Lessons from a pigeon


You get to learn life’s most important lessons in the most unlikely of places. I did not imagine I would find one in my balcony.

Pigeons – I have never had a great relationship with them because they always messed with the few plants that managed to survive our humid balcony. A few years back, a couple of them managed to build a nest atop the A/C outdoor unit. When there was a water leak in the room, the mechanics told us it was due to a hole in the duct, thanks to the ever-gurgling pigeons. Sometime later, when we had to replace the A/C, moving the new outdoor unit to the terrace was the only safe option. Its pipe had to go through the balcony railing, and so a part of the shutter was open always. One particular pigeon pair made good use of this opening to build their nest in one of the potted plants. Thankful for even the smallest sapling that ever sprouted in our humid balcony, I was at my agnostic best whenever I spotted them on the railing. No matter what, they kept coming back through the small space and trampled all my plants.

Days went by without any respite. And then, one day, I found an egg in one of the recently bought jasmine pot. A pair of pigeons sat on the railing waiting for me to go away, so they can hop in and warm the egg. Not again – was my reaction. This time, I acted as if it was a real war. I would be on the lookout for even the faintest gurgling sound and rush to shoo them away. They would flutter and create a total ruckus – bringing down, at least, one weak branch down, every time.

One day, I secretly noticed the way they behaved when I was not around. While one of them stayed on the railing to watch over the egg, the other, the mom I presume, kept it warm and cozy. They did not mess with my plants – much to my disbelief. They stayed calm – no gurgling, just the silence of the sunny balcony to keep them company. It hit me so hard that day – I realized, it was me, who was making all the fuss.

With a change of heart, I approached them the next day. The mom sensed my calmness, or so I liked to assume. She simply gave me a timid gurgle as a sign of acceptance. It has been a month since then – we are good friends now; she never gets perturbed seeing me, neither do I. I check her out when I go to dry the clothes. She smartly hops on to the railing until I finish watering the pots.

She’s the most silent mom I’ve ever seen. She takes off to the opposite compound to ruffle her feathers and doesn’t mess my balcony with her droppings. A few weeks later, I found another egg. And, what a delight it was to see a new life waiting to come into the world in the comfort of our small balcony. Another few weeks down the line, the eggs cracked and two little pigeons came out. I can’t say they looked beautiful, but the way she cared for them, it warmed my heart so much.

The baby pigeons turned out exactly like human babies. While the mom was neat and tidy all through her nesting period, the babies messed up the whole place again. The plant was suffering and the place was smelly with their droppings. She didn’t seem to mind, though. She covered them during the crow visits and keenly watched over them – all the while.

Two weeks down the line, I was surprised to find her missing in action most of the time – to get them food, I assumed. She was not around when the crow flew in, or when the babies were trying to stand up by themselves. I was angry with her – how could she leave her two-week-old young ones to fend themselves?

Occasionally, I found her in the opposite balcony trying to avoid my angry glare. I brought it upon myself to shoo the crows and check the babies out, every hour. Each time I went near them to place some grains or a bowl of water, they moved away from me. When I heard the familiar gurgle in the balcony, I was at peace to know that she was back to look after them. The babies, for their part, were making good progress. In two weeks, they moved from being tiny, hairy creatures, to well shaped, independent beauties.

It only took another two weeks for the babies to look like adult pigeons, except that their feet were not completely pink, yet. They slowly started to move – I soon found them both outside the pot, exploring my balcony. One of them slowly started hoping on to the railing, attempting to fly. On a sunny Friday morning, one baby went missing. Panic struck, I wondered if it fell from our second-floor balcony. I could not spot the little one anywhere around, and the one left behind was now trying to flutter its wings.

Seeing me in tears, when the first baby pigeon went missing, my younger son consoled me saying, “They grow faster than us, Ma. And, they would learn to fly by themselves. ”

How true, is all I managed to reply.

