Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Flight

If one took a look at the Ray mansion from outside while passing by, one would no more be able to make out that it was still home to someone alive and breathing. What once used to be home to almost the entire Ray family tree, and used to buzz all day long with glimmering lights and dangling conversations, had now gone eerily quiet. The days of opulence had passed, and those members of the family who were still alive had branched out in diverse directions.The youngest son of the Rays, Sunirmal, the legal owner of the household, was now a citizen of Delhi, and it did not look like he was ever going to come back. Deenobondhu, the aged housekeeper of the Ray mansion, wondered why Chhotobabu(Sunirmal) still had not sold the house off. Of course, now that there was hardly anyone whom Deenobondhu had to be at the beck and call off, there was not much work to complain about. But dusting the mansion on a regular basis with his eyesight failing him gradually, was still a tough ask. There was not much to do otherwise. And it was precisely this loneliness that had now started to play on Deenobondhu’s mind. What particularly bothered him was that there was no one to talk to. No one other than Jack, the pet Moluccan Cockatoo of Chhotobabu , who had managed to outlive all the other pets of the Ray household.

Jack had joined the Rays about fifty years back along with Jill, his partner, as a gift for Dadababu and Boudidimoni(Sunirmal’s parents) from someone, on the occasion of their tenth marriage anniversary. Jill had fallen prey to Chhotobabu’s air-rifle shooting practice about ten years down the line, when it was forced to take flight, only to be shot down when the blue haze seemed to be embracing it with open arms. Jack had managed to live on somehow, having defeated bouts of herpes attacks during the course of time, and of course, loneliness. Or so it had seemed for a while, till Jack started becoming quieter gradually to the point that he had stopped screaming and screeching for almost the past ten years. With its peachy glow almost having worn out and half its plumage lost, Jack now sat quietly with its head lodged between its wings in a corner of the cage. He left most of the food untouched these days, but drank occasionally from the sliced coconut shell which has been the makeshift water holder for many years now.

Deenobondhu felt bad. Jack had not only witnessed his wife’s murder which was not an accountable crime anyhow, but had also been a victim of gross neglect, much like Deenobondhu himself. In a way, he felt tied to the bird through some kind of an invisible bond, which was far stronger than those that he had shared with the members of the Ray family, if at all. It would not only feel great to be able to set the bird free, but it would also mean freedom for himself in a way. One fine morning, Deenobondhu thus decided to do the needful.

The cage door was mossy and rusty, and it took a while before Deenobondhu could make any headway with the door lock. Surprised, Jack put its head out from under its wings, and waited for the blurry vision to settle down before he could make out that it was Deenobondhu waiting for him with the cage door open, egging him on to take flight and get lost in the blue. Deenobondhu waited anxiously for the moment when Jack would ruffle his own feathers, squawk and then start walking after the initial stutter. He had dreamed of this moment for a long time, but had never dared to do what was necessary even after people of the household had left the house forever, with no one bothering to take Jack’s responsibility. And now the time had come.

Jack cocked its head around, lifted the right leg and then hopped down from the stand.

One could see two kites flying high up in the sky, each trying to snap at the other. Their respective strings had gotten themselves entangled, and were now engaged in a battle of supremacy, which ultimately resulted in one of the strings being cut. Screams of “Bhokatta!” filled the air.

Jack dipped its beaks in the sliced coconut shell beside the cage door, silently walked back towards the stand, hopped up on it again, sheltered his head under the wings and closed its eyes.

Antoreep SenGupta


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