September 23, 2008

Where have all the people gone?

I open my eyes and find myself surrounded

With only the squirrels and doves in the garden.

I open my mouth for a refreshing yawn,

But it ends in a cry of despair.

I search for my shadow 

But the sun has locked it up.

In  my dream, my room was filled,

Filled with friends, family and relatives.

But I’m alone, so alone now.

I wish I could sleep again…


My grandmother-in-law passed away this morning. May Allah rest her soul in peace, forgive her her mistakes and gather us all in His paradise.



July 22, 2008

“That egg is mine!” Shouted Nida.
“The egg with the black spot is mine!” Shouted Huda from the bathroom.
Nida and Huda were my twin cousins, in eigth standard. They were fighting over the eggs in the nest of the little birdy, who have come to stay with us two weeks ago. Nida and Huda had come only last Saturday. I went to the kitchen, and looked at the whole on the roof. There was two tiny eggs, but both were alike.
“Which is the egg with black spot, Umma?” I asked my mother.
“Look closely and you will notice one. Not a black spot. But a gray one. Thats how they differentiate between the eggs.” Umma replied and pointed to one egg. I peeped closer to see a light grey spot on the egg. You would need a microscope to notice it! How did they notice it?
“They had never left the nest after they came here.” Umma said, as if she understood my thoughts. “They have already spotted some six or seven differences between the eggs.” She laughed.
Nida and Huda had come to stay with us for their ten days Onam vacation. Onam is a festival of the people in Kerala. It comes after our first term exams and so its a time to enjoy. Nida and Huda came to our home to enjoy their vacation with fishing and swimming. They don’t have a river near their house, and water is scarce there. So usually my cousins from my Umma’s side come to stay with us for a good one hour bath, and the fun with the river. But this time it seems they haven’t gone out to the river. The birdy and its eggs have kept them inside the home.
Huda came running in to see her egg.
“Oh, Aunty!” She shouted, “The eggs have gone a little bit!”
Umma smiled at her, and gave her a cup of coffee.
“You say that everyday, and I don’t find any difference in it!” Umma said.
“That’s because you are not exited about the eggs as them.” I replied.

* * *
The birdy came there some two weeks ago. One morning when I came to the kitchen, it was sitting there. I tried to shoo it away, but Umma stopped me.
“The bird also have got its right on the earth.” She said.
Oh, yeh. I thought. The birds, cats, squirrels, dogs, lizards, ants, cockroaches, bees, flies, bats, rats, mosquitoes, snakes and everything have got their right to live on this earth. Who are we to get rid of them when we are the real intruders? We have cut their forests and pushed them out of their dwellings. So they have come to live in our dwellings. These are not my thoughts. I’ve read it in the book of the great malayalam author Vaikom Muhammed Basheer, in his short story, Inheritors of the Earth. Umma and Baba ( dad) believes in his philosophy – every animal has got a right to live where ever it likes. I also liked that philosophy, until I saw a snake in the garden. Now I have excluded some animals from the big list of Mr. Bahseer ( sorry sir, but I cannot live with a snake in my garden) – first of all, the snakes, then the scorpions, the centipedes, the big black ants and such insects and animals that are harmful. There was a rat in the house. Every night it will come to eat the food in the dustbin. Once inside it, it cannot get out. Every morning Umma will take it outside to throw it away in the bushes, but it returns to the dustbin at night. I have seen this cycle going on for at least two weeks. Umma won’t kill the rat, nor the rat will go away. It seems they have become good friends, now the rat waits for Umma in the morning, to take it out. It isn’t afraid of Umma anymore.
Well, coming to the birdy, it has found a nice little hole on our roof. I was not able to put it in a specific species or class, so i just named her birdy. I didn’t even know the gender of the bird, but the feminist in me regarded it as a ‘her’. But later it came out to be a female (feminism wins!). Sometimes when we sit for breakfast or lunch, we could see small the birdy coming with small pieces of twigs, wires, clothes, cotton, leaves and paperbits. Within days, a small and cute nest came into sight.
“I think we are going to have a new family here.” Umma said.
“But Nida and Huda are coming here next week.” I replied. “Will they disturb the bird?”
“Well, we can teach them to take care of the birds.” Umma suggested. “They will have a fun filled vacation.”
We watched the bird. Everyday at sunrise, it goes out. May be, in search of food. By noon it arrives and takes some rest. In the evening it goes out again to return at dusk. The bird became a member of our family, and we became members of her family. She won’t fly away when we go near her. We would pat her head, take her in our arms and feed her with some of the leftovers. She never flew away. She would put her beaks on our hands, as if kissing it.
One evening when I came from college, I saw her sitting in the nest.
“Why haven’t you gone out in search of food?” I asked her.
I felt she had a happy look in her eyes. I went nearer to her nest, to see a part of two tiny little eggs. “Wow!” I cried to her. “So, you have become a mother of twins!”
“Congrats, birdy!” I said to her. Now she had a thank-you look in her eyes ( or is it my imagination?).
Next day morning my cousins arrived. They were very excited when they saw the bird and the eggs. Umma asked them to be careful, and never allowed them to touch the eggs. They could watch the eggs, and softly touch the bird. That was more than enough for them.

* * *
“Aunty, when will the eggs hatch?” asked Nida for the hundredth time.
“I don’t know honey.” Replied Umma, also, for the hundredth time.
They want to see the chicks before the vacation ends. But, there are only two or three days left for the vacation to end! I could have searched the Google or anything like that if I had known the species. But without any specific word to search, how can I search for ‘How many days will it take for birdy’s egg to hatch?’ If the Google search engine was a living creature with hands, it would have slapped me!
Days flew by and it was the evening before Nida and Huda left. They were playing outside when it started to rain. Umma called them inside, because they had to go to school within two days, and fever was the first thing she didn’t want them to have. She poured them some hot milk to keep away the cold. I made myself some hot coffee to keep away the cold. We saw the birdy squeezing herself into the nest to keep her eggs warm.
“Aunty, can we give her a blanket?” Asked Huda.
“God have provided them a blanket, sweety.” Umma replied. “Her feathers are her blanket. It keeps her warm.”
“We won’t be able to see the chicks.” Sighed Nida.
“Don’t worry. May be they won’t leave us at all. When you come here in December for your Christmas, they will be flying around. You can play with that time.” Umma consoled her.
But it didn’t comfort her.She wanted to see the tiny chicks, the process of hatching and their first flying lessons.
The evening became more rainy, and at night, when we were in bed, we could here the storm blowing the trees. It was a scary night, with the rain and storm, and I was grateful when I finally fell asleep. Morning was calm, and the sun looked at the earth to see the damage the storm had brought. I got up and walked into the kitchen. It was a pathetic sight.
The eggs lay cracked on the floor, with the nest. Birdy was flying in circles around the broken eggs. I called Umma, to show her the scene. She asked me to clean the place quickly before Nida and Huda arrived, or they will be very upset at the sight. I cleaned it, with bird flying over my head, and threw the broken eggs into the garden, with a heavy heart.
When Nida and Huda arrived, they enquired about the nest. Umma replied that birdy must have changed her home, as the cats usually do with their kittens. They had to be satisfied with the answer.
The bird flew away when I threw the broken eggs out. It never returned.
We love you, Birdy, and we are sorry for you.

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!”