Tuesday, June 17, 2014


A little offshoot of my recent sickness was my proximity with the feathered species. My husband spends a good ten minutes at least a couple of times on our adjoining terrace but my visits there are work-related and hence brief! It was when I was recovering from Chickenpox that I spent a good thirty minutes every evening on the terrace - enjoying the kiss and caress of the cool breeze as I let my gaze linger at the surrounding trees and the kids playing cricket / football on the ground beyond. 
One day, I stood by the railing looking around. Suddenly a crow flew down to our railing and stood there - at arm's length - staring at me and agitatedly cawing out loud. I tried to shoo him away but he wasn't deterred. The audacious crow didn't bother to budge even though I stood so close to him. He seemed to be making a conversation with me - and mind you, it was far from polite! He seemed to be chiding me for God-knows-what! Finally it was I who retreated to sit on my chair. With a loud caw of victory he flew off!

I narrated this to my husband later. He told me he had had the same experience not once but every day for the past one week - when a crow would swoop down to almost peck at his bald head whenever he stood near the railing. He explained there was a nest on one of the trees closest to our terrace. I went to have a look and promptly faced a near-attack from the black bird. Oh yes, it was there - a nest - with a crow (the mommy, in all probability) sitting pretty - obviously protecting her eggs zealously. I sneaked up intermittently (fearing the crow-attack) to catch a glimpse of the eggs in the nest. After several failed attempts I did succeed - even as the tree was swaying on a breezy evening - to get a fleeting glimpse of three grey eggs sitting cozily in the nest as mommy crow was perched on a nearby branch. I ran in to fetch the camera and noiselessly took my position close to the railing, zoomed and clicked quickly. The pa-crow swooped in menacingly at the camera. I didn't want any harm to my camera, so I retreated - satisfied with the whatever glimpses and clicks.

We waited for the eggs to hatch - as three weeks went by. One fine day, we could see pink V-shaped mouths open wide even as the mother sat nearby - we were mighty thrilled as if we had had an addition to our family. But it seemed as if the crows couldn't tolerate our participation in their joy. I think they found us to be the closest non-feathered-species around - the pedestrians were farther from the nest than us as took our position on the terrace. We were a potential threat and that was why pa-crow would come noisily to chase us away from our own terrace. It was a Herculean task taking a picture, leave alone a short video.Both parents were so vigilant 24 x 7 - all the time hovering around the nest. The crows seemed to watch their eggs with hawk-eyes! It was really a revelation to us that our feathered friends were so attached and concerned about their eggs / young ones - even more than us human beings - perhaps!

The fledglings are into their fourth week now and in spite of the continuing protective care of their parents, they are getting to be more independent. We are still allowed only fleeting glimpses, thanks or no thanks to the zealously possessive and unreasonably over-protective parent-crows!

Monday, June 16, 2014


Come summer and everyone is on the move - vacation time folks - a time for trips / visits. This year we too joined the bandwagon - on my insistence. We usually spend summer at home in breezy Pune. I had to pay the price for getting off the trodden path! A couple of trips in April must have got my system all hot! I developed a couple of boils on my hand and felt feverish. I popped in my favorite paracetamol and was happy to be okay. But the heat boils - hubby blamed it on the double helping of 'aam ras' I had had for dinner. The next day, I needed three doses of paracetamol to keep me going. So the day after that, I presented myself at our family doctor's. One look and he said,"You have contracted Chickenpox". At this age? I was shocked. So was he. Anyay, he advised me to take complete rest and care so there would be no complications. He also prescribed some medicines to keep me comfortable. He reminded me it is highly contagious and he didn't want to see another Chickenpox patient.

I didn't need to be told that! We are a cautious lot - call us extra-cautious if you will! Our caution had paid off - more than once! The first time was when my teenaged brother was brought home from the hostel when he was down with Chickenpox. He was quarantined in a bedroom at the other wing of our sprawling house - my sister and I didn't see the boy's face for over two weeks! Needless to say we escaped. Next, post-marriage and kids, our family had gone down South on a three-week vacation. When we returned, our friends in the neighborhood exclaimed, "Well well, the Balus escaped!" All the kids in the neighborhood had gone down with Chickenpox and recovered during our absence! The third time was when our younger son was brought home from the hostel - reason - Chickenpox! My husband and I were working then and took turns to take care of him. By God's grace, we were safe. Even otherwise, every year there would be 'risky days' when as a teacher, I would be exposed to students just recovering from the epidemic, happily presenting themselves in college. And nothing happened. And now, when I was retired and perhaps in the 'safe zone' - at home and agewise - no longer young, you see - at sixty plus, I found myself afflicted! Well whatever has to be has to be!

