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I spent my early days in an old 2 room house, with a well and the wash room out in the tiny garden. As I grew up, I had several pets, one succeeding the other, in quick succession. A very naughty and ill-mannered parrot was my first companion. Those were the days, when I myself had just started to say my first few full sentences. For reasons unknown to my parents, my pet and I had become inseparable. Whatever was served to me, had to be served to Suga, as I called him. Else, there would be a huge tantrum in the house. If I were to have a tub bath, Suga had to be present in the tub too. If I were to be scrubbed, Suga had to be too.
Suga would begin my day by pecking me on both cheeks and screeching loudly. He would utter the most unheard of curses at me, which I hurled back at him from underneath my blanket or with a mouth full of toothpaste. The next few hours were spent like this. My parents were getting worried about the kind of words I had learnt in his company. My library of slangs was certainly not what they had in mind, when they had found Suga settled near my playpen one morning, 2 years ago. At that time, the elders had welcomed the parrot as a blessing from God to teach their grand-daughter names of Gods n Goddesses. But that never happened.
Every time I added a bad word in my chatter, Ma or Daddy would make warning noises and we – that is Suga and I, would lower our volumes, and Suga would imitate my giggle. My parents were getting irked. And it somehow was known to my childish mind that Suga would not be member of the house for long, if he continued with the Bad Word syndrome.
But did I care? I loved Suga and his library of bad words. A scurfy tiny tot with a parrot on perched on her shoulder attracted many curious glances in our small corner of a large town. Suga was so ill-mannered and pampered – courtesy me, that he had made himself the king of the house, specially the kitchen. As he hated to be put in to a cage, Daddy had constructed a bamboo castle for him in which he could come and go as he pleased, and hide from Prince, our mice eating cat.
Mum would be cooking the afternoon meal, and Lord Suga would stroll in. Perched on the top most box of wheat, away from Prince, Suga would shower Ma with his choicest taunts and merciless comments on her cooking. All poor Ma could do was glare up at him and scold him. That only brought out the exact imitation of me giggling.
The summer days were slowly passing by. The monsoon would soon be rolling in. Ma had made it very clear to Suga and me that she would not be kind if she found either of us mud splattered this monsoon. We had caused a lot of havoc during the last one. I, urged by Suga, had brought in many tiny fist full of mud and decorated all my trucks and toys with it. Well, which Mother would tolerate such a muddy display? We had been separated for 2 whole days, in which we had both howled the 2 room household down with our cries; Suga producing dog howls, goats bleats and pig squeals the whole time.
While the whole household sighed with relief as the first black clouds darkened the sky, Suga turned restless. He always was, but this time there was certainly something different in his behavior. He even had the guts to hurl a few slangs at Prince, his blood enemy. I was surprised to find Suga running around from the main door to his castle and then to me and then to my play space, where I sat sipping a glass of milk. While the parents ignored his behavior, I was drawn to it. And like any curious kid, I went to stand at the door step. That made Suga go completely berserk.
I, who had learnt my entire dictionary of slangs from my best friend, could not understand what he was muttering as he painfully pecked my bare feet. I knew he was in distress, but as I held out my arms to comfort him, Suga pecked on that too, drawing blood. And I howled. That brought my parents running to me, nursing me and trying to shut my howling. They hurried out in to the kitchen, and carried me to the wash room adjacent to the well to wash off the blood.
Suga accompanied them, surprise of surprises, astride Prince! While we all crowded in the washroom, my howls and Suga’s choicest slangs deafening everyone, there was this sudden calm in the storm that had already set in. But it went unnoticed by all of us. It must have lasted for just a second or two. Because it was followed by the most earth-shattering sounds of heavy things falling on the washroom’s tin roof top. My parents stared out in a state of shock. Even I decreased my howling to a whimpering pitch. It was not a thunder bolt that had hit us. It was a storm of hailstones. But the difference was that the stones were as big as cricket balls, some with really sharp edges. And they were coming down faster by the minute.
At the spot near the open doorstep where I had stood minutes ago, landed the biggest of the stones, shattering my glass of milk into pieces. Had I stood there then, I would have been seriously injured. But I was safe, whimpering in Ma’s arms. The storm lasted for another 30 minutes, in which we remained in the stuffy wash room. Only when Daddy thought it safe, did we venture out.
It was a disaster to behold. Papa’s potted plants were ruined. A whole line of clothes had been brought down and torn. As for the kitchen and bedroom, the stones had found their way in through the doors, open ventilators and windows. The wind had scattered loose newspapers sheets and the bed was soaking wet. The most painful scene was that of my playpen, directly below the huge window. A huge branch torn off from the nearby mango tree had found its way to the exact spot where I had been sitting, before I had followed Suga to the door step.
That was a day of reckoning for my parents. Had it not been for Suga, I would have been hurt seriously either way – whether I sat playing or stood at the door step. So even though my best friend hurt me, he saved me too. Ma was in tears, while Daddy looked white as a sheet.
If seeing Suga still perched on top of Prince was not a big surprise enough, here was another one waiting for us. Suga, would not utter another slang. He was silent and calm. As if the storm had wiped out the library of slangs from his parrot mind all together.
As the shock and distress gave way to a flurry of cleaning the tiny household, Suga and I were inseparable again. The wound inflicted on my arm forgotten. We returned to our damaged playpen to watch Daddy dislodge the branch from my toys.
The storm had afflicted a lot of damage to the entire town. But Suga and I were completely unaware of the world around us. Suga had gained a new respect in the household, and a new friend in Prince. As for me, my Suga was never the same to me again. I must say, I missed his slangs and often urged him by saying some myself. But Suga never went down that path again. And I, with no slang library to befriend, soon dropped the habit.
The incident was told and retold to visiting relatives and neighbors for many years later. Suga lived with us for 2 years more, by which time i was 5 years old and ready for the school. He passed away one night in his castle after eating some unknown thing. I was inconsolable. But even that did not last for long.
School, friends, bus journeys, ice creams and a million other things soon filled my mind. Besides, my play school had a tiny zoo of its on, where they kept rabbits and parrots. And I was ever so happy to be amongst them.
I have had many pets since then, from rabbits to dogs to cats to even a couple of Maynas and pigeons who visited my study table during my 10th board exams. But that childhood friendship whose memories were etched in my mind for ever, could never repeat itself.