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A 'tail' of the winter past

punjab Updated: Sep 30, 2013 09:21 IST
Aditi Ahuja
Aditi Ahuja
Hindustan Times
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I first met him on December 9 last year, though Black Redstart birds like him supposedly visit the tricity in September-end.

One day, there he was - perched delicately on my Labrador's bed in the lawn, as if waiting for me to "turn" and spot him. A few photographs later, Reddy Paaji had proved to be a model with exceptional grace and agility.

During my preparatory holidays, I would sit on a folding bed with my books and camera, and start studying very seriously. Soon, Reddy Paaji would come along. When I ignored him, he would cry out and come closer and closer, until I took a few photographs in rapid succession. If I looked elsewhere, he would keep coming in the way, preening and screaming for attention.

He even managed to win over my Labrador Caesar, who was always happy to share his dinner, though Reddy Paaji was supposed to be insectivorous (though I never saw him eating any insect).

One day, I was out in the garden, and Reddy Paaji was munching on some spicy snacks my mother had thrown out. Hearing him cry out, I thought the food had made him sick. However, my darling bird just went on eating. A few minutes later, I heard him cry again. Hurrying over, I saw his mouth hanging open, as if he was dying of thirst. I brought him some water, but he kept standing near a big piece of a spicy biscuit, bawling like he had lost his best friend. Then I realised that he wanted me to break it up into smaller pieces for him!

After that, he followed me around the whole day, and the day turned into weeks of companionship, which continued till some time after my winter break got over, following which I was so overwhelmed by assignments that I could not spare much time for my feathered friends, though some of them made it into my projects.

One evening, I managed to sneak a few minutes to go out into the garden, which was awash with the beautiful orange-pink golden of a spring sunset. It was quiet, except for the squawking of some Jungle Babblers settling down for the night, and parrots flying homewards.

I had not seen him for quite some time, and thought maybe he had flown back to his home, without saying goodbye.

However, there he was - peeking out from behind the branches of the hibiscus tree, with only his beady little eyes shining from his equally black forehead. We stared at each other, and played our usual game of hide-and-seek, but he did not come closer this time. I kept looking at him until he was swallowed up by the growing darkness.

It was the last time I saw him, but I was not sad because he left me with a lot of beautiful memories, and a folder full of photographs.

Now, September is coming to a close again, and I have a box full of spicy snacks waiting for Reddy Paaji.