I counted my blessings now. No kids around at home to worry about or take care of. Just an older man - to take care of me. But it is believed that the one who takes care of the patient would be spared. So we kept our fingers crossed! I could quarantine myself easily. Both of us having retired, there were no issues about taking leave. Big blessings I should say!

What about me - my state of mind? Well-meaning, experienced folks gave me enough warnings about the terrible itchiness, so I tried to pamper myself by lying on neem leaves and also using a bunch to pat myself. I really loved its coolness and fragrance. I also used my doctor's medicines and lotion, all along anticipating the terrible itching any time. You won't believe it but then it never really turned that bad and I thank God for that! But my mind - it was all alert day and night - it was just going bzzzz.... over nothing! For the first time I lay doing nothing, thinking about nothing! Didn't feel like attempting anything but just lying with eyes closed! My children suggested I watch TV but they were surprised to hearme say I was happy doing nothing - this from  the person who can't resist indulging in multi-tasking! Like every sick person I believed I never slept a wink during night as well as day. But surely I must have dozed off now and then. But the lack of sleep did not in any way reduce my alertness or increase my fatigue! Don't ask me how! I would play soft music in the afternoons and nights but my over-active brain would run the lyrics in my mind's eye and induce me to silently sing along!  Thankfully I was able to 'enjoy' the limited menu of bland food items (minus tadka) - of moong dal, moong, boiled veggies with least salt and saltless yogurt rice and buttermilk and again buttermilk with oil-free dosa or bread with cucumber and tomatoes. Not to forget Marie biscuits which I shun in my healthy days labelling it old folks' biscuit. In fact I was pampering myself with these food items while my husband was torturing himself  with the same food and unintentionally giving me guilt! He wouldn't take my suggestion that he go for 'take out' from a nearby restaurant or at least get himself a spicy samosa or pattice. I would just down a glass of plain lukewarm milk - glug glug glug like a good kid - I wouldn't want to burden my already overburdened better half to heat the milk, add coffee / Boost.... In fact I chose to go sugar-free too - that was a big change - a fastidious person who believes in living to eat suddenly believing in eating to live!

What about my husband? Unfortunately my man has not been into marketing or cooking. As he had never showed any inclination to these activities, I let him be! I take the blame for pampering him and not being a nagging / domineering wife! But he is very adjusting and not at all fastidious! And now he had to not only take charge of cooking but also procure some veggies / fruits / tender coconuts / watermelon every day! And keep replenishing the stock of neem leaves! He did manage pretty well - that too without a frown, sigh, or complaint. To add to his cup of woes, my Woman Friday was away on leave for a week for her grand daughter's wedding and no substitute was available! Troubles come in hordes, you see! She would have been a great help with the cooking and purchases - all I can say is the timing was all wrong - as if these are in our hands!

The days seemed to move at snail's pace. At times there were moments when my morale was low. I would keep watching the pock marks and wondering why they weren't drying. But this was a case of 'the watched kettle never boils' - I knew the whole thing would last for 2-3 weeks and I must have just been in the second week! 'Patience', I would tell myself. As the scabs started  drying I continued to take care of myself (I had nothing else to do!) - plain cool neem bath and all.... I would sit out on the terrace in the evenings and watch the kids playing cricket. One day as I stood near the railing, a crow came and sat on the railing and started cawing loudly as if he were chiding me! This went on a couple of times - sometimes there were two of them. On close scrutiny I saw a nest on a tree close to our terrace. The cautious parents suspected danger from me! Once when the tree swayed in the wind, I caught a glimpse of three eggs in the nest. Whenever my husband unsuspectingly stood near the railing, the same crow would come swooping down almost on him! Soon both of us made it a point to observe the nest everyday - something we had never done earlier. 

It took me three weeks to be okay - still there was this weakness. I needed to get back to my normal routine gradually. But sleep still continued to play hide and seek with me. It was only after four weeks that complete normalcy was restored! Hm.... During those days, I missed my mom - and her endless advice and helpless worries on such occasions - which I would have normally termed 'crazy' and baseless respectively - now I craved for those. The great morale-boosters during those difficult days were the constant phone calls from our near and dear ones and comments from FB friends. There were tips galore and I chose to give each one of them a shot! Well if it worked, well and good. That attitude stood me in good stead - I kept thinking the worst was yet to come but before I knew it, the worst was over! That was indeed an enlightening feeling I tell you!