I was so deep in the novel I was reading (Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair), that at first I did not pay much attention to the sound, persistent, insistent and loud though it was. True, the sound resembled that made by a bird. In normal circumstances that should have been enough to snap my head up from whatever I was doing and give the surroundings the once over. But when you are seated in the waiting area of a railway station, forced to hear various ringtones from cell phones, you assume it is just another of those ringtones and so ignore it. Why, I myself have a bird-cheep as my message-alert tone which has fooled many people and also my own self in the initial days. Anyways, on hearing the sound, I remember wondering why the hell the person whose phone it was wouldn’t pick up the call, why the caller was calling repeatedly and also why the person needed to set the volume of his ringtone so high, enough to wake the dead.
The repeated tones finally got my attention, enough to make me look up from my Kindle. There it was once again, loud and clear, and pretty close too. To my surprise I saw a sparrow sitting about three feet away from my feet and lustily chirping for all it was worth. Translated to human-speak it seemed something like this: Hey Lady! Hey Lady! I am talking to you. Yes, YOU the one with her nose in the book. You, the one they call Shutterbug Lady, right?! Look at meeee! I am here right next to your feet!
As I stared open-mouthed, the sparrow suddenly rose and flew over my head to the lone shop selling chips, biscuits and the like. Once there it started pecking at crumbs on the floor in front. By then it seemed to have forgotten me. Within seconds it had hopped over to the dustbin and went all around it searching for crumbs. That’s when I came out of my fascinated stupor and pulled out the camera from my bag.
Click click click.
The bird jumped this and that way, picking up tiny bits of food off the cement floor, all the while cheeping loudly, as if talking to me. Something seemed odd, different from the usual in the way it moved. It could not be, could it? I wondered, trying to take a closer look when I heard someone sitting behind me remark, “OMG, it has only one leg!” Yes, that’s what had seemed different. But the sparrow did not seem too bothered about being one-legged. It merrily hopped around, all the while ‘talking’.
When it came closer I managed to take an 8 second video before it had had enough of the *paparazzi* and flew away. Or may be it remembered another appointment. I didn’t feel like going back to my novel after this encounter. I couldn’t get over how the bird had literally walked up to me and asked to be noticed. Glancing at the time I realized there was only half an hour left for my train to arrive. I better start for the platform. I put my camera back in, also the Kindle, and my reading glasses, zipped my bag shut, hoisted it on to my shoulders and stepped inside the railway station.
I heard them as I neared the steps to the bridge over the railway lines. There was a small tree next to the boundary fence. About half a dozen sparrows were flitting around. The two on the branch of the tree were jumping around animatedly, the one on the corner ledge of the building that stood next to the tree was sitting still and surveying proceedings, and the rest of them were on the fence. Among them was my one-legged sparrow. It seemed to me he was showing off his family and friends.
I stopped, and stood smiling, watching them flit to and fro, chirping all the while. Will you write about us, Lady? Tell the world a few of us survive here. It amazed me that they didn’t seem afraid of me standing so close. That actually made me smile more. Curious eyes were watching the lone lady standing and grinning at….. what? At first look, apparently nothing. Then they probably noticed the sparrows and a few eyebrows rose surreptitiously. The lady was not bothered, but of course. Then, just as suddenly, the sparrows rose as one into the air and disappeared from sight. As for me, I walked away to catch my train. And here I am writing about them just as they had wanted.