The usual quiet in the grassy patch was disturbed. A little girl, perhaps 11, was holding together a bunch of twigs.
“Look what I found,” she said as she raised her hand to give my friends and me a better view.
Four wriggly things squealed among those twigs. I couldn’t tell if it was a broken nest, but some magical weaving still held the loose ends together. Bella, the sprightly girl, told us that she had found the nest and the babies scattered all over the grass. The nest we assumed had been toppled over — either by a strong wind or by some unruly humans.
Something about the girl — probably her zestful energy — enamoured us. She decided that the best way to help the babies survive would be to hoist the nest on the branch of a tree. The four of us stood around her and nodded in agreement. After all, we couldn’t think of a better alternative.
Bella decided to climb one tree after the other to find the perfect spot. She climbed, she checked the spot, shook her head in disagreement and climb down. As we explored the many branches the babies in the broken nest squawked noisily. “How about here?” Bella asked, pointing towards a concrete structure. “But,” one of the adults said, “a cat could reach it!” Turned out, Bella knew a thing or two about cats too. “My cat can jump really high and it cannot reach this,” she said with her hands on her hips while she surveyed the said place. After a couple of trials, Bella gave up the idea. “It is too open,” she decided.
We sat on the pavement wondering what could possibly be the next plan of action. After what seemed like an eternity my friend Bala finally spoke. “Why not place the nest in a wicker basket, put a rope to its side and then suspend it on a branch?” Bella’s face lit up. There was a new surge of energy in all of us. We set out to work.
I fished out a basket from the storage of my cellar. The twigs with the birdlings were placed inside, a rope was tied to the sides and we were ready to hang it up a tree. We borrowed a ladder from a neighbour and the deed was done. As the birdlings continued to squeal in their new home, we hoped and prayed that the babies wouldn’t go hungry and that the mother bird would find them soon.
‘Was it an empty nest?’
We took turns to watch the activity in the nest from a safe distance. The next day, we spotted a sparrow seated at the edge of the basket. Very soon we realised the sparrow was feeding the babies. We rejoiced in the knowledge that the babies were safe. We dreamt of watching them take up their flying lessons. We listened, we watched and we smiled day after day until the day of another quiet. There was no sight of the sparrow, neither was there any sound. “Was it an empty nest? That soon?” we wondered.
We lugged the same ladder that we had used to hoist the basket up the tree. “Hold it tight,” I instructed as I climbed up. I found the basket intact. I moved the twigs a bit to check if any bird was hiding, but what stared back was just an empty nest. “It’s empty,” I announced. “I hope they have flown away,” we whispered thoughtfully.
Perhaps the birds are somewhere in the skies looking for newer pastures. Perhaps they will come back one day to re-visit their basket. Perhaps they will remember the day they were hoisted up the Gulmohar tree. Perhaps , they will come back one day to chirp a loud ‘hello’. Until such time the basket will remain, reminding us of a day when we had an adventure with the birdlings.
Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman