Saturday, November 03, 2007

The lakeside surrogates


John and Janice were a newly wed crow-couple that seemed to be in some sort of a frenzy off late! They were expecting & hence were building their first nest together. These first timers were both anxious and apprehensive at the same time.

Janice was a well bred female from a respected crow family of upper ranks. John, however was from a humbler background with no prized possessions. Somehow he had managed to sweep Janice off her feet with his honesty, ingenuity & humour she rarely had seen in her family. He showed great prospects that Janice's family failed to see & hence disapproved of him. They thought that he was a good-for-nothing roadside-romeo wasting away his life. Experience had made Janice's family practical; whilst love had made Janice hopeful. She had defied her family in getting married to John against their will & hence was disowned by her folks. She had willingly embraced their wrath for being with the love of her life. In a way she had parted with her past to be with John.

Janice and her unconditional love had a magical transformation on John. Love does that to fellow-beings. This good-for-nothing bloke had been transformed into a handsome responsible crow who had neatly slipped into his new responsibilities of a loving husband & a diligent father-to-be. He had set on a tireless search for a prime location for their nest & was glad he had found just the right place. A few miles away was a blooming fruit orchard right next to a lake. Dense mango trees provided an ideal hideout for the nest & Janice was more than glad to be here.

Now John poured all his ingenuity & creativity into building their nest. He flew miles & brought back the choicest of acacia thorns that would make the outer layers of the nest. He thought that this would pierce the heart of any predator that would creep into it with evil intentions. Later for the interiors, he laid the softest of feathers & cotton that he had picked from the farm just beyond the lake. The thick canopy above protected the nest from the sun. A safe cozy home was ready! In a way the nest resembled John... crude from the outside, but soft within! Janice was swept off her feet all over again. She knew the effect she had over John and his ingenuity of this calibre vindicated her choice of a mate.

One fine morning they were four! Two little eggs were perched neatly over the cotton and the proud parents were delighted beyond bounds. It was summer and the mango-season had just set in. Delicate reddish-brown flowers were all over the mango trees & cuckoos sang all over the orchard. Janice took over the responsibility of perching softly over the eggs to provide them warmth whilst John became the sole provider of nourishment. When John was away, Janice used to speak sweet nothings to her eggs & wished her chicks, from within the shell, would be hearing the melodious songs sung by the cuckoos in the distance.

All was well, when one day Janice realized that a black bird with blood-red eyes was perched very close to her nest. She felt threatened. New mothers panic too early and perceive every stranger as a threat to their child. It was a male-cuckoo who little did seem to budge. She raised an alarm but in vain. John wasn't around & the proximity of the male cuckoo was really getting to her nerves now. Motherly protective instincts overwhelmed her & she decided to teach him a lesson. Off she darted from the nest & chased the cuckoo with vengeance! The cuckoo was fast & took off in a jiffy. Janice followed him for some distance when she realized that she had strayed pretty far from her nest. Worry made her forget her vengeance & she turned back for her nest. As she closed in, she saw another spotted grey bird hurriedly leave her nest. Janice's heart was in her mouth & she feared the worst. She could hear her heart pound as she perched to inspect. The nest looked ransacked but at least the eggs were intact. She was terrorised & was trembling with anxiety but took solace in the fact that her chicks were alright. It took her time to calm down & she decided not to narrate the incident to John and pass on her anxiety to him, who she thought was already overworked from the past few days. As she perched back over the eggs, something felt different. Something had changed but she couldn't quite tell, what...

Time healed Janice's terror & soon she got over her anxieties. John's company soothed her. Then one day the two little chicks popped out of their eggs and a whole new world opened up for all four. Ecstacy took over John & Janice that day.

Now John & Janice were all sucked up in fending for the chicks who seemed to be eternally hungry. Days of feeding frenzy saw the chicks transform into young birds that were now ready for flight! Janice thought it was a bit too early, but John was convinced that they could. He once took them to the edge of the branch, sought their complete attention & then took off. The chicks perched at that edge were enchanted with this magic. They wanted to imitate, they wanted to try! Instinct took over them & both whiffed their wings & felt that slicing the air was such a fun experience. They then took off over a short distance & made a shabby landing at the next branch a little distance away. The whole family rejoiced their maiden-flight that evening. The parents felt a sense of completion whilst a black bird with blood-red eyes saw all the drama from a distance.

From the next day onwards, the parents let the chicks stray to the edge of the branch. They knew they were safe & could fly now. The chicks gladly took off & enjoyed the joys of flight.

One morning Janice saw the chicks perched at the edge of the branch. This was routine by now, but what wasn't was that they weren't in the same frenzy to take off as before. They sat still as though hypnotized by something... Janice moved ahead to inspect, only to see the same black bird with blood-red eyes sitting right across them. She flurred with anger & was about to attack the male cuckoo again when she realized that the chicks actually seemed to like his company. They enjoyed his antics & imitated him. This time John swooped upon the cuckoo & drew him away. The chicks seemed to dislike that, as though their favorite toy had been taken away...

The adamant male cuckoo kept re-visiting day-after-day & by now the crow parents had become tolerant of him. After all he wasn't harming the chicks. Janice scolded the chicks when she saw them follow the cuckoo & the chicks obediently returned to the nest. However one-day the chicks just kept following him. Like the hypnotized mice following the pied-piper... They didn't look back & seemed to ignore all warnings from the parents. Only when they were out of sight, did John & Janice realize that something was not right. They frantically searched for the chicks all over, but they had simply vanished in thin air! Janice's worst fears had come true & she relived the nightmare that she had gone thru' long ago, when the chicks hadn't even hatched out of their eggs.

The frantic search continued for a few days whereafter the harsh reality dawned upon the crow-parents that the chicks & the cuckoo had indeed gone for good! Janice wept inconsolably as she felt that it was nature's way of letting her know of the pain a child causes when it walks out on it's parents as she had done the same to her's. John wondered where they had lacked as parents in raising the chicks. Both were dumbfounded and were lost in introspection as they perched at their empty nest, besides the lake...

6 comments:

Sandeep said...

well this one makes the reader think for himself....but then mid way through it becomes predictable !!!

Sagar Bhanagay said...

Ah, regarding predictability... the word "surrogate" in the title & the word "crow" in the very first line is clue enough for what the story is gonna be (especially for avid watchers of 'Animal-planet' like me ;)). The greater highlight is on the fact that we tend to take blame or guilt for things that are not in our control or for things that are designed to be the way they are... In this case, they r cuckoo chicks & are bound to follow the father-cuckoo... Unnecessarily the crow-couple feels that they have lacked somewhere in parenthood...
And u say, it makes the reader think! :P :D

Me said...

I know what you are talking about...
The most amazing part of being a parent is the responsibility of a life trusted off entirely to you. This makes folks give their best at any cost.
So, if something goes wrong, it i natural that the parent searches within himself. That even after giving my best, what did I lack..?
It is difficult to have a rational introspection...
And in many cases, as is in your story, through all their efforts, the parents have missed looking at what their child really is. They have lived and worked and reared on the assumption that the child is just like them.

Sagar Bhanagay said...

Bingo! Spot on! :)

Rachit Awasthi said...

Deep man! You have a smart audience ... all i was thinking about was who's the real life Janice whom the story might be inspired from.... hmm who looks most like a crow in our peer group ...

Sagar Bhanagay said...

Lol!! Think... think... ;)