When I was still in school fighting a losing battle with my Math teachers, I had a wild green parrot for my pet. He had a nice beak and an excellent ring round its neck shaped with geometrical precision. I remember to have stolen him when he was a nestling and while his mother was on wings in search of food. How can I ever forget the tantrums my mother hurled at me on that day at the sight of the wee bird in my cupped palm! “The nestling’s mother will curse you and you will be in for trouble. Won’t I, as your mother, curse the one who kidnaps you? A mother bird’s curse is more powerful than a human mother’s. Go and put it back from where you have taken it”.
I went into the nearby woods under the pretext of putting the nestling back into its nest but soon came back home and told my mother the truth, which I rarely do, that the mother bird has already left the woods. Then I consoled her by saying that I did not want to orphan the little one and would care for him like his own mother. After many a hmm…and ha… she nodded her head in approval. I played mother to the little bird while my mother played the role of a grandma.
The nestling grew to be a fledgling and very soon began to flutter his wings and was getting ready for a first flight. “Clip his wings, if you want to keep him with you,” advised my mother. I simply refused. “How would you react to my Math teacher if he breaks my legs?” I asked and silenced my mother.
I never caged him and so he treated my huge ancestral house as his playground. At times, he would play hide and seek with me, but never ever moved out of the house for fear that a cat or a bandicoot or a hawk would snatch him away. Driving some sense into his little head, now and again, was my pastime. So the bird rarely moved to either the backyard or the front yard of the house. After my school hours, he found a constant companion in me.
He was a goody-goody boy until he started copying whatever my family members said. Neither my mother nor her mother ever told me that a parrot became a menace after the pet became extremely vocal. He became a terrific mimic and found delight in replaying all the expletives my father used on me whenever I angered him. He keenly listened to all the mathematical tables my mother taught me every evening before supper and repeated it when I was fast asleep.
Early in the morning my pet woke me up by calling me scoundrel, useless fellow, lazybones, etc…etc…and served as a sort of alarm clock for me. My father took a liking for him as the bird made his responsibility less in grooming me. He laughed to his heart’s content for the bird performed his duty by serving as his mouthpiece. Once I was out of bed, the bird started reciting the mathematical tables of his choice. Two threes are six. Five sevens are thirty-five. Ten tens are one hundred. Oh, God! Why is my memory poor when I have a head a hundred times bigger than the arecanut headed parrot?
God who at times spoke to me through my mother remained silent to my question. I began to dislike the bird. Moreover, a time came when I developed undisguised hatred towards that nosey-parker. My father usually went to bed by nine in the evening only to get up at four in the morning. But I slept up to seven in the morning regardless of the time I went to bed at night. A snore from my father was enough and I sneaked out of the house without being noticed only to join my playmates under the moon light. I played jump horse with boys and hopscotch with girls mostly older than me. When every fellow was called back home, I developed pussyfoot to enter mine. In those days who ever closed the doors or the windows of the house?
At my very sight the fool of an ass at home, the stupid bird, awaiting my arrival would screech at the top of his voice: “Thiruttu paiyan vandhuttan…thiruttru paiyan vandhuttan” meaning “A young thief entered…a young thief entered”. His voice would shake awake my snoring father. In his fury, he would make me his double-sided drum. Oh, the speaking bird was such a nuisance that I liked to do away with it. “We can neither live with them nor without them,” opined O. Henry about wives and companions. I too was in a fix. To keep the parrot at home or not to keep, became my question. Weeks later, a stray cat kidnapped the bird, perhaps, for lunch. That was the end of him. In spite of my father’s coaxing and cajoling, I refused to keep any parrot at home, and after marriage decided not to keep any bird.