Zai Gulmohar‘s photostory: Sparrows

Editor’s Note: This particular appears unique it its appeal. The words weave an imagery of lulling mix of strong and slushy emotions. The words along with images carry this piece to being a photostory in its own right.

Sparrows of Paris – they flutter around tourists, they carry the long-gone city into the folds of their tiny wings. Only those who are tired and sad enough to halt and nap in public parks of Paris can befriend them. They will alight on your lap when you are sleeping…enter your dreams and make you take long walks in the old Paris…Paris of tiled roofs and plenty of dust, Paris of tramps, stray dogs and mouths full of cuss. Once upon a time, sparrows of Paris invited themselves to the feast thrown by my lover. They alighted on his hand and ate the grains he offered. Trusting their judgement, I decided to offer myself to him the same very night. He pecked on me like he was a sparrow and I, a heap of grains. Few months later, a lone sparrow entered the vast premises of Charle de Gaule airport.  She flew all alone in search of the open sky but thudded against the high ceiling instead. After tiring herself out, she sat beside me. We napped together for a few minutes before we both flew into different unknowns.

Image: Parisian Sparrow sitting on an old lamp-post in Passerelle des Arts, Paris. Photographer: Arpan Krishna Deb.

Sparrows of Sangli – there was a couple who laid their eggs at the opening of the rainwater gutter that ran along our roof. They would patiently hatch their eggs, put in an immense amount of labor to raise their hatchlings. As soon as the hatchlings could grow old enough to march in the direction of the sunlight…they would end up as a mess of pink flesh, blood and some feathers from falling off the gutter and landing on the rocks many feet below. My father tried very hard to dissuade the sparrow couple to build their nest somewhere else…He put up the ready-made nest boxes for them but the couple always chose the gutter. Did they make a pact with the higher powers to sacrifice their hatchlings every year?

The next time, we removed the rocks and made a bed of dead leaves as a safe landing for the hatchlings and one of them did land on it, alive! Me and my cousins illegally adopted the hatchling without ever asking the couple's permission. We fed the baby and we taught it to fly. She followed us everywhere. She chirped for our attention when we were too engrossed in watching tv. The summer vacations got over and we dispersed. Only the two of us took care of the sparrow. Though the sparrow had come to know that the world is larger than our house. She demanded the right to roam. She would escape in the garden as soon as we went to school. We were not greeted by her chirps after getting back from school one afternoon. The adults convinced us that she was grown enough to live on her own hence she flew away. We too, consoled ourselves and went to the garden to play and …..we spotted a couple of her feathers on the same pile. Somewhere a slumbering cat was breaking down her flesh in its belly. The adults were right, that afternoon the sparrow had grown up and so did we.

Images: Sparrows of Sangli. Photographer: Sharad Apte.


When I am let down and rejected

I feel like a turd flushed out in the toilet

but then….

I think, what if I am a heap of grain instead?

Each bird that passes by,

takes a grain away.

I invite a certain bird to peck a certain grain.

Many times I ask them to stay, hopelessly trying to hear, "aye!"

Alas! They chirp "nay" and fly away.

I look at my disappearing wealth of grain and say,

"At least, I will be sown back in the earth in million different ways"

Zai is a film studies graduate but currently she is a PhD candidate in California. She hasn’t taken up creative writing in recent times as a hobby and been exploring different forms of writing; creative writing being one of them. She also does academic writing since that’s her work.

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