As I write this, I know that the next kiddo will fly away soon. And, that’s exactly why I’m winding up at this juncture. I don’t want to wait for the eventuality to happen and then stop making notes. I close it with hope. I hope they become like their mother – she taught me the value of patience, persistence, and more importantly, that life can be nurtured, no matter what – all you need is a little love.


About the author: Deepa Kalyan is mom to a tween and a teen and this is her maiden attempt at writing. After all these years, she has just found the time to pursue two of her long-time passions – veena and gardening.


Of bulbuls, sparrows and living in the moment


A few weeks ago, a red-vented bulbul started building a nest in the space between the tube-light and the wall in my classroom. To me, it was new; to the kids, it was the usual. They had seen enough of it in the wilderness that was our campus. We were all fixated though, by the intricate detailing of the bulbul, her carefully choreographed architecture of the nest, her to and fro trips, each time bringing something that secured it. Finally, it was all done, and it was the prettiest, most exquisite piece of craftsmanship I had ever seen. Although I couldn’t help wondering why any bird would choose to build its nest indoors when there were so many trees available on campus.

Soon after, she laid her eggs, and sat pretty on it, taking in the world around her and watching with faint amusement the goings on of Mr &Mrs Sparrow who were trying to build a nest of their own in the groove of the other tube-light.

The sparrows appeared to spend a lot of time fighting and arguing and not much got done, and most of their nest was on the floor and they just weren’t able to get it together. I kept musing on my theories on collaborative parenting and how true it is even in the animal kingdom – this whole agreeing to disagree business. Evidently, the sparrows lacked the skill and planning and aesthetic sense of the red-vented bulbul.

Meanwhile, one the bulbul’s eggs landed on the floor and crashed, and we all cried a little. She continued to sit in her nest, stoically for the next few hours and we thought she was incubating her other eggs. The next day, when I walked into class, the bulbul was nowhere in sight, but Mr&Mrs Sparrow had moved into her nest, and were now collaborating on how to extend it.

I had a few questions: Would this qualify as breaking and entering? There was no evidence of any other broken eggs, so the bulbul couldn’t have abandoned her nest. Did the sparrows break her eggs in the nest and cover the evidence? Was it possible that the bulbul left out of grief? Was it possible that she laid just one egg?

I was overcome by sadness, just thinking of what the bulbul must be going through. Was she grieving her unborn baby? Did she seek comfort in her nest and now felt betrayed? Were the sparrows right in moving into her home without as much as granting her a mourning period? Where was her partner when she needed him the most?

The children looked at me as they would at adults who tend to complicate the simplest things with their convoluted logic and questioning.

In the meantime, the sparrows were adding their own flourishes to the nest, rags and twigs from here and there, a wire, a piece of feather. And they had actually extended the neat, compact little nest built by the bulbul into a three-bedroom mansion of sorts. It was shabby, but huge, like those monstrosities in big cities.

The children had forgotten all about the bulbul and were now focusing on the sparrows and applauding them every time they managed to get anything into the nest without dropping it on the floor. The sparrows were also extremely sociable and talked back to the kids every time they talked to them, unlike the bulbul who was aloof and anti-social for the most part.

Why am I telling you all this? Because lost in the escapades of the bulbul and the sparrow, I realised something important. That living in the past is our greatest undoing as adults. We are never able to appreciate things for what they are because we never pay attention to living well in this moment. Children are able to do that. And each time they do that, they are able to make the next moment a little better, a little easier to bear. Soon they have strung together a whole big awesome life of little sweet moments.

As adults, we seldom do that. Instead we make five-year plans, and I have done my share of those. We have long and short term goals and there is no time to savour the moment we have now. I think one of the greatest things to learn and experience from children is the ability to live in the moment. We are so busy extrapolating the present into the future or the past that we are so often not here. Children are always in the here and now.

I finally know that the only way to complete anything five years out is to make sure that I’m making the most of this moment right now. Perhaps the sparrows will hatch their eggs and have babies and will live happily ever after. Perhaps they won’t. The important thing is, they are in the now. I will now go back and cheer those sparrows.


(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 6th October 2014)