MONDAY: Moving On

BY SUSMITA BHATTACHARYA

Copyright is held by the author.

“GOOD MORNING.” Colonel Dastoor shuffled cheerfully towards the cage. “Did you have a good night’s sleep, Milady?”

There was a squawk as he pulled aside the drape and let the morning sun flood in. Milady fluttered her wings and settled on her perch, as was her habit of 50 years, and he fed her a chilli.

He slurped his tea and smiled as Milady clattered in her cage and stripped the chilli in her beak. In their normal routine, Colonel Dastoor would have his porridge and toast soaked in tea. Then he’d open Milady’s cage and she would perch on his shoulder while he read her the news. Then he’d sit by the window and watch the world go by. He never shut the windows, and Milady never flew out.

She had been a birthday present for his daughter’s fifth birthday. But the daughter had grown and flown the nest. Milady remained. Then Colonel Dastoor’s wife left the world, yet Milady had remained. His faithful companion.

Today was Colonel Dastoor’s birthday. There was the perfunctory phone call from America. Anyway, he couldn’t hear much of what was being said. He stroked Milady’s soft white feathers and made the appropriate sounds down the telephone.

“Today, I have a treat for you.” He smiled, offering her three pistachios. “We have shared this long and wonderful journey together. Okay, sometimes hard, especially when Dina would tie a string to your feet and fly you around the compound.” Milady squawked in reply.

“I’m 80 today, you hear?” Colonel Dastoor laughed out loud. “Who would think that, eh? I have survived two wars. I have shot men down and been rewarded for that. Missed the chop by a hair. All for what? To live all alone in the twilight years. This war against loneliness is the hardest, Milady, and you have helped me through. Who knew, when I bought you, that you’d outlive us all? ”

Colonel Dastoor placed Milady in a smaller cage. The security man came and helped them down to the waiting taxi.

“Parrot Sanctuary.” Colonel Dastoor read the large sign with his rheumy eyes. It was time to let go. Milady had to be re-homed — as eventually Colonel Dastoor would be too.

“They don’t allow pets where I’m going, only boring old folks,” he explained to Milady, peering through the bars. “And what would happen when I am gone, eh? Here, you will be looked after. I promise you. I will visit.”

Milady struggled in her cage and squawked.

“Don’t worry, Colonel Dastoor,” the lady in charge said in a soothing voice. “Milady will spend the rest of her days in happiness.”

Colonel Dastoor nodded. “That’s all I can give to her really. She has been a comfort to me — a companion of 50 long years.”

Colonel Dastoor returned a week later to see how Milady was doing. She immediately flew to the front of the cage, fluttering her wings and cocking her head. He offered her three pistachios and smiled.

A week later he was back. But this time Milady did not come to him. She stayed at the back, with another parrot.

“She has found a mate,” the lady said cautiously. “She is happy. Parrots don’t have a memory like humans. But she will forever be indebted to you for your kindness to her.”

Colonel Dastoor smiled and shook his head. “Indeed, she has found a mate. They all do. Fifty years together and yet in two weeks she doesn’t remember me.”

The lady patted his shoulder.

He straightened. “No matter. It is time to move on.”

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