Monthly Archives: August 2012

Ondu Gubbi Samsara [A Sparrow Family]

When you are travelling by road in an unknown city, you can distinctly feel the difference as soon as you enter its cantonment. You will suddenly encounter broad and neat roads lined with huge trees. It’s a different world altogether with greenery everywhere. This abundant greenery is a feast to the eyes. It becomes even more pleasant because of the variety of birds we get to see here.

As a child I when I used to visit the zoo I loved watching the beautiful and colourful peacocks, parrots, parakeets and other birds. But, there’s no need to go anywhere if you are married to a fauji. Thanks to the almost forest like scene we keep seeing innumerable parrots and peacocks in our garden trees and on the roof tops of our neighbours.[ they see the same on ours] Many other birds also join in and our mornings and evenings are echoing with their pleasant chirpings. When my daughter was five years old we were posted at Firozpur in Punjab and she used to wake up at around 4.30 saying ‘mummy get up, all the birds are up and talking’! 🙂

A few years back we were posted at Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh and I had the opportunity to study the sparrows which are said to be vanishing now a days. We were living on the first floor and our bedroom windows had mesh doors on the inside and glass doors on the outside., a regular feature in MES [ mIlitary engineering services ] built houses. One set of windows was facing the west due to which, there used to be too much of sun light. So, we usually kept it closed with a slight opening to let the cable and telephone wires in. It was a very small opening.

Once I was sitting on the bed watchng T V. Suddenly I heard very loud chirping as though it was coming from inside the house. I got up and looked behind the curtains and saw that two sparrows had come into the window opening and were excitdly moving inside that little space between the mesh and glass doors of the window. They were going on making sounds as though they were in a serious conversation. They would talk and then fly up and down in that small place and talk again. I kept watching them without disturbing them. After a few minutes they both flew out and I returned to my T V.and forgot all about it.

To my surprise, the two birds were back the next day and they had dried grass and small sticks in their beaks. That’s when I understood that their first visit was a house hunting mission and they were inspecting our little window house, discussing the ‘pros and cons’ in their own language.[ whatever it was]  Don’t we all do the same when we go looking for a house? I think they liked what they saw and that’s why decided to move in without wasting any time. I think they liked the house [?] mainly because the entry was very narrow and no bird bigger than these sparrows could get into it. Safety is everybody’s biggest concern in this evil world. Isn’t it?

So, after that day it became my most favourite hobby to watch them come and go every now and then, with a single house building material in their beaks and working endlessly to arrange them neatly to make a lovely nest. They topped up the nest with fresh green leaves to make it soft and cushiony [ I think ].  What creativity really! You’ll understand how much of hard work goes ino building a nest, only when you see it being done from the first day. No words will match their efforts, you’ll just be wonderstruck, that’s it.

Once the nest was ready, the female sparrow [ I understood much later which one was a female, thanks to the extra black in her feathers] started spending more time in the nest than her counterpart. Very soon I saw small little eggs in the nest. The female sparrow used to go out for a brief while and the rest of the day she used to spend in safeguarding and hatching the eggs. Her partner used to sit on the window sill  and keep a watch.

One fine day there were tiny looking beauties in the nest making a ‘cheev cheev’ sound all the time. Once the babies were out, Ma and Pa sparrows would go out by turn and get some food for them.  The babies would eagerly open their mouths  and the food went directly from mouth to mouth. When one parent used to feed the children the other would sit and watch them, I’m sure with his/her heart swelling with pride :). The children who were generally quiet when the parents were out, would start making a lot of noise when they returned home.

Before I realised, the babies grew bigger and started venturing out little by little, trying to sit on the window sill. They would sit and watch things as though they were under training on some mission. After doing this for sometime, seeing so many birds flying around happily, they must have got courageous and inspired. So they decided to take the ‘plunge’ and flew away. When the parents retuned home to an empty nest they did make some anxious sounds and looked here and there, all in vain. They also flew out never to come back. After waiting for a few days to see if they come back, I got the nest removed and the place cleaned.

I really missed the birds and their family. But again after a few weeks another pair of sparrows came, did the same antics and settled there. It looked like a repeat play and also as if I had rented out my ‘window house’ to the sparrow fraternity. With the second family vacating the house it was time again to put back the ‘To Let’ board [removing the old nest, I mean] to let another family prosper.  🙂

PS: Gubbi is a kannada word for Sparrow.



