“I feel pity for the little soul,” my mother said to me as I sat on a plastic chair holding a negative film roll, their ends stretched in my either hands, trying to see through them against the backdrop of the tube-light. I had shot this roll seven years ago in the Himalaya, the pictures of which I am yet to print, trying to recall where exactly I had taken them.
“What happened?” I asked.
“There’s this little bird on the tree, hanging upside down and flapping her wings to free itself.”
She said this with a deep sympathy and concern and yet I could sense the resignation in her voice.
I am lazy, especially on a Sunday morning, but some sixth sense forced me to get up in an instant. I followed my mother to our narrow first-floor balcony which has a mulberry tree facing it.
The sparrow’s foot and the upper edge of one of her wings had got caught in the manjha – the grinded-glass-and-glue coated string of a kite.
I saw the terrified bird, struggling for dear life in that awkward position.
The manjha had slightly sliced through the wing and I could see a tiny spot of blood.
Something had to be done, and fast.
I picked a metal rod lying in the balcony and another wooden stick. My mother then rummaged through a carton in which I had kept plastic ropes. I tied them together.
Even after leaning on the balcony and stretching to the full, this makeshift pole was not reaching the manjha. My mother went to the terrace and found another wooden stick. I tied this one too, and the pole seemed long enough.
I tried afresh but realized that the two joints had made the pole unwieldy and it was difficult to balance it. As it just reached, I could not manoeuvre the pole to any consequence. I could only manage a feeble lift of the string, which seemed to slip out as I tried lifting it upwards with the pole.
Common sense then dawned upon me!
I went to the kitchen and picked up a knife. I tied it to the tip of the pole, much like the bayonet on a three-naught-three (303) rifle!
Somehow managing to keep up the cutting edge of the knife upwards, I tried to saw and slice the string, which seemed Herculean.
I tried this a few times unsuccessfully and my patience and stamina seemed to be running out now.
Finally, placing the sharp edge of the knife below the string, I, from the balcony, used all my might to lift the pole upwards towards the sky. Maybe it was the jerk or something that I really don’t know, it suddenly freed the bird.
I could see the creature first drop down, facing skywards and instantly positioning itself correctly mid-air, to take the flight of its life.
Furrrrrrr….. she flew and the tree leaves and branches obstructed my view to see the path it took for freedom!
I remember the Moral Science lessons of school days when we were told of doing a good deed each day. As an adult now, and in these times, I have long forgotten it, perhaps. I am oversimplifying the larger message inherent but I do feel that sometimes in our daily lives we do get an opportunity for doing a simple act of kindness, the joy of which is so purifying and lingering.