Far away from the city , there was a garden with varieties of trees. The garden was named as ‘Pakhi Van’(which means bird forest) since it was home for a variety of birds. Every bird had a specific tree to nest and stay. There was a sedge of cranes, a parliament of owls, a flutter of sparrows, and a murder of crows and also other birds like bee eaters, grey pigeons and of course a few peacocks.
The cranes nested on a huge old peepal tree, on the banyan tree lived the crows, the owls holed up in the hollow of the mango trees. There was also a family of woodpeckers on the flaming red Gulmohar tree.
Along with them some insects also had their homes. A colony of ants lived just under the mango tree, the wasp family built its nest on the teak tree, honey bees built their hive on the highest branch of a silk cotton tree. The huge garden spiders used their fine silk threads to move from one tree to another spinning their delicate but strong webs. The butterflies were the best, moving like carefree gypsies visited every tree and at night took shelter under the huge leaves.
Of course among the night visitors were the common garden bats who happily feasted on the bananas when everybody else would be sleeping.
The garden had everything – food, shelter and security. The old gardener Punya took utmost care of the garden. Watering and clearing the undergrowth as well as raking the dead leaves. He would guard the gate and never allow unwanted visitors in the garden and disturb the peace of the biped creatures.
Life was happy and peaceful . A global bird paradise. Every bird seemed to mind its business. Though the bird calls, nesting habits or food were different, there was harmony in the noise. Birds of prey never attacked anyone in the garden as per the silent peace treaty signed by the leaders.
One day, however, Biky , the crow came back to the garden after a tiresome day and instead of flying back to his banyan tree , he settled on the now vacant peepal tree.
Closing his eyes, he recalled what a terrible day it was. He didn’t get a morsel of food the whole day. A lady was feeding her little baby with balls of rice mixed with dal and ghee. Biky was expectantly waited on a nearby tree , for the lady to throw the last ball of the rice on the mud floor , which was her usual practice. The moment she threw the rice ball, a nasty mean looking dog came from nowhere and pounced on the ball and gulped in one bite.
Poor Biky ! All efforts wasted. Already hungry, he moved towards Keshu kaka’s sweet and savoury shop. Often Keshu kaka would throw leftovers towards him. This was his way of thanking his ancestors as the religious texts mentioned that crows represent the souls of dead ancestors. But God knows why Keshu kaka was in a foul mood that day.
The moment he saw, Biky, the crow on the counter “whack!” he gave one with a ladle he was holding. ‘Poor Biky’ tumbled from the counter and flew back in hurry.
On the other hand Kiku , the crane too had a very bad day. With great hope he flew to the distant pond to catch his favourite fish. Unfortunately, some unruly boys were playing in the water and disturbed his concentration.
In spite of several attempts he could not catch a single fish. In exasperation, he left the pond and moved towards the nearby fields to pick a worm or two. But there were too many people and he got no chance to catch a worm.
While flying toward the home he saw an earthworm crawling lazily. Kiku thought this was his chance and was about to swoop on it. An unruly raven, grabbed the worm, leaving poor Kiku helpless and frustrated. He too returned to the garden hungry and disappointed. Instead of landing on the Peepal tree, he absent-mindedly perched on the Banyan tree.
“Uff, the woodpeckers. Why can’t they stop the drilling? My head is splitting and I am hungry”, thought Biky, the crow.
“Oh God! When would this ‘Thok,thok ‘ , noise stop by these woodpeckers with funny beaks. No peace either at home or outside. It’s a real bad day for me !”,thought Kiku, the crane.
It was late afternoon, in the entire garden, other than the woodpeckers, the only two birds were the lone crane and lone crow. All the other birds were yet to return waiting for the Sun to signal the end of the day. They were sweating hard to get food for themselves and for their fledglings.
The poor ants kept moving from one place to another, whispering to one another, carrying bits of food to store for the lean times. And not paying attention to either the woodpeckers or to the frustrated lone crow or the lone crane perched on the wrong trees.
The butterflies in the far of corner were dancing nonstop as if to enter in some ‘Book of Records’ or enjoy their short life to the fullest.
The few peacocks were looking up at the sky for those dark clouds to bring cool showers to dance with their unshapely legs and beautiful feathers.
Slowly the Sun decided to pack its rays for the day to start its journey to the other side of the planet.
