(This story really happened to me. 🙂 My sister suggested that I pen it down for my blog.)
Quite some time ago, when I was young and innocent (:P), a couple of sparrows nested in one of the emergency lights in the corridor right outside my hostel room. As you know, how noisy sparrows can get, and how violent protective sparrow mothers can get, I had to go through a lot of “nonsense” for no fault of mine. Anyway…
I would stay in the hostel during the week, and as soon as a weekend or holiday chanced upon us, we would rush back home to good food, and mommies. After being stuffed to the brim, we would get ready for hibernation Monday morning and come back to the hostel with long faces, counting the days before we would be able to taste or smell real food again. The excuse for food they served in the hostel mess… ugggh… it looked more like stuff that comes out of our body. Seriously. Anyway…
This particular weekend, I was rushing back home, with a satchel on my back full of dirty clothes, ready to be dumped in the washing machine. I stepped out of my room, and I was locking my door with one hand, trying to balance the my bag on the other shoulder, when… I heard a tiny tweet from where I was about to place my foot. A tiny hairless thing was tweeting on the floor. The baby sparrow had fallen out, and ants were crawling all over it. I couldn’t see the parents anywhere; it seemed the entire nest had fallen out as well, because there was a lot of grass around the place.
Now, in my tiny, innocent and only later did I realise STUPID mind, the only thing I could do for the baby sparrow was to bring it home. I found a tiny plastic bowl from somewhere and stuffed it with torn newspaper, and first, cleared all the ants of it, (which was a very, very tedious job, but it made the sparrow quiet.) put the baby sparrow inside the cup. Then I carried it through 3 different public buses, for about 2 hours and brought it home.
If you were my mom, you would know how much of a pain I am in the house. The amount of food, water, effort and not the least of all space I take in the house is not a joke :). And I bring a tenant, which can’t fend for itself, and will need additional taking care of… you can imagine my mother’s state of mind. Apart from that, my mother knew, I had practically killed the bird by bringing it home, yeah, but she is my mom, she couldn’t tell me that, could she?
After the initial, “WHERE ARE WE GOING TO KEEP IT?” “WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF IT?”s were taken care of, I took some cotton and stuffed it under the bird, to comfort it. It went off to sleep after that.
Next problem: What do these damn birds eat? So I go onto the internet, and I discover sites, that chronicle the growing stages of a sparrow. Quite remarkable I must say, how that blind, hairless, ugly thing, becomes a sprightly sparrow. Sparrows eat only insects apparently, and baby sparrows, more disgustingly only eat ingested and digested insects, apparently like mother’s milk gives it immunity from blah blah blah, and the sprightliness and the strength to fly apart from other things.
The one thing that was similar to ingested insect I could give was yoghurt, and I shouldn’t have given it that because it had too much water. Baby sparrows choke very easily. But I had no choice, and I would spend many half-an-hours trying to shove in droplets of curd into its mouth.
But the baby bird was atleast at peace now. It stopped bleating as before, and I was pleased with myself. I had saved this bird from certain death. Maybe it would grow up to be a beautiful sparrow and would be a tame sparrow, and fly around my head, peck on my ears, etc. etc.
I, on the other hand, was getting restless. I knew the curd was not enough; it was not even insect, not at all digested. It would be debilitating for the bird, when it grew up. It would be bloated and fat, more like a penguin than a sparrow. No, that wouldn’t do.
There had to be millions of such incidents when baby sparrows of this age, were taken care of human beings. I joined arbitrary mailing lists, and groups. I think I joined about 20. And I posted this situation of mine on the net, waiting for some wise advice.
The first wave of mails were from wives of pensioners who had nothing better to do, telling me: Oh what a noble thing I did. Thank you, but that’s not what I wanted to know. Oh but the praise wouldn’t stop flowing from these batty old women who had just learned to use the computer. Such a nice kid, where do you find such kids… it was like they were talking to themselves, in their usual coquettish, kitty-party style.
The second wave of mails after which I didn’t have to patience to remain subscribed to these groups, were telling pretty much the same things I knew after browsing tens of websites. But none of them had done this before; one even mentioned that the sparrow was too young to be apart from his mother, and it will most certainly die. That rattled me a little bit. Did I save it from the frying pan, only to put it in the fire?
But I brushed those doubts away, continued by yoghurt diet. The next day was even better, or so I thought, because I caught a few buzzing mosquitoes and put them in its mouth; some of those irritating creatures having my blood in them.
At night, I would have nightmares of the sparrow parents coming back to their nest, and finding it not there, and their darling baby missing, the mommy sparrow crying on the daddy sparrow’s wing, cursing the evil human who kidnapped their child most probably to eat it. Oh yeah, I was a very impressionable kid back then.
I will never forget the third day. I woke up, brushed my teeth and walked over to the cup in the balcony where I had put the baby sparrow. And I knew.
I knew that the baby sparrow was dead. It never really tweeted or twitched when I brought it home, but it was alive, and I would know. But this morning, it was different. I can’t explain it any better than this. I looked at it, and I knew.
I didn’t want to do anything with it anymore, but one had to get rid of the thing. A promise to my mom is a promise. And I packed it up in a plastic bag, and threw it in the big rubbish heap, praying for forgiveness.
So what should I have done? Now I know better, I should have put the baby sparrow in a cup, and left it in a place where the parents could approach the baby sparrow without feeling threatened by humans. Otherwise it would leave it to die, rather than get killed themselves. Anyway…