When I was ten, I was fascinated by birds, all kinds of birds. I used to spend my Sunday afternoons observing birds who visited a few trees footing in our front yard; tiny little sparrows; white or grey doves; sometimes a parrot or sometimes even a skylark. Even in school I had been punished many times for looking out of the window – at birds. I loved all kinds of the birds but mainly I was fascinated by doves. I loved everything about them; their small beaks, their smooth feathers, tiny claws, the way they walk on the grounds gracefully, the way they jerk their tiny head in short fractions when looking around, their soft humming or their noisy flight on sensing threat.
I had a Friend – Deven – who just like me; loved birds. He knew some guys in town who raised doves to sell so we decided to buy a pair and breed them for ourselves. One by one we visited every place that he knew. I was charmed to see so many doves in one place at each seller we visited; tawny, pure white, dark brown, grey, black and white, brown and white, with different feather types, and also a few tiny squabs.
The first seller we visited was an old boy around seventeen or eighteen. His house was tile-roofed and old, very small; but the front yard was fairly large for the house – around six meter long and four meter wide – and full of various doves roaming around. Many coops – made of wooden fruit boxes and just an open hole for the birds to enter and no flap to lock them in – were ranking under a tree. His rates were too high so we had to visit another seller who lived a little away from the central town. He was a boy two or three years older than me. His house was quite big, with a huge front yard and even bigger back yard where the birds were wandering on ground and also on small trees quite freely. He also disappointed us by his expectations but we weren’t discouraged at all. The next seller we visited lived in a shabby neighborhood and in a house too small for seven people who were living there, and to reach there we had to walk through a lane between two houses so small only one person can walk. He raised the birds in his front porch which was so small four people could hardly stand there. All my dreams of having a pair of pet doves were still out of my reach since not a single pair would come under three hundred Rupees. Then we searched and found another seller, on the slant of a small hill, he had a fewer birds and he asked for two hundred and fifty but still it didn’t fit in my budget. At last we abandoned our search and decided to catch a pair.
In our mid term vacation Deven and I would go out in fields in old town area every afternoon – with a fishing-net, a noose which we had made on our own by working a whole day and my old parrot cage, which I had used once for keeping a few sparrows – to catch birds alive. It was pretty stupid actually, but we don’t think like that when we are young right? we just wanted a pet bird; a dove or even a partridge.
At last after many days of field visits and ineffective plans, one day we were on our usual bird-hunt. We had spread the net and placed our noose in a field and were sitting under a tree nearby, waiting. After a long and dry period of waiting, about an hour and a half later a partridge approached the grain we had spread and after a few seconds another one joined. Deven and I both were squatting in shadow under the tree, elated with anticipation, ready to race to the field. But the birds didn’t seem to bother either by the net or the noose. They were just picking the grain too comfortably and after finishing it they flew away before we could think what to do next. We came back home long faced and slumped shoulders, dejected.
My mother knew what I was up to since the beginning and at last she gave me money to buy a pair of doves. I brought a pair from the last seller we’d visited for two hundred Rupees. The male was white with dark grey chest and tail and female was white with chocolate brown back and neck. I also brought a wooden box from a fruit seller and made a small house for my birds and hung it securely at an outside wall of my home, high from the ground.
My birds quickly picked up with their new habitation. They’d rove on my roof all day and came back to their tiny and cozy wooden home every night. After a few days they also started recognizing the sound I made for calling them. I was thoroughly enjoying the days with my new pets. Deven was also visiting me more frequently these days.
Then one evening after a month I returned from school and realized my pets were not in their house or anywhere around. Deven told me that the boy we bought the birds from steals them back and that is why he sells so cheap. I believed him and we called at the place again and searched without any luck. Eventually we had to apologize and leave gloomy.
One evening after a week I saw one of my birds, the white and dark grey male, sitting for a long time on a cable hanging in my yard. I tried to lure him down but he didn’t come and after a while it took flight never to return.