Bangladesh Slideshow

14 July, 2008

Somewhere over the rainbow

Today my family lost a member.

Tina came to live with us as a scrawny little chick on a summer’s day in 1981. She has been a part of our lives for 27 happy years, and this afternoon she passed away. None of us were home at the time, but the caretaker of the house was able to give her some water as she lay panting, and then she died, apparently of a failed heart.

When I was in school, I would save a part of my lunch for her and I remember how excited she would get as soon as I took the lunch box out of my bag after coming home. She developed strange eating habits over the years – paratha was her all time favourite, and she found all sweet things delicious. I used to feed her melted ice-cream from a spoon, she would sip ever so delicately, the little princess that she was. She even had a preference, strawberry over chocolate!!

My Dad was her closest pal, and she would start cooing whenever she heard his voice. She would nip lovingly at his fingers, and let him stroke her. The rest of us were treated to an irritated screech, “Go away, peasants!” She was obviously a one-man woman.

As she grew older, and then just old, she grew increasingly cranky, and cantankerous. She preferred peace and quiet, and solitude. We were not permitted to make any noise or even talk loudly during her nap times, having the TV on during the afternoon would call down the curses of the Gods, and she preferred the sun in the mornings and the shade in the afternoons – and heaven help the person who would be a minute late in moving her. And she loved to have showers. She would turn this way and that under the cascading waters, spread her wings, and croon non-stop. Soon after sundown, she preferred her perch to be covered, so that she could sleep in peace.

She and I were no longer close (you see, a distance had developed after I left the country to do my PhD, and out of sight, out of mind, sigh!), and she always returned my greetings with a no-nonsense squawk, “Well, what do you want now?” But I never stopped loving her. When I received the phone call telling me she had died, I actually started to cry. Rushing home with my Dad, we traded stories on the way and I cried some more.

We reached home, and there she lay, frail and lifeless. I half-hoped she was not dead. I picked her up and stroked her, something she never would have permitted while alive, and I knew that she had really died. Rigor mortis had not yet set in and she was still soft to touch. And you guessed it, I cried again. I consoled myself that she was now in a rainbow land of happiness.

We dug a little grave for her under a flowering musanda tree, I wrapped her in a white shroud (even though she had no religion, all animals belong to Allah, right?), and laid her to rest. My Dad and I both said prayers, in Arabic and English, and I covered her with soil, wincing as the first handful hit her body, before I told myself that she could no longer get hurt in this mortal world. “Thank you for being with us all this time, and bringing us joy,” I whispered as we patted down the soil. “I hope you were happy with us.”

Goodbye Tina, our feathered companion of 27 long years. We hope you are now flying free in God’s eternal garden. Wherever you are, we hope you know that we loved you dearly, and that we will miss you so very much. You will always be in our memories. And forever in our hearts.

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