"Hey owlie, come here dear!
Come, come, come!
Aww sweetie, why don't you come?"
The octagenarian lady continued to call the lone bird who kept watching her with intensity. He was seated atop the outside concrete wall adjacent to her home, probably waiting for some food in the form of eggs left by pigeons or sparrows. Of course rest of the bird community hated him for that. But this lady adored him for some reason. Probably the fact that this bird of prey was alone amidst the entire bird community added to his charm. A part of him seemed familiar.
And this interaction had been their routine for months now. The owlie would position himself atop the wall just when the lady would wake up every morning. While she prepared her cup of morning tea with shaking hands, her owlie would stare at her with an intense gaze as if trying to fathom what's cooking. Of course she was old and weak, but she was used to taking care of herself just fine.
Some days when the owl would not come, the lady would grow impatient and anxious. She had no one else to share her thoughts with. This bird was like a companion to her. Her husband passed away 5 years back. They never had children and never felt they needed any. Ample savings and confidence in their abilities ensured that they would be okay with not having kids of their own. Not that they did not try, they did. But it never worked out due to complications. Those days medical facilities had not been improved as much as today.
Sometimes Mrs. Mehra would sit with her old albums and turn the pages of history that they made together. They toured the world over when they were young.
"Owlie, I wish you could come here and take a look at these lovely memories we made together! Oh he could not meet you, left too soon..."
And she would lose herself in her memories again, suddenly realising that her wrinkled cheeks were wet with salty drops from her eyes. No, she did not cry, it was just the memories flowing down.
Once done with one album she would bring the next one down. The yellowish photographs gave the illusion that she was never alone. She hated feeling lonely and that's why she had befriended this owl. Often she would offer some food and the big bird would come down to take. Initially, he did not trust her much, but of late it seemed that he too liked Mrs. Mehra. At the very least he did not see any threat from her.
The big bird, on the other hand, liked this lady. Not only did she offer food, but she was also very friendly. For some reason people in this part of the world did not like his species, but this human was different. He saw unmatched compassion and kindness in her. That was the primary reason why he kept coming back, although he was aware the other birds continued to hatch conspiracy against his existence. Yes he knew there was nothing they could do to him, as long as this human supported him.
Then one day...
Like every day, the big bird moved atop the boundary wall of his human friend's house. He would wait for her to show up and greet like every day. But time passed. There was no activity in the house. It surprised him as he knew the lady would be up by now. He waited and waited. But even after considerable time, the lady did not show up.
He was in two minds now, whether to go in or not. His instinct said something was not right. Something seemed not normal.
And he decided to do something about it. The window was open, though there was grill design, he was able to squeeze his big body inside. He made quite a flutter as he entered inside, instantly breaking something on the table. Oops.
No he was not hurt, but the lady might get angry. Anyway, still he could not see her. But then he saw something. The bedroom door was little open and the lady lay on the floor. Humans have a strange way to sleep he thought. This was the first time he was seeing one sleeping. He let out his characteristic screech. Still no response. He never slept this deep, though the other birds would never let him, but still, this was some insane level of sleep. He screeched harder, the sound echoing across the four walls of Mrs. Mehra's house.
Oh! Something was wrong. Wait! Is she dead? There was no one else in the house of course and no one would know, if something happened to this lady. He decided to screech incessantly till he got some help.
It took a bit of time but it worked. The next door neighbours were the Batras. Although the lady would not mix too much with the neighbours, she always maintained a cordial relationship with everyone.
Mr. Batra had just woken up and was reading the morning newspaper when this intense screech grabbed his attention.
"Bloody bird! If I had a rifle, would have shot it down!"
His wife responded saying,
"Hey cool down. The way he is screeching today, am wondering if it's some kind of a distress call."
"Distress my foot! Huh!"
"Hey, you are so loud these days. Can you go and check? It's coming from Mrs Mehra's house it seems."
"Yeah yeah that old lady pampers him unnecessarily. Can't blame her though. Loneliness make people do strange things."
"Now shut up and go, please. Check if everything is okay with her. She is a good lady."
Reluctantly Mr Batra went to Mrs Mehra's house and rang the doorbell. There was no response apart from the non-human screech from inside.
"Oh! Is the bird inside the house!", he murmured to himself.
Still no response. Now he was in two minds, whether to break open or continue to wait. He decided to call up some more neighbours. It's good to have more people in this kind of situation.
So, Mr. Rathod, Mr. Dhar, Mr. Ganguly and Mr. Khan also arrived. All of them tried a little longer and then decided to break open the main door.
It didn't take too long. The door was flung open. And right from the entrance, they could see Mrs. Mehra lying on the floor as the big bird stood by her side looking at these five people with curiosity. As soon as they entered inside, they tried to shoo away the bird. With a huge flourish of his wings Owlie made a dash for the main door, breaking the lampshades on his way out. His friend was not around and he did not trust any other human.
They went close to Mrs. Mehra and found that the lady had been unconscious. Mr. Khan was a doctor, he tried to check her pulse and said that she was alive but had to be taken to the hospital immediately.
An ambulance was called and the lady was swiftly taken away. Owlie kept a watch from a distance. He flew after the ambulance and made a mental note of the hospital landmark. Afterall his only human friend had been taken there.
Next morning, Mrs. Mehra woke up and found herself at an unfamiliar location. It took her a little time to identify that she was in fact in an hospital bed.
"Where am I?"
"You were brought here yesterday. This is the St. John's Hospital."
"Oh... water... water..."
After having a sip, she again started speaking.
"How did I come here?"
"Your neighbours brought you. They said you were lying unconscious. If they had delayed we might have lost you."
"Oh! I don't know... I don't recall what happened."
"Its okay. Get some rest."
"Thank you dear."
She still felt weakness and remembered her owlie. Oh, she could not feed him yesterday. She felt anxious about the wellbeing of the big bird.
Thankfully her bed was on one side by the window. It was a beautiful sunny morning. Did telepathy really work? She wanted to see her non-human friend.
Just then the big bird flew down and perched himself on the nearby tree adjacent to Mrs. Mehra's window.
It was still early morning. Owlie would probably stay there till the end of the day.
The moment she saw him, she recognised. Yes, that's her owlie! There was no mistake. But how did he know that she was here? She had no idea. But she instantly felt better. The big bird twisted and turned his head in response to the waving from Mrs. Mehra. She had no way of knowing if the big bird was happy seeing her. She thought may be...
During the morning visiting hours, Mr. Batra and Dr. Khan came over.
"How are you feeling today?"
"I am better. How can I ever thank you gentlemen! What you did yesterday, oh, if I had my own sons they would be your age.. oh, bless you!"
"It's okay aunty. We are supposed to be there for each other's support. By the way what happened yesterday, did the big owl scare you suddenly?"
"Scare me? Oh no no! He is my friend! Why would he scare me?"
"When we broke the main door open to get you, we found him sitting by your side and thought may be he had a hand in it. He was screeching like anything yesterday. I was wondering if he attacked you or something. In any case you cannot trust those birds of prey you know! I keep telling my wife..."
He continued his rant, but Mrs. Mehra had got distracted meanwhile. She didn't hear rest of what he said.
Instead, she slowly said...
"Oh... I think I know now what happened."
Mrs. Mehra silently turned her head towards the window and pointed to the tree outside where Owlie was sitting
"I think I am alive today because of that guy. I think he saved my life..."
Both the gentlemen turned their heads towards the direction she pointed at and instantly regretted what they had said about the big bird.