I sat alone in the courtyard of my house, oscillating my feet every nano-second, breathing in the breeze that looked like preceding the oncoming of rain. The skies were shrouded with dark clouds, and I was ardently waiting for Mother nature to fall onto the earth in one of its most beautiful forms. It was the day of Ugaadhi (a Telugu festival), where it is customary to prepare a kind of pickle which has the combination of all the tastes known to mankind; and my mother was a veteran in that culinary art. (Seriously, cooking is an art; an art that requires years to master; and we got to be proud of our mothers for that)
She had bestowed upon me the responsibility of having at least a bowl-full of the legendary cuisine which made me sacrifice my gustatory interests. The pickle contains natural sweeteners like slices of bananas and pieces of mangoes, which I had been loathing terribly since time immemorial. I managed to empty the bowl and placed it by my side. And right then, all of a sudden, the water-bearing clouds cracked to give way to the dormant sunshine which was in hiding till now. The sun shone brightly, red and hot, perfectly defining how a typical summer afternoon should be. The child within me, who was about to emerge to enjoy the rain, went back in disappointed. The heat sent mercury soaring, and what seemed to be a pleasant weather minutes ago, had now transformed into something very ravaging. I realized that I was deceived by the semblance of Mother nature.
I was about to leave the place, when my ears fell on a sharp chirping that was not quite complementary to the harsh climate around. I looked to find a tiny sparrow moving in random directions, squeaking now and then, as though facing constant discontent in its quest for water. There was a host of sparrows that appeared next, all with a common mission to quench their thirst.
As in a reply to their ‘squeaking’ prayers, Mother nature responded immediately. The sunlight that blanketed the afternoon sky retreated with the coming of dark clouds, and the atmosphere returned to one of its pleasing forms. All this happened, miraculously, in seconds.
And this time, I was not deceived. It did rain.
Looking at the precipitation dance before me, the child within me hustled out yet again. All the sparrows began to chirp with the sense of the rain, and started gazing at the sky with their beaks open. An idea struck me. I placed the empty bowl on the ground, close to where the sparrows were. As minutes passed, the empty bowl was filled with considerable amount of rainwater. One by one, the sparrows came to the water-bowl and began to dip their beaks into it. After a number of immersions, the tiny birds squeaked again, and a even bigger host of sparrows appeared instantly and placed itself around the bowl. As moments inched by, the sparrows grew in number, making the water in the bowl insufficient to quench their lingering thirst.
Seeing this, I went into the kitchen for one more bowl of Ugaadhi pacchadi (the legendary pickle).
Amma instantly prepared another overflowing bowl of the dish and handed it over to me, with her face being interspersed with strokes of wonder. I returned to the courtyard. I overturned the bowl on one of the cemented steps and placed it empty beside the first. And as I had anticipated, the sparrows distributed themselves around both the bowls; while a few others flew onto the steps to relish the multi-taste pickle that rested there.
The next evening..
I sat in the very same courtyard munching a pack of chips. It had rained sometime ago, and now there was sunshine that plastered the vast sky above. I looked up, and a vibrant rainbow welcomed my rain-beaten glance.
The ‘chirp’ phenomenon happened again, and a sparrow entered my line of sight. I tossed a couple of chips near it, and it began pecking at them. After it was partially done, it began squeaking again, brining a similar host of sparrows. Slowly the sparrows grew in number, rendering what I had offered utterly nothing before their hunger. I laughed at myself and emptied the pack of chips near them.