With Christmas around the corner, chimneys remind us of Santa Claus’s freeway path to delivering amazing gifts that we wished for during the year. Legend has it that Santa does an ‘Hanuman magic stunt’ here – reduces his size, and that of the reindeer-driven sledge, to miniature levels, enters the chimney, stocks up the stocking on the Christmas Tree and whizzes out with a jingle.
In India, the concept of fire-smoking chimneys is mostly dead in the cities and towns, which have now become electrified: we have smart looking electric chimneys with fans and ducts to suck out the oily soot of our start-from-the-basics cooking style. Mine, in my small Flat in the city of Salem, India, was installed when I first furnished the Apartment on taking it over from the Builder.
With my Garment Manufacturing Business located in the nearby Town of Attur, in the course of shuttling between city and town, my wife decided it’s best that the cooking be done at her Mom’s place – Attur, which does not have an Electric Chimney, but instead a distant cousin – an Exhaust Fan. Never mind the noisy relationship, this set-up resulted in us spending the work week-days in Attur and less time at Salem and in due course the visits became shorter and quicker. This left the Salem Chimney all to itself and perhaps quite lonely as we rarely switched it on during our fly-by-night visits. Talking about flying, maybe a flying animal species was silently spying upon us – time will tell!
During one of the brief visits I noticed the rumblings and makings of a bird-nest in the chimney exhaust pipe, which had a slotted angled cover at the end – big enough for a small bird to cleverly walk in and out, I guess. I didn’t give the ‘nest sighting’ much thought, and flew on.
It must have been a couple of weeks afterwards, when I heard the chirping sounds of birds making love in the nest or was it the nestling process – laying and hatching of the eggs? I wasn’t sure. I reckoned that they were having their kind of fun, which demanded my absence, and resisted the temptation to blow them off, by switching on the chimney!
Then, several weeks later, one cool evening I found enough time to hang-out in my Flat. And after an exhaustive nook & corner cleaning-up of all areas, except the chimney, I sprawled out on the comfort-hugging sofa for a much deserved rest. It was at this moment that I heard the first flash of wings fluttering inside the chimney duct, which slowly escalated and reached a crescendo. Fearing the worst (maybe a snake or a ghost) I called my next-door neighbor & his six-year old son, and together we put on a Sherlock Holmes act and concluded that it must be a bird, or birds. A strong clue was that my neighbor had, over the past few days, seen a bird, sometimes a pair of them perched outside the chimney outlet talking aloud about something gone missing. We proceeded to carefully dismantle the trapezoid portion of the chimney – disengaged it from the connecting duct, and rushed out of the Kitchen to the lobby connecting our Apartments. We found three lovely, almost grown Myna fledglings: one had fully developed wings and looked like it might fly-off any moment, while the other two had half-grown wings, with feathers yet to cover fleshy areas of naked skin. They were all stuck in the protective mesh, above the blower and obviously could not find enough strength to cover the almost three metres of exhaust piping to the outside blue sky. We reckoned that they took the wrong direction and dropped down.
This happened around midnight and we placed the fledglings in a cardboard box and my neighbor took it inside his House for safe-keeping. Moreover, he had just bought two parrots for his son and with the new additions to the family ‘bird farm’, the kid was grinning from ear-to-ear.
Early next morning when the first rays of the sun hit our Apartment we put the box-with-the-fledglings out in the sunlight and within minutes we had a serious visitor – the Mother Myna was staring at her babies from across the next Flat and calling attention to them, or maybe its partner too. Seeing this development we moved away from the bird’s view and hid ourselves indoors. The mother Myna was soon joined by the Dad Myna (I assume), which after a series of staccato chirps, flies away, only to return with a worm in its beak. Then after a few quick glances it dives to the box and feeds the worm to the fledglings and returns to its perch position next to its partner. Wow, what a pair!
The next thing we knew was that the stronger of the three fledglings has taken flight, leaving its two siblings behind to grow-up.
The Apartment Watchman then took over, putting them under his watch. I drove to Attur carrying the picture of the pair of dutiful Mynas searching, feeding and talking to their babies…long after the chirps were no more. Nature has a way of doing things! Mum’s the word and they are priceless!