The best memories of my childhood were those spent in our ancestral home in Fraser Town, Bengaluru. Our family of five consisting of my parents, two siblings and I moved into this quaint monkey-top bungalow in the 1960s, a time when the area was teeming with Anglo-Indian families. My brothers—number four and five—were born here.
The place was our very own Eden filled with varied flora and fauna. There was never a dull moment as we used to be entertained by the songs of the birds, many of which came to gorge on the delicious fruits that grew in abundance in the garden. The crowing of the cock and the shrieks of other winged wonders meant the arrival of a new dawn and there was never a need for an alarm clock to make us rise and shine.
My parents had a penchant for raising fowl and ducks. The feathered creatures provided a steady supply of meat and eggs for the family. A wooden coop was where the chickens spent the night. They would be left free to wander all day inside the compound and would inevitably come to roost there after sundown. There were ducks too and it was fascinating to see them wiggle their tails and move around. Their webbed feet and flat and broad beaks amused us. A small pond at the back served as their swimming pool and they had a whale of a time all day.
One summer my mother, Padma, decided to incubate half a dozen duck eggs. Six eggs were carefully chosen and a duck was made to brood over the eggs. A month later three little hatchlings emerged out of their shells. One has heard the phrase ‘ugly ducklings’ but these tiny balls of fur looked adorable. As tiny tots we took delight in holding and cuddling them. We also took turns to hand-feed them. A strong bond soon developed between us. The ducks took delight in chasing us or quacked loudly when overcome by hunger. They grew up into lovely adults and were the envy of visitors.
But as the saying goes , all good things must come to an end. Misfortune soon befell these adorable creatures as they went under the knife one by one and landed up on the dinner table. My fervent pleas to spare them fell on deaf ears. The ‘massacre of the innocents’ hit me like a thunderbolt. Their lives were cruelly snatched away just when we had become the best of friends. It still haunts me and the sight of bird meat gives me goosebumps even today.
N J Ravi Chander