Morning and evenings were the times when broken rice used to be scattered in the balcony for the birds mostly sparrows. Broken rice that was sieved out to get uniform sized grains for cooking was a good bird feed and it was the way to attract sparrows, pigeons, crows and a few other birds that flew around once in a while.
The tar coated balcony was a small square space with four feet high walls forming a good enclosure for play and fun but also for some gardening and bird watching activity. Dad was no big fan of birds but he scattered the grains once a while. It was during one such event that my little sister asked the question which was most unexpected, ”