A story of me as child and an unusual pet I had
|When I was around 6 years old, my dad was posted to Delhi, and for more than a year we lived in a huge bungalow with a big flowery garden. There was also a shady and green storybook-like backyard where I played pretend games with my dog, who was often resignedly dressed as a baby or a visiting friend to my imaginary house. There were few kids around that area, and most of them were older than me, the girls reluctant about letting me join their mysterious “big girl” games, the boys preferring ball games. But I had plenty of friends at my cozy, friendly primary school, and I seldom felt the lack of playmates. A single child, I was used to enjoying my own company, and the few occasions when children of my Mom’s friends or Dad’s colleagues came to play at my house were a rare treat.|
One sunny Sunday, while I was pottering around in drying flower beds looking for earthworms, I came across an injured baby eagle lying in a ditch, carrying a wing at an odd angle, obviously very young in spite of it being the size of a medium sized crow. I tried approaching it cautiously, wanting to help, afraid and fascinated at the same time, but it stared at me suspiciously and screeched loudly every time I came too close. My mother came to the rescue, and we managed to carry it into our house cuddled in a curtain and not too frightened. In the next few days, he became a regular fixture in my home. We kept him in a large wooden trunk, and a portion of my dog’s meat was allotted to him. My mother used to feed him small well boiled pieces of meat bit by bit, but she had to be very careful; his beak was already sharp enough to slice a hand. I used to watch and coo to him for hours, sitting closer and closer everyday ‘til he let me sit on the side of the chair, where he would perch sometimes, and tentatively touch him with a single finger.
I would be there early in the morning at his side, staring at him hopping around restlessly, ‘til my mother would drag me off to school. I would forget about him all day, as children do, busy with lessons and games. But the moment I was home I would run to his trunk and touch his smooth supple feathers. I loved watching my mother feed him. She would let me give him a piece sometimes, which I anxiously placed near him, too scared to let him take it from my hand like my mother did. My dog tolerated his presence in the house quite graciously, and the eagle soon accepted her as a friend, letting her sniff his feathers and lie close by. He grew at an alarming rate and in a month had the wing span of my arm. Though his wing seemed fine a few weeks after we got him home, he made no attempts to fly, content to be hopping around on chairs and tables and silently watching the road visible from our home for seldom passing vehicles.
My dad eventually took up the responsibility of teaching him to fly, a formidable task for any human, considering we don’t know the basics. It seemed to mostly consist of getting him to perch on my dad’s arm , after which my dad would run around the garden waving him wildly around, while he flapped frantically, trying to keep a hold on for dear life. The sight used to amuse me, and my part in the exercise generally used to comprise of hanging around in the side of the garden, giggling weakly. My dad, his hand and arm wrapped with old newspapers and many layers of cloth to protect himself from the bird’s claws, would sometimes get him uncomfortable enough to flap a feet onto the ground. But it was never more than a few meters, and he came back home as usual to his warm and comfy trunk. My mother told me he was wild and would eventually fly away… that’s how he would be happiest. But I hoped he would stay forever.
Eventually came the day I came back from school and found the trunk empty. My mother said he had been perching on the handle of my mother’s old Luna, a recent favorite hangout of his, when he suddenly took flight and soared high into the air, something he couldn’t remotely do before. My mother, who saw the entire scene through the window, rushed out in time to see him glide smoothly back onto the handle. He took a few minutes break to cock his head impishly at my mother, before sweeping off once more to the sky. He glided in a circle around the house a couple of times, perched for a few minutes at the front gate, and flew away. He never came back again.
We didn’t miss him much…. he wasn’t like a dog or a cat that we could cuddle and pet and play games with. But he left an impression on me and to this day I remember him clearly, like he was around ‘til yesterday. But I can’t remember why we never named him. I used to come up with a different name every day (they used to get increasingly corny), but nothing ever stuck. I guess its better that way.