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One day I was entertaining some guests when the house help waved frantically from the sidelines seeking my attention. There was someone disturbing the parakeets, trying to get at the nest in a hole in the coconut tree.

This was serious news. I immediately abandoned my guests and went out to the balcony. To my utter disgust, anger and disappointment I saw three men standing at the foot of the tree with a long stick to the end of which was tied a curved knife. They were hacking away at the hole in which was the nest and the baby birds. The parent birds were nowhere in sight, not that they could defend their babies against cruel humans wielding sticks and knives.

‘Hey!’ Shocked, I shouted at them, ‘WTF do you think you are doing?’ No, I didn’t actually say that but a more polite, ‘WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?!!!!’ They would hurt the little birds and had to stop what they were doing. In my mind I was furiously trying to figure out if there was some kind of bird rescue police whom I could contact to report this atrocity. In the meantime they coolly replied that they were trying to get the baby parakeets ‘to take home for the children’.

Meanwhile two of the men started shaking the tree violently, trying their best to make the baby birds fall out. I was now livid with rage and also sick with worry. The land in which the tree stood wasn’t mine. I did not have any authority over the men themselves who were labourers employed by the builders of the apartment block in which I stayed. Moreover I was a woman. This had to be dealt with by someone with authority.

I summoned the L&M. The guests would have to fend for themselves for a while. When apprised of events, the L&M ticked the men off, told them to leave the birds alone. As someone connected with their employers, not to mention the fact that he held the post of secretary of the association, the men reluctantly acquiesced, gave up their efforts and walked away. I heaved a sigh of relief. My baby birds were safe. The smile was back on my face and also the house help’s. The L&M went back to the guests and I followed suit. Little did I know then that my relief at a job well done was premature.

When the next morning dawned bright and clear, I was at the balcony, ready to greet the birds. What I found staring me in the face was a huge gash on the coconut tree where there had been just a small and perfect round hole. Apparently someone had hacked away at the tree in the dead of the night. Of what happened to the baby birds I have no clue. Had the men captured them alive and put them in a cage for their children? Would the birds even survive the ordeal, young as they were? Had the birds fallen down and died in the attempts to get at them? I have no idea.

In the next few days, the worried and bewildered parent birds could be seen flying to the nest every now and then and searching for their missing offspring. It broke my heart to see them crawl inside and search high and low as if the missing baby birds would emerge from the tree trunk itself. They could be seen looking up and then down at the foot of the tree. My heart grieved for them. Poor birds, what did they know of the cruelty of humans.

The earlier posts about them: New Neighbors and Lights, Camera, Action

© Shail Mohan 2022