I was just preparing to leave for school when Latu came running. "There's a wounded Neelkanth lying under that Sal tree. She is struggling for breath. Come fast." I saw tears in her eyes. Next moment we were running in the direction of the tree.
Often I used to get information of wounded birds from my friends or the elder ones who knew my craze for these winged creatures. Most of them were catapulted by the tribal children and left to die.
I would struggle to keep them alive with the little primary aid skills I have had...most of them did not respond to my treatment and died.
Every time a bird died in my hands I would promise myself not to treat wounded birds any more. It's painful seeing them dying. But next time I'm informed I would just rush like a fire brigade. Most of these operations were assisted by Latu.
When we reached the spot, the Neelkanth was making feeble sounds, beaks wide open. Her left wing was badly fractured. "She has no chance," I told Latu.
We took the bird home and washed the wounded wing with antiseptic lotion and bandaged after applying some medicine (that we human usually apply in the similar conditions...we were not vets). I tried to put some water in her mouth. But water just spilled off.
Putting the bird in a safe cage, we left for school. But concentrating in the class was a tough job...now and then just the face of the bird kept coming to my mind. I left school at the lunch break saying I was not well.
She showed some improvement by the evening as she started moving her head a bit. We tried to catch some grasshoppers, "Just in case she feels hungry," said Latu. We named her Pakhi.
Latu woke me up early next morning to give me the good news. "Pakhi is trying to sit with the help of the right wing. She is watching the bandage from all possible directions."
That day I did not have to bunk classes. Checked how Pakhi was doing in the lunch break and offered her a grasshopper caught on the way. She was not still in a position to eat anything.
Next day I offered an insect and she gobbled it at once. We caught some more insects for her.
Pakhi was moving inside her cage next day, supported by her right wing. We still have no idea how the wounds were now. Just hopped it was getting right. So I decided to remove the bandage and redo it.
But the moment I took her out of the cage, she attacked on my elbow with her beak. I never thought the beaks of the small bird will be so sharp. It pealed off the muscles and I was bleeding. But I was surprised, she did not attack when I tried again. She must have realised that I was not an enemy and just surrendered to my treatments.
In the evening after giving me a piece of his mind papa took me to a doc who dressed my wounds. On the way back papa told me to free the bird as soon as possible.
"But she is not cured yet!"
"I do not care, next time you are wounded, I'll not take you to doc again." I was not at all frightened.
Problem started again when Pakhi started making her natural sound. From a distance it appeared as if someone was striking a wooden log with a fork. But as she was staying in our house, it was very sharp for us and no one had a sleep that night.
She was silent in the day, but started singing (that's the way she sings!) with the nightfall. I had to shift her to a room in the back-yard.
Latu had no bound to her joy when I removed the bandage at the end of the week. Pakhi has recovered a lot. She was trying to use her wounded wing with some success.
On the tenth day, I saw Pakhi looking at the trees outside.
"Shall we let her go?"
"Hmmmm, Yes," Latu respondend, not-so-willingly.
Next morning, before going to school we decided to say bye to Pakhi.
She jumped into the hands of Latu when we opened the doors of the cage. We took her outside and Latu softly threw her on the air. For the first time in past eleven days Pakhi, used her both wings properly and landed on a tree in front. In the next moment, she made the next move and flew away to the nearby forest.
Inspite of all my efforts to pacify her, Latu wept whole the day. But, boys don't cry...in the night when we heard some Neelkanth singing in the faraway jungle, Latu came to me, "Is that Pakhi?" I failed to resist my tears...
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