The Mayans were wrong. The world had not ended after all and the happy new year was peeping in all its false glory. But, my world had certainly reached a dead end and good thing was I didn’t know it then. Struck by a back injury, I could barely sit or stand, let alone shoo away that pair of pigeons whose 2013 resolution was to spend some ‘cozy’ time in our kitchen attic.
If any of you ever happen to be in my city and walk past a bus depot near Kothrud, don’t forget to ask for the smelly house. You will be led to our apartment unfailingly. That’s how bad the scene was back then.
The mister was already juggling with cleaning, cooking, laundry, and keeping a check on me all round the clock, lest I make superheroic stunts like jump on a trampoline or something. The doctor had advised for a complete bed rest, but I managed to keep my ears open. My hunch was right – we were going to be invaded soon and how!
One day sometime on a cold February afternoon, we heard the flapping of many wings and were quite taken aback to find two dusky grey pigeons making themselves at home, in our kitchen attic. The mister tried shooing them away but his pleas fell on deaf ears. These two smart fellows had also built a nice little nest complete with dried twigs and a chocolate brown rope. At once I realised the handles of my designer paper bag were not really stolen after all. What a relief!
These guys had long been following a modus operandi of sorts. They had been sneaking in twigs one at a time, when it was ‘all-clear’ in our kitchen – the long interval between breakfast and lunch and the few hours before tea time. The braver of the two made his/her way in through the window and stayed vigilant for some time. With a bunch of little twigs in his/her beak, he/she ensured we were where they wanted us to be, and nodded to the other one waiting at the window sill.
This guy would set the twig and fly out while the other got in and set his/her twig. The twigs that fell off their beaks and onto our floor was promptly picked up and set in place. Their operations were so smooth, little did we get an inkling of what’s happening in our kitchen. In this way, perhaps a thousand tos and fros later, their nest had been built on the sly, while I was sleeping…quite literally!
But, I swear I did hear some sounds, some very low frequency squeaks like pigeon whispers or something. But then I imagined these sounds as part of my wild imagination and let it go. However, I also did smell a faint poultry-like odour in the house, and blamed it on my strong sense of imagination.
By mid-March, I was able to walk around. Despite our pleading and shooing and then pleading again, this duo did not bother to move an inch, giving rise to our deepest fears – what if they have laid eggs? How long will the eggs take to hatch? What if the eggs fall down before hatching? In case, the baby pigeons do hatch, what if they fall down and we are held responsible. And worse, the place will get even more smelly. These stupid stupid pigeons!
Then came a day when they were gone. Yes, vanished before one could say ‘Shoo!’ after having a good time in our home for nearly two months. I managed to climb on top of the kitchen platform and investigate upon the smelly mess they had left behind.
But, what I saw was a couple of tiny little pale white eggs lying cuddled beside each other. “These two would surely hatch a very close-knit sibling love,” I thought to myself with a melting heart. All disgust vanished; I named them changu-mangu and immediately called out to the mister to supply me with some maize for the new parents.
Ever since then, our home was full of smiles and happiness, all four of us waited anxiously for the new members. The eggs hatched and what came out of them was ‘not so cute’ to look at, but an amazing act of nature, nevertheless. Never before had we been so happy with an invasion on our territory.
These dark ash balls covered with pale yellow hair and really long beaks were breathing away quite rapidly, while sleeping most of the time. It was a fascinating sight; one that deserved to be captured forever. Here is a video I managed to shoot of changu-mangu, balancing myself atop the kitchen platform, with one hand holding the attic base and the other holding a nearly-SLR Olympus camera recording from a safe distance.
The babies grew up so fast and flew away, leaving us with smelly memories and this smiley video.
P.S: This is my entry for Ambipur’s ‘From smelly to smiley“. When I took these pictures and the video, little did I know they would play a vital role one day.