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Posted out again….

My husband has been promoted to the next rank and with that has come his posting order. Obviously we are very happy about the promotion but packing and moving is not something that anybody would be thrilled with. The very thought of packing the whole house,   I mean every bit of it, scares my wits out of me. I get into tension and start worrying but my husband is as cool as a cucumber. When the posting comes I start fretting around saying  ‘oh my God, so much to do’, and he always comes out with ‘why fear when I’m there?’- his favourite dialogue. He’s a really very helpful and responsible person and  I know I have nothing to worry. This’ll be my sixteenth move with my husband and his, twentieth.[we got married in his sixth year of service]

It was not always like this. In the first eight to ten years of our marriage I really loved it. It all looked such a lot of fun, moving from place to place and making new friends. It was exciting in those times because we were young and more importantly, had almost akin to nothing to pack except for bare essentials required to run a house hold. But as we grew older in service and age our possessions have increased because with every new posting  we would add one or two more boxes [ yes, faujis always pack their stuff in boxes ]. A posting at Deolali means drift wood, carved furniture, rugs and carpets from a Jammu or Srinagar posting, leather goods from Mhow, carved elephants or brass lamps from South, Pipli and philigree work from Orissa, crystalware from Siliguri…the list is like a bottomless well! Before we go to a place we know what we are going to buy there. Living in small colonies we live in our own world and one can find almost similar things in most of the houses. The passion to collect things starts decreasing when the number of boxes increases beyond a certain limit. So, by the time some sense gets into one’s head the house is almost like mini India with all the rooms in the house displaying items from different corners of India snd sometimes curios from other countries  also if the officer has had a deputation abroad.

The trouble starts when the time comes to pack  these proudly displayed things. Just imagine, the agony of packing each and every item with extra care once in 2-3 years. Now a days people have started calling packers and movers but most people prefer to do it themselves and the family as a whole gets involved. The first question is from where to start. Since all the house hold items go into boxes that are stored in the garage, they have to be brought out first to clean and sun them nicely, and repaint if need be. Then only the actual packing process can start. On an average every officer would be having atleast 30 boxes, some steel and some wooden, with a number assigned to each one of them.

I’ve a diary which has all the details about our boxes– what all items will go into which box, which lock will it have, along with the key number etc.. It takes a lot of patience to make this list first time but subsequently only minor changes need to be made.  This diary makes our life so easy because I’ve to just keep it in front of me to know what to put in which box . Of course, with every posting I’ve to make a new one because there’ll always be some addition or deletion in the list and also some locks and keys may become non functional.

A lot of discussion goes on about the things that are hardly used  and while packing I wonder ‘oh I’ve this also?’, because we don’t use all the things that we have but still keep carrying it for years. I remember a friend telling me that if a thing is not used for five years it means the time has come to discard it. So, lot of things are kept aside to be discarded because husband dear just says ‘throw it’ when you ask his opinion about a certain thing. But we ladies find it so hard to part with a thing citing some sentiment, that when the time comes for real action[throwing I mean] half the things go back into the box again for next time consideration.:)

The most difficult things to pack are crockery and decorative show pieces, the most delicate ones of all. Each thing has to be packed individually with utmost care and  while placing them in the box also, one has to make sure that there are no gaps between them. This packing takes the maximum time and we really feel elated when we are done with them. We never throw any packing material when we buy a thing. It straightaway goes into a box because without that, things get a little difficult when it’s time to pack and move.

It’s a lot of hard work and takes a long time ranging from 15-20 days, if we have time at our disposal. But there are times when we’ve finished it in a week due to shortage of time and in retrospect, I wonder how we did it.  When it’s finally done and things are loaded into the truck, one heaves a sigh of relief. But is only temporary because the anxiety remains till the truck reaches its designation safely. Once you get the news that it has, then you are happy, temporarily again….because with that, the process of unpacking and settling down in the new house–opening each and every box, putting things in their places, shortening or lengthening of curtains according to the size of windows and doors, drilling holes in the walls to put up wall hangings and photo frames–oh! it’s another nightmare and a different story to tell.

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