CHENNAI: Tiny squeals in the middle of the night woke up a couple. When they checked, they found three baby squirrels had fallen from their nest. Mommy squirrel was nowhere to be seen. The couple gave the squirrels to their niece Varalakshmi and her husband Puvi Manohar.
Ten months later, I stand at the doorway of their bedroom, watching two squirrels play with each other on the bed; all grown up and plump. Where was the third? “That’s Chiku and Piku. They required a lot of attention as babies. Niku, died from indigestion, when she was just three-weeks-old,” says Varalakshmi.
As I step into the bedroom, the two squirrels freeze for a second, and then scurry away. “They are quite shy when outsiders are around,” she laughs, trying to coo them out. They remained in hiding for the next 20 minutes as we spoke to Varalakshmi about how they raised squirrels.
“When we returned home that night in February, we did a thorough Google search. For the first few weeks, we had to take care of them all the time. We even took them with us to work. Weeks later when their eyes opened, we started giving them semi-solids, Cerelac, and vegetables. Now, they eat just about everything,” she explains, pointing to a plate of biryani on the bed. Almonds, coconut and pomegranate are their favourites.
Cooing at them again, “Chiku, enna da,” she brought him out from under the pillow. That’s when we noticed one of his limbs was amputated. “When the little guy was found, his hand was entangled with the materials from the nest. When he was pulled, it got cut,” she says.
As Chiku leaps from her hand and scurries into a cage, Piku slowly peeks out. “Chiku is the naughtier one, but he is very timid. Piku is really friendly. They are quite obese too.” Each squirrel is almost the size of two normal squirrels. A lot of love and pampering, eh? “Yes, they get treated like babies, especially Chiku. Once, we tried to get him on a tree, and he freaked out and ran away as it was a new environment. We searched for him day and night. I thought I had lost him, but here he is…my miracle!” she smiles.