her kitchen garden.

“I pour a little of water in it everyday, for my hens to drink from it. But now, there are many animals that drink from it. The cats come, squirrels come, my hens, birds and sometimes some small insects. One day there was this dog drinking from that basin.”

I looked at the dog carefully. It was cream in color with some brown patches, and I don’t know to which breed it belonged to, as the only dog breeds I know is the Pomeranian (cute ones) and the Pug (the one in Vodafone advertisements!). It had a belt around it’s neck!

“Seems he is a pet dog coming from some family. What do you give him to eat?”

I inquired.

“Nothing” replied aunt, “It gets enough to eat from that butcher shop down street. All it needs is the water in the basin. One day I forgot to keep the water in the basin. It came to the kitchen door and looked at all of us for sometime, went away, came back again, put it’s tongue outside and stood there sometime. It repeated this for sometime and it was only then I remembered to pour water in the basin.”

Wow! What a good dog!

“Looks smart” said Nasweef, gazing the dog.

“It is”, my cousin approved. “When one of our chickens died, it did not allow us to bury the chicken. It carried the chicken wherever it went, kept it on the ground and barked two or three times as if to wake the chicken from a long sleep. When it slept, it kept the chick near it’s head. It sat beside the chicken for a long time, until the ants came and made it impossible for the dog to touch the chicken.”

“Well, a dog of noble birth” commented Nawaz.

“But her puppies doesn’t have her qualities” continued my cousin, “Our neighbors took her puppies as pets. But none shows her decency and nobleness.”

“Well, may be the puppies inherited from their father.”

The three of us gathered around the dog to have a closer look. Beautiful ears, commented Nawaz. Cute tail was what Nasweef noted. Well, altogether she was really beautiful. Good to keep it as a pet.

“She is very fond of Uncle. Whenever he goes out, sometimes to mosque for prayer, she follows him. He tries to get rid of her, but she follows him, waits until he finishes his prayer, and follows him back.”

Such a big gratitude for the drops of water she drinks from the basin! I think animals have more “humanity” than humans!

“But what do you do if she touches you? You have to bath 7 times!” It was Nawaz who put the matter into discussion.

“You don’t have to bath 7 times if a dog touches you” Aunty explained, “only wash the part of anything where its saliva has come into contact.”

“You mean you don’t have to bath? But that was not what we were taught.”

“Yeah, even I was taught like that. But we never try to learn what the Hadith or scholars really says. We just follow what our local Imams say. And many of them don’t know much about Islam – or they haven’t learned any. That is why Islam is always the misunderstood religion.”

That was a new knowledge to me. I liked dogs very much, especially the Pomeranian – I badly wanted one. But I didn’t want to bath 7*x times daily.

“She looks after our hens when they go out of our compound,” aunt continued, referring the dog. “At first I tried to get rid of her thinking that she will kill my hens. But she was very caring. She never eats anything from here, not even our waste, until we give it to her.”

“And she never fights with the cats or kittens here, as you see in the Tom and Jerry movies” said my cousin. “And the funniest part is he never barks at well dressed strangers, but barks when he sees people like beggars!”

Hmmm….. What to say about such a good dog?

Well, we returned from their house talking about the dog. All of us wanted to have a dog like that! I wanted a cute Pomeranian, with all the said qualities of this dog. But when we reached our home, and into the busy life of it, we forgot all about the dog, until one day when aunty called.

It was Nawaz who answered the phone.

“Hows your dog doing”, was his first question, even before the usual greetings. My mom started to scold him, asking him if that is the way to answer a phone.

“Brilliant” said aunty.

“Yesterday, it saved Neda.”

Neda was her one year old grandchild, who taking her first steps towards walking.

“Saved Neda? How?” saked Nawaz.

“In the afternoon, the dog started barking from our kitchen garden. I opened the door, and it ran inside.”

Dogs are not allowed inside our homes.

“Uncle became very angry for allowing it inside, and started scolding me. But the dog ran straight to the bathroom, while I followed. In the bathroom, I saw Neda drowning in the bathtub, which was filled with water. I took her out immediately, and went to the clinic opposite the road. Thanks to God, it seemed she has only just fallen into the tub when we saw her.”

“But how did the dog in the kitchen garden knew Neda had fallen into the tub in the bathroom? The garden and bathroom are far away!”

“Well, that is what surprises us all. No explanation for that!”

Once upon a time, there was a tree, with branches that touched the sky and spread across the forest. It had so many flowers and fruits on it, such that you can always see the birds, bees, squirrels, … on it. The tree was so loving and carinedg, that it gave it fruits to the hungry, shadow to the tired and nectar of its flowers to the thirsty. It was also very polite and humble. But the tree was always sad. Sad because he cannot walk, run, jump… or at least move a millimeter.
His sorrow increased when the little worms which passed by pitied him by saying, ”Oh! What a huge body! But it is really sad that you cannot crawl like us, the tiny one!” The tree would try hard to put a smile and reply, “You are right my friends! But God never gave me the ability to walk.”
And he would weep when he sees the fishes in the pond jump high and splash into the water. He would cry to God and ask him why he hadn’t given him the ability to jump like the fishes. His biggest sorrow came when he saw the birds. The birds, which comes for his fruits would pity him for not being able to fly. They would ask him why he sent his roots down so deep into the earth, which makes him stand still on the ground. Tears would flow down the trunk of the tree, and his answer will become inaudible due to his weeps. The years passed as the tree grew huger, longer and wider – and more still on the ground.
One fine morning, the tree was shaken from it’s thoughts by the sound of a man. It opened its eyes to find a man, so tired and weak, sit under its shade. He caring tree moved its branches above the man so that the sun’s rays did not reach him. The tree also dropped some of it fruits for the man. The man was happy, thanked the tree, ate till his hunger left him, and was in a position to talk k to the tree. Like every other creatures, he too sympathized for not being able to move.
“What a pity it is, Oh my huge tree, not being able to move around the place and see the things!”
“You are right”, said the tree, “God never gave me the ability to walk!”
“You are huge, but look at us, smaller creatures! We can fly in air and dive deep in sea! We can o even beyond the sky! What progress we have made on earth, in sky, and now reaching beyond! What revolutions we have had! Rewrote the history with big wars! Killed all people who stopped us! God gave us intelligence and made us the ones who should rule the world. “
The tree thought for sometime, then waved its branches, smiled, and replied, “I am happy that I’m a tree. I haven’t killed innocent men, weak women and little children in the name of war. I haven’t made people homeless, orphans and refugees. I haven’t thrown people away from their homes to build new industries. I feel myself proud for not being able to move.”

(Story based on the cartoon of O.N Vijayan, a talented malayalee cartoonist )