Friday, March 25, 2011

Snowy and the Humming Bird [The story was first published in 2004, Sorry, if you have to read this again.]

Sanjay Mathur

It takes some time before one settles in a new house and starts calling it their home. When we bought our first home in California, initially it did not feel like home. The walls were empty. The furniture looked odd, and above all, the backyard looked empty. It was evident, the previous owner ignored the backyard altogether. All it had was a neglected violet-flower shrub and some weeds.

The move to our new home also affected our cat, Snowy. He got confused and angry leaving his earlier abode, where he was very much at-home. There were tears in his eyes when he first sniffed the backyard. The expression of his face clearly said, “You call this empty space a backyard? What right do you have to uproot me from my lively home and put me in this junkyard?” I couldn’t have impressed upon him the importance of owning something in a nice neighborhood as compared to renting a decent place. This little tip from the real-estate world was incomprehensive to him.

I cannot blame him- the poor soul! He was trying his level best to adjust, though it was hard for him. I cannot forget the scene when he dug the soil of the new backyard for the first time. Either the soil was different, or he smelled some other pat’s remainders. All of a sudden, he jumped few feet backward, bent his back in the smallest possible arch, with his tail swelling twice every two seconds. Soon, he ran inside the house, and disappeared somewhere upstairs for a long time.

In a nutshell, the situation was sad. While we were under pressure with our new mortgage payments, moving and other expenses, our cat had lost all confidence in our ability to select the right backyard. On top of it, my backyard was barren. There was only one saving grace. Our kitchen had a very beautiful window with a view extender. You know the type of window that projects outside and provides perfect visibility to all sides. We could view most of our backyard from the kitchen window.

We were unpacking in the kitchen, when my wife looked out of the window and sighed, “Snowy does not seem to be happy here. He is running up and down the stairs as if he has seen a ghost!” I looked out, and I started visualizing how our backyard might look like in the future. I told my wife in a wishful thinking manner, “Dear! One day, this yard is going to be so pretty that not only us but even Snowy would be proud of it. We will plant a Lemon Tree in that corner, a shrub of red flowers there, and vegetables on the other side etc. etc.” She smiled and her eyes became dreamy. Both of us were looking out of the windows as if watching our new backyard. She said, “Yes! One day our backyard will be so pretty that your favorite humming bird will visit us.”

Here, I should tell you about the humming-bird story. In my country of origin, we do not have humming bird as a common bird. I saw it for the first time when we visited Singapore and went to Jurong Bird Park. This remarkable bird instantly and its ability to flip wings so fast, almost like a large insect impressed me quite a bit. We were newly married and had a lot of dreams. Almost hypnotized, we sat down on a stone and watched the bird flying and humming for a long time.

Eventually, the reality of life took priority over dreaming. Days became months and months turned in to years. We lived in different parts of Asia, in the outback and a busy suburb of Australia, and finally migrated to California.

You guessed it right! We met our good old humming-bird once again in California. This time, we found it in its own natural habitat. Both my wife and I were fascinated by the presence of this small bird in our very own neighborhood. It reminded us our good time in Singapore. Somehow, we had a deep association of the tranquility and peace with this little bird.

So, it was a very appropriate that my wife reminded me of the possibility of my humming bird visiting our backyard one day. I was sub-consciously looking for a reward for doing all the potential hard-work in my backyard.

Well, as the days passed, we started working on the backyard painstakingly. Between the work, children and cat, neither my wife nor I had very-much time. Yet, whatever time we could devote made a slow but consistent improvement in the backyard. We planted the lemon tree as planned. After a while, it started growing bigger and wider. We were eventually successful in preparing flowerbeds and a patch for a few perennial plants.

When Snowy started feeling at-home, he stopped digging the fresh plantation. Things started falling in to the right places. The daisies, sunflowers and marigold bloomed and so did the vegetables. Our backyard took some shape and a character.

It was a perfect Sunday after-noon. We were relaxed and resting at-home. I was looking through the kitchen window. Snowy was resting under the violet-shrub peacefully. The garden was looking good. I remembered the humming bird. My wife read my mind. While preparing my favorite English tea, she asked me, “Looking for your humming bird?”


“Do not worry dear, we will buy a bird-feeder and attract the humming bird.”

“No”, I said, “Don’t buy the bird-feeder. Let it come to our backyard all by itself. We’ll wait.” She smiled and said nothing.

Few days later, it happened. I was getting my cereal from the kitchen-shelf, when I first noticed it. Indeed, there was a beautiful humming-bird hovering over my fence. The morning dew was shining on the wings of the cute little humming bird. I stood there motionless for a few seconds looking through the window, watching at the hovering beauty. It was a moment of fulfillment for me. I was thanking God for recognizing and blessing our hard work. Just then, I realized my wife had joined me in admiring the new phenomenon in our backyard. Neither one of us spoke and just kept looking outside, admiring the little bird in silence. Our treat did not last for a long time, as the bird decided to hover off our property and go elsewhere. Its short stay was good enough to cheer us up for a long time to come.

As the days passed, Humming Bird’s visit became a regular affair. We started waiting for the humming bird’s visit at the breakfast time. Most of the days, it obliged us by appearing out of the blue, hovering over the flowers, sampling the nectar, and generally blessing our garden. While this was happening, another phenomenon was taking place. Following our line of vision and his animal instincts, it slowly dawned on Snowy that we are not paying him the same attention as before. My wife also confirmed my doubts by saying, “Snowy is not eating well.” I tried to talk Snowy in to eating his favorite food, but he ignored me and sat under his favorite violet-flower shrub.

I was reading my morning newspaper, when outside of the window; from the corner of eye, I saw something moving swiftly in the air. Following that I saw Snowy landing on the patio with a thud! I came out and saw the inevitable. The humming bird was lying in front of Snowy and Snowy was sniffing it. I was motionless for an instance then I leapt towards the bird. Snowy saw me coming towards him. In a quick reflex-action, he picked up the bird in his mouth and jumped behind the shrub. This happened in a very short time. I do not remember clearly what happened next. I must have been shouting and cursing Snowy at the top of my voice, when my wife must have came rushing towards me in the backyard.

“What happened, dear?” My wife asked me. I was still shouting with a horse voice, “Snowy, come back here at-once.” She realized what might have happened. She held my hand and dragged me inside the house. My face turned red and I was panting heavily, trying to get to Snowy. I shouted, “Snowy is killing the humming bird!” … “What should we do?”

“Nothing”, she said.

“Nothing…what do you mean?” I snapped her in with a quivering voice.

“Yes! Do nothing. I know how you love the Humming Bird. You love Snowy, too, right? Snowy is a hunter by nature. He hunts birds. All of us have our own nature. We are a part of Mother Nature. This is the way Mother Nature has worked for Millions of years. She said in soft yet determined voice, “It is OK! The bird is gone. We cannot bring it back. Let us go inside.”

I came in and sat down on my sofa with a heavy heart. I realized my wife was probably right. But, how can Mother Nature be so cruel? My dream was shattered by my very own pet. Slowly, my anger turned in to remorse. I covered my face with my hands and pressed hard.

While I was going through the changing emotions, with a confident gait, Snowy came inside the house. He jumped on the sofa, and came to me purring, hoping I’ll pat him, and reward him for his bravery. I took my hands off my face and looked at him. He looked so cute, happy and satisfied. My wife nudged me softly towards him. I sighed and leaned towards Snowy and picked him in my lap. Looking at him, I asked him helplessly, “Do you know what you have done?” Without understanding a single word of what I said, Snowy purred heavily, and closed his eyes. My wife wiped the corner of her eye and said, “Whatever cannot be cured, must be endured.” She joined me in patting Snowy. We sat there for a long time without saying a word. Snowy slept in my lap happily.

Well, Mother Nature won again!

1 comment:

Kamaksha Mathur said...

Great writing as usual. So true about the 'nature' and so emotional...... really enjoyed reading it.