With the dwindling rays, the birds slowly started moving homewards. Some in singles, some in twos and some in groups. Most of the birds moved to their gated community housing colony ‘Pakhi Van’.
First entered Baba , the crow ,the senior most in the colony and along with him Kaka, the crane the senior most, among the cranes flew to their respective Banyan and peepal tree.
Squinting his old eyes, Baba, the crow looked at Kiku, the crane and blurted out annoyingly “ What is this rascal doing here? Why is he on our tree? What does he want?”A volley of questions flashed in his mind. Even before he could find the answers himself, all the other crows came in and everyone had look of surprise and disgust on their faces seeing the white bird among the blacks.
On the other hand a similar kind of commotion could be seen on the peepal tree. Kaka, the crane spotted Biky, the crow and wondered , “What is this black bird doing on our tree? Has he come to steal the precious eggs or to harm the baby cranes?Has he come to spread some deadly disease since his favourite haunt is always the dirty places and discarded food?” thought the elderly bird. Even before he could react, the rest of the birds came in and expressed the same reaction like the crows, on seeing the white bird on their banyan tree.
Incidentally both Kiku , the crane and Biky , the crow , were sleeping oblivious of all the commotion, tired, hungry and perhaps dreaming of good food.
The crows started flying towards the Peepal tree in anger and in turn the cranes towards the Banyan tree. The other birds couldn’t understand the movement of the bird in the opposite directions. The crows, always boisterous in a group, started ransacking the tree, plucking the leaves, pecking away the little fruits which were just appearing.
The cranes on the other hand were no less indisciplined. They started leaving their smelly droppings on every branch of the Banyan tree. They destroyed the cherry-like red fruits and threw all the fish which the cranes had brought after long patient hunt. The cranes accused the crows of spreading some deadly disease and the in turn the crows accused them of unauthorised occupation of their colony.
Meanwhile the other birds were only mute spectators and had no courage to interfere in the groups having such large populations. The owls, whose day had just begin were watching with their huge eyes, moving their heads one hundred eighty degrees to catch the full view of the fight.
Darkness was already descending; slowly the bats were waking from their upside down hanging heads looked at the cranes and crows quarrelling. None intervened. The fight continued. The blame game started. The past and the present crimes against each other were being discussed openly. The crows felt how the cranes don’t know to maintain the borderline contracts and fly anywhere they feel like and in turn the cranes blamed how the crows allow other alien birds like the cuckoo to lay eggs in their nest and thus threatening the safety of the garden community.
The woodpeckers who were used to noise of their drilling the wood didn’t mind the commotion, slept peacefully after all the hard work .
The gardener Punia, wondered what was all this commotion about. Was some calamity going to fall on the Earth? Like Tsunami or earthquake or was the deadly virus which people were talking of these days lurking around! He heard that the birds have better instincts of impending disasters. So all the commotion in the garden could be the harbinger of a calamity. He decided to pack his little bag of clothes and leave immediately for his village before any disaster struck. He didn’t want to die as an orphan amidst the feathered creatures. The frugal meal of fish and rice he had cooked for himself, and was unable to eat in his anxiety was lying there. He threw the food in a corner of the garden. Silently he opened the garden gate and left in the dark night for his village.
In the distance the Owls hooted as if to make the quarrelsome groups to be quiet, like police trying to control an unruly mob. The once paradise turned into a noisy hell. Only accusations, suspicion like a nation being partioned into two countries without bothering for the people or their feelings. New laws were being framed. Tree borders were closed. No one was allowed to perch anywhere he wished. The freedom to fly anywhere in the garden was restricted. A silent emergency was declared that night. Lesser creatures had no say.
Meanwhile Kiku, the crane and Biky , the crow woke up. The smell of the fish and rice which was dumped by the gardener in his anxiety to leave, reached their bird nostrils. Kiku the crane flew from the banyan tree and Biky the crow flew from the peepal tree towards the food and landed on the ground , smiled at each other , shared the food like two friends in a restaurant sharing a meal not bothering who would pay the bill.
The bird leaders were still racking their brains, along with their diplomatic advisors,planning and scheming to create more bird barriers. They wanted to show their superiority in the dark night while the stars and the half moon were laughing at their folly of looking for permanence in the temporary life.
The stars and moon would fade with the first rays of the sun and the silly birds are never sure to return to their nest at sun set.