If I stretch my hand through the window, I can get the eggs of the bulbul which’s nested on terminal branch of a mango tree. But I prefer to watch it from the distance because I don’t want the bird to sense human touch on her eggs and abandon the tree.

Every summer, on the tree, birds come to nest. Last time it was a wild pigeon with light grey plumes that perfectly blended with the branches that often father and I won’t get the position immediately where the bird lived. It successfully raised its two chicks and left. This time, the red-vented bulbul had made the tree its home. Father has account of how the nest was built.

From the collection of twigs and dry leaves, father anticipated the coming of the birds. For few days, he saw the couple carry the materials between their beaks. By the birds haunting the tree, father deduced it’s going to be on the same spot again. And one day – as expected – on the mango tree, he saw the fine craft of the two hardworking couple – the nest. Neatly woven into a circular cup-shaped basket. Warm and cosy. It’s a mascot, father considers.

Afterwards, the object of the nest was laid: there are two eggs. Then onwards, the female bulbul never left the nest and the male held the responsibility of feeding her.

All the time, she’s present on her nest. At moonlit nights, I could see her stirring and making a low muffled noise as a warm cat purring by fireside. Perhaps, it’s lullaby she’s singing to her unborn.

The rain showered heavily one morning and it’s then she displayed her undisputed motherly trait. Her partly spread wings roofed the nest and the propped in head fitted properly to avoid the rainwater inside. Though the lashing wind buffeted the tree, threatening the stability of the nest, the mother bird didn’t give up on her eggs. Boldly determined, she continued incubating.

Her position is still same even in oppressive sunny days: flat upon her eggs.

The sight of untamed, wild bird just a metre nearby is so tempting that I often stretch my hand, trying to grab her but a bitter lesson forbids me: I was too young to understand the sacredness of birds nesting in our neighbourhood, then. I was in my early teens – too ruffian a kid. There was a sparrow nesting high on an orange tree. On pretence of plucking fruit, I climbed the tree. I reached the nest to find two fragile sparrow chicks opening their hungry beaks. Their eyes were hardly opened, and could have been only a couple days or a week old, perhaps. I was fondling the two when my angry father shouted at me to climb down that instant. Hardly had I reached down when he pulled my ears very hard that I feared he may pluck it off. I was scolded that I needed to be disciplined. He was damn angry I explored the tree despite his forbidding.

That afternoon, there was an unsettling cacophony of disturbed and agitated birds outside. I went out only to witness the consequence of my disobedience: flocks of sparrow were circling round the tree, chirping incessantly. Looking up, I found a frightening patterned, black snake, coiled round the nest. However, the defensive noise chased it away. Though the snake left, the birds still kept on making the protective call for some time. Unfortunately, the vicious reptile had done away with its fragile prey. The adults couldn’t save their young ones. I – as a failed guardian – felt ashamed and sorry. I regret my fault.

But I am not going to commit the mistake again. This time, I’ll be more cautious, careful and protective towards the birds, nesting near my house, seeking security against their natural enemies. I’ll see to the flying of two new bulbuls from the nest. This way, I’ll settle the score and pay my old debt.

My father comes to the window and satisfied with the incubating bird, says, “Last time the madam pigeon left without even thanking me. But I’ll make sure this bulbul pays the rent before it flies away.” He laughs at his own humour.

Outside, in the vicinity of the nest, mangoes were on the verge of ripening, promising a good harvest. 

From My Writing Portfolio

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