Photo courtesy of Free Web Photos

This story is from my school days in Thiruvilwamala, a small village somewhere near Ottapalam constituency in Kerala. A child of 10 yr old, I was going to school on a bright July day. The monsoon was in full swing then but occasional break left the sky very bright! I might have moved about 400 yards, along the canal bund-path way when I heard a helpless moan of a small chick at the feet of a falcon on a tree branch. The predator was tearing the chick with its fierce beaks. I shouted, cajoled and threw stone at the predator hawk and as luck would have it, the chick slipped off the grip of the carnivore and fell down at the stream and the bird flew off. I threw off my school bag and jumped into the stream, waded through and rescued the chick. He was severely bruised. I didn’t go to school that day but returned home with the poor bird. My mom too was very concerned and appreciative of my adventure. Those days in a village our first aid was the ATTAKKARI application! It was the black soot of charcoal powder dusted out from the fireplace in a village kitchen! {Attakkari is principally amorphous carbon and It’s quite a good application over a fresh wound of a bird or animal. It is sterile and helps fast healing of raw wounds, as per village folklore!} . In fact I dipped the chick in the charcoal dust fully so that it looked like a black-bird with two small round eyes projecting miserably! Paavam!, I said and so said all those present there! I named him SHANKU and offered prayers to God for his immediate recovery! I placed it on the floor somewhere in a safe place and covered him with a Bamboo Kotta (Basket) so that he was safe and would get air and rest. Sanku was lying flat and miserable then; by evening he stood up on his twos and pecked some grain I had put for him. Mayandi, our helper at field work, implored the Field Deity, KUTTY CHATHAN, to propitiate SANKU if the bird recovered well of the injuries and survive! Though I did not agree to this supplication, no body cared for me! All others agreed to this offer to the deity, Kutty chathan.

Time passed. Shanku recovered very well. He started growing up fast. He used to wait for my return from school in the afternoons and fly up to my shoulders in complete confidence. He used to relish my snacks which I shared with him while having afternoon tea. He followed me pecking every where I moved in the garden and compound. As the time passed, he started developing full fledged feathers; the red flaps above and below his yellow beaks looked very beautiful. The tail plumes started looking bright and gleaming. He was growing to a handsome “cheval kozhi!” as we called in malayalam.
Five months passed and the time arrived for the Kutty Chathan Pooja and Bird Sacrifice! I was very upset but who cares? The priest or Deity Poojari arrived; did kolams at the deity’s sanctum sanctorum and I did not go there at all, against the wishes of all elders. I was in tears and chocked throat with terrible sorrow.

Shanku was sacrificed that evening and they made KOZHI CURRY! With DOSA they all celebrated the Kutty Chathan pooja but i did not join in any of the rituals nor ate food for the whole day in spite of my mother’s insistence and father’s threats! I lost my pet bird SHANKU!

Even to day after passage of almost 58 years of time, I feel sad for SHANKU that I could not help him to live his full life!!