After a usual workday, I got home late evening, unlocked the door, peeped into the hall and, as every day, called out aloud: "Birdeeezzzzzz," to say hello to my feathered little friends, a pair of bright yellow miniature cockatiels. The response wasn't enthusiastic. Never mind; who says birds can't be moody.
Cockatiels are of the parrot family, very intelligent and social. The only way to judge the gender is by the shade of the orange patch on the cheeks; it's dark as ice-candy bar for the male, and lighter for the female.
I put a ripe pomegranate into their cage, made myself a hot cup of tea, and sprawled on a giant beanbag.
As I lifted the cuppa gently to savour my creation replete with the goodness of ginger and cardamom, I caught the male cockatiel scratching itself with its claws and beak in an unusually frenzied motion.
Humans, dogs, cows, cats, rather all things terrestrial, arboreal, and amphibian scratch, a simple body reaction to any irritating sensation. The male cockatiel, however, was miserable. He should be using his energy in happier pursuits such has playing with the female companion, singing, cleaning, talking to me, and eating. Maybe it had high fever. My father's wise words rang in my head: "When in doubt, don't think much; take action."
I sprung up, picked up the 2-kg cage, locked the house, scurried down four floors, and caught the first auto-rickshaw crossing the road. Thank God for small mercies. The auto-rickshaw driver, a kind and patient man, was quick to understand that he had to reach the veterinary clinic fast. People who keep pets should also keep the contact details of all animal care centres and helpline services at hand or saved in mobile phone.
I reached the avian clinic of Dr Srinivas Rao in Bandra, Mumbai, and he read the situation like a pro.
His diagnosis: the male cockatiel had a skin infection. I feared the female would also contract it but I was also pleased that I had brought my friend to the vet in time.
With vet's guidance and my persistence, I cleaned up the cage (I hadn't spruced up own room with so much passion in a long time), started giving the pair a daily dose of sunbath at 5am, putting them out in the balcony, positioning the cage at an angle where maximum sunlight would fall on it. I mixed medicine in their drinking water every day before leaving for office, and fed them multivitamin supplements apart from regular diet of oilseeds, nuts and fruits.
Maintaining pets is as much hard work as raising children. They are dependent, attention crazy, and utterly lovable. After two weeks, I got home late evening from work, unlocked the door, peeped into the hall and, as every day, said aloud: "Birdeeeeezzzzzz." In response, I heard the delightful whistles and screeches, off and on twitter, and lively flapping of the wings.
My spirits lifted, from the deepest point of the Marianas Trench to the summit of Mount Chimborazo.
Happiness comes in small packages.