Feathery Affection

by Vani Viswanathan

When a pair of pigeons enter Vani’s living room, she spares them no affection.

And so it happened that one evening when I came home from work, I found my favourite flower vase – something that I’d got from Kyoto – on the living room floor, broken at the neck. My heart broke. My next emotion was rage – who had done this? Immediately, though, I saw the window open.

Oops. Damn, man, I thought, silently cursing my partner.

I looked around the room – it was bleak and dark, thanks to Delhi’s winter – scanning the fan, the false ceilings, heart beating with trepidation. I’d almost heaved a sigh of relief when I noticed it.

There, on the AC and the stabiliser, were two pigeons.

Argh! It’d been so long since this had happened. The damned birds! I didn’t want them inside. At all.

I called my partner, half angry, half scared (yes, any non-human living being scares me, although ironically these are far less dangerous). I knew what to do, but I wanted someone on the phone while I attempted it, for I was highly capable of injuring or shocking myself in the process. It’s another thing that I’ve always been alone whenever birds have flown into our house, thanks to an open window that one of us forgot to close.

Before you dismiss my hyperventilation, let me tell you about the limited ventilation in my house. The lovely house is practically bereft of windows except in the living room, where glorious glass panels of windows open out to a lovely park. They are the only source of sunlight in my home – and well, also insects and birds.

This means the birds and insects have only one way out – the way they came in. So imagine the difficulty in chasing birds out through grilled windows, only two of which open – one on the left, the other on the right.

I did my best to calm down and speak with my partner rationally, although I’m sure the tension and annoyance in my voice were rather apparent. To his credit, he sounded guilty for a few seconds, and began to support me remotely in handling the situation.

By this time, I was already armed with a curtain road that I was hitting on the wall near the birds, but they didn’t even seem to register the sound. I stood on a couch and attempted to get closer – those buggers didn’t bat an eyelid. They sat there demurely and purred, looking at the garden.

The partner suggested turning off all lights, opening both living room windows and the main door in case they wanted to escape into the stairwell. The stairwell was another airless passage, but at least it led to the main door and the birds could escape if they flew all the way to the ground floor.

The next suggestion was to fling a newspaper at them. I took the day’s edition of Hindustan Times’ supplement and threw it at the birds. Once more. Twice, thrice. They didn’t budge. I think one of them moved its claws a bit once; nothing more.

‘Why don’t you make a ball of the newspaper and throw it at them?’ he gently suggested. ‘Place the phone somewhere, and focus on this.’

I started tossing a crumpled newspaper ball at them. The ball bounced off the wall and flew around the room, and I was running around to retrieve it each time (I don’t know why I couldn’t make a few of those; clearly, my ability to think on my feet under pressure isn’t strong).

Throughout this tamasha, I had to also contend with the fact that I had poor aim. My tactics to squint with one eye and focus and throw the ball was leading nowhere. Finally, with frustration seeping into every pore, I flung the ball with all my might on the air conditioner unit.

And then occurred a series of events.

The pigeon on the AC unit fluttered its wings and rose up.

I screamed bloody murder and ran into the kitchen.

The bird soared across the living room and swooped to the left window.

I realised I needed to come out to check if the bird flew out. I ran back to the living room, maintaining a safe distance from the window.

The bird struggled for a few seconds against the tangle of fairy lights we’d lovingly draped all over the windows for the holidays. It wildly flapped its wings, making a racket.

And finally, much to my relief, it squeezed itself through the bars on the window and flew out.

I leaned against the wall, my heart thumping loudly. In a few seconds, I recovered to realise that my partner was still on the phone, and may have heard me scream, with no idea of whether I was safe or the bird had flown out.

As I updated him, a little breathless, I realised I didn’t know what had happened to the second bird – it wasn’t on the stabiliser. I worriedly told my partner this aspect.

‘Maybe it flew out at the same time as the first one,’ he said. I looked around the room, and not finding the bird anywhere, grudgingly agreed; the right window was open, after all, which the second pigeon could have used while the first was causing drama during its escape attempt.

Now, are you wondering why this is related to this month’s theme? My partner believes that the birds were an affectionate pair of friends or, well, partners, and that one would never have come in – or gone out – without the other. They had spent a happy few hours in my home – even leaving a few droppings around the room –  until I came in and drove them away like, in his words, ‘a policeman chasing lovebirds out from the park.’ Now, I don’t know if these birds were a couple of anything, but they’re sure not going to get any affection if they dared to come in again.

Vani Viswanathan is often lost in her world of words and music, churning lines in her head or humming a song. Her world is one of feminism, frivolity, optimism and quietude, where there is always place for AR Rahman, outbursts of laughter, bouts of silence, 70s English music, beer and lots of books and endless iTunes playlists from all over the world. She is a development communications consultant and you can read her work at
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