Update for month – mid August to Mid September 2013
Katoo was from Australia and lived with his family on the 18th floor of a highrise and since the building was on a slope the window of the apartment complex across the street was of the 20th floor. Katoo would look out of the window whenever the curtains were opened and wonder who lived in that apartment. He would whistle and generally whittle his time away. His family was good and they cared for him, but would not take him out when they went. They would coo something into his ears or gently run their upturned fingers over his head smoothing out his ruffled locks and maybe bribe him with a few crackers and some nutritious nuts. And then they would draw down his curtains and let him sleep off before they left. And Katoo always wondered where they went to. He had never been “out” and remembered being with the family since he was little. They were not his parents or siblings, but they loved him as one. As a curious youngster, he had once sipped some dishwasher near the kitchen sink and turned pink and they had rushed him to the doctor and he had spent a few days in the hospital. The family was overprotective since and never allowed him out his room. He felt like a caged bird, with wings, yet unable to fly. And yet, he always wondered what wonders lay in the apartment across the street. And then the day arrived. It was early mid august and the weather was sunny. He was taken out for a drive to a nearby park. He was amazed to smell the fresh flowers, the smell of the leaves. The sounds were so different. He could hear the noisy traffic muffled by the sounds of rustling leaves and the faraway gentle rush of water. Could there be a river or a waterfall nearby. Wow, he cried out! His family was happy for him and they smiled, but they could not hide their tears. Katoo did not know why they behaved strangely with him. They cuddled him, stroked his head and fed him his favourite nut, the macadamia nut from Madagascar. And then they did something that they had never done before. They held him in their arms, one at a time and finally Father just tossed him up into the sky. He fluttered his wings and although he had a hunch he could fly, he never realized that he really could. He squawked and flew to the top branch of the magnificent sea mango trees that lined the path of this artistic garden. And when he flew back to the bench where they sat with me, they were gone. He looked to the left, to the right and flew up into the sky to look beyond and they were not in sight. He was alone and yet free. He did not know where he was and his Australian accent was not one that the Cantonese sparrow understood. She looked crossly at him and chirped out to her friends, the mynah and the Ceylon Blue butterfly. And what she twittered to them was beyond Katoo’s comprehension. He ignored them and went flying down the garden path and explored his new world. He came to a tree over a pond. He was amazed to see that the fish in the pond were actually teasing a terrapin. One even tried to take a nip off the turtle’s toes. The cross looking terrapin kicked the fish and moved on. And then he faced the first obstacle of his new life. The black kite. One did not need a kite’s sharp hawk-eyes to miss this new white foreigner amidst these green surroundings. And moreover this new flier was also struggling as he flew – given that he was new at it. The kite just came swooping down and with its squeal , scared the wits out of Katoo. Katoo flapped harder and saw a glimmer of hope as he spotted the red car that he had just taken on the way to the park. Maybe his family was still in it, and they would quickly let him in and he could back home to his apartment. That is all he wanted to do – he did not want to see what was outside the closed windows. He squawked as he chased the red bodied sedan with a white top and flapped his wings faster. The red taxi was going down the slope and Kato followed it squawking all the time as the kite swooped down closer. And then the taxi swerved to the right and climbed a small flyover. The ride was getting dizzy and Katoo was getting tired – he was not used to so much of flying and that too with fear in his thumping heart. The taxi drove ahead and as the kite closed in, there was a distracting ding ding. The kite got distracted and Katoo carried on as he passed by a tall double-decker black tram. He wanted to inspect it more closely but had no time. The taxi was getting out of sight and then it went into the tunnel. Katoo followed, as the taxi slowed but was surely going down a slope. Katoo was tired and in the slow traffic, he managed to perch atop the white roof. And panted, to get air back into his lungs. The deeper it went, the more he felt suffocated as the pressure in is ears started building up and his ears were about to pop out. Thank God, he did not have earls like a dog or cat or a human lest it fall off, he consoled himself. He looked around and it was well lit by electric lights and the slow moving taxi gained speed as he saw brighter light at the end of the tunnel and as the taxi dove out, he prepared to alight when it would stop. But this was a different place that he was unfamiliar with. The tall green trees were all replaced with tall buildings, so close to each other that the sunlight never ever reached the streets. The red neon lights were brightly blinking and never having gone to a school, Katoo could not decipher any of the legend on the colourful neons, reds, yellows, blues, and a few greens. The taxi slowly wound its way out of the busy streets onto slightly more open areas and as it passed a park, Katoo got a little more scared. What if the kite was waiting for him here? Then the taxi swerved into a large housing colony by the hillside and stopped. Katoo was eager to meet his family, but was disappointed as the taxi driver was the only person who got out of the taxi and walked away. Katoo flew at the window and saw that the taxi was empty. He looked around to identify any familiar sights, perhaps that window across the street that he wished to go to. But he could not recognize this strange place. The buildings were smaller in height and spaced out as well. The hills looked inviting and he flew out towards them as he was hungry. The high pitched squawking attracted him to a mango tree. He was surprised to see some green Indian parakeets with red ringed necks. He smiled nervously as he perched on a branch not too far away from them. He nodded a nervous friendly hello and the pandemonium creating parakeets made more commotion as they fluttered closer to Katoo. That was where he met the friendly, but noisy Indians. Initially, he was not sure if he could not understand number of multiple conversations that were occurring, or was it the speed with which they spoke or just the accent. But finally he understood them and told them of his story. They looked excited and hopped around him to see him better and some even asked him whether he was a famous chef from down under or did he appear in that cooking reality show. He was in familiar territory and he felt safe now – away in the green hills amongst his green friends. It was to be a new life…..
The D Boyz who lived and worked in tall buildings were also curious of the occupants of the opposite windows. But they were not wishful like Katoo. They would just go to office each day and back. And although the colour of the taxis in Mumbai was mostly black and yellow, the odd red coloured cabs were also doing their rounds. And in early August, they went to office like any other day, except that thereafter, it was whirlwind of a trip like the one Katoo underwent. They were deserted by their foreign foster parents (FIIs) and when left to fend for themselves, they did not know how to handle the dangers and vagaries of the world by themselves. They chased the red car that they came in and kept following it down the hillside and before they almost got attacked and knocked by a ding ding tram and then followed the red taxi into a tunnel that went under the sea. And in those depths, they felt suffocated and tired and the high pressure in the tunnel also got them all sick, until they slowly emerged out but had to go through narrow and crowded alleys on the other side of the sea tunnel and as they finally came to a stop of this whirlwind trip, they had moved from the comfortable confines of their homes and workplace to the foster (FII) parentless world of dangers and the unknown. They saw the hills by the edge and settled close to a grove of Mangifera Indica trees. And then the green Indians came in flocks to soothe their anxiety and fears. And the green comfort of the trees, the folks around was enough to soothe the frayed nerves. And in all that mayhem, they had chased along their SENSEX from the 18900 levels down to below 18000 and after plummeting to these suffocating depths of 17497 – they emerged from the tunnels and moved around the crowded streets and slowly got close to the greenhills of the 19000 levels to settle amongst familiar and nerve-soothing, high-end reaches of the great Indian mango trees to almost taste the sweetness of 20,000. And amongst Indian friends and having let go of the Foreign Foster parents – who left them to fend for themselves, they settled down to this new life in mid September … with the SENSEX still close to 20000 at 19732.
The noisy parakeets had gathered and shared so much information in those few minutes that Katoo was actually missing his quiet home. But they were not rude, they were just being themselves. They wanted to know of him, what he liked, who he found attractive and did he go skinny dipping at Bondi Beach? What! exclaimed Katoo. He was a bird, not a shark. And he had never been to Australia – at least he did not remember if he even went there. He was raised in this Ozzie home on an island and then here he was, in the wilderness of the new lands with these migrants. The New Territories is what he called these hills and green environs. And one day he flew to the top of the hill chasing a Caucasian man with his spaniel dog. He looked a lot like his foster father. And when they reached the peak, he looked closer and knew that this was not him. But the awesome sight he saw from there was something he won’t forget easily. He looked southward and beyond the high rise apartments was the sliver of the sea that parted the mainland from the island that had been his home for long. And the island also had tall buildings that competed with each other – perhaps for the sun or was it to reach the peak on that island. And the peak had a thick crown of green cover of forest that looked and felt familiar. Katoo could not recollect where he had seen them before. But there was a sense of sadness when he looked at the buildings and the forest on the island. On the island, the Payne family was packing their belongings and the little girl Cathy wanted to take the golden cage along. Dad Payne smiled at his teary eyed little girl and told her that she could get another cockatoo when she got back to Australia.
Have a nice week ahead …. Cheers……..
(some of the landmarks referred to here are from a distant but real city).