Sunday, 5 May 2013

A pound of flesh

16 Jan 2013

A pound of flesh? I have an inkling of how birds take theirs.

In the first year of my Masters at Mumbai University, I was living at Pandita Ramabai Hostel, Gamdevi. I spent most of my time with my friend Mala, who at that time was a BSc (third year) student. We’d been best friends for three years. Apart from our friendship, we also shared a toilet.

Our hostel was built in the 1930s and had rooms with stone balconies, built around a central courtyard, so that you could feel the rain and sun and not have to suffer a voyeur's stare.

On the second floor, the two three-seaters had attached bathrooms that also had doors opening into communal passages, allowing others to use them as well.

One day Mala and I were horsing about in her room, as her roommates, Jayasree and Susan, weren’t around. We spotted a sparrow’s nest, with a couple of sparrows flying about the balcony. After a while, we started running after them, jumping and trying to touch the nest. We did this for a while and got bored, probably going to the mess after that. Food was always on our minds.

After a few months Mala and I weren’t quite friends any more. I suffered a series of setbacks, in terms of friendships, university, etc.

Sometimes I found the toilet we shared locked, intentional or unintentional.

Sometimes I felt something fall on me, while I was having a bath.

Sometimes I heard little pinging noises.

One day something hit me. I wouldn’t have noticed, but for the sharp sting. I looked up and saw two sparrows flying about the high ceiling. The birds had managed to enter through a gap leading in through Mala’s balcony and into the common/attached bathroom.

Nothing quite made sense until I heard, and saw, the tiny bit of concrete hit the bathroom sink and bounce out. And I realized the birds were throwing little stones at me. And they’d been doing it for a number of days.

I’m not sure how the pebble-throwing stopped, but after that I’d enter the loo very carefully, look about and then have a bath.

Mala has no recollection of the bird-chasing or of having been hit. But she has had a good laugh imagining it all.

What is this if it isn’t a pound of flesh, eh? I’m a firm believer in animals (read birds) remembering (and acting on their) grudges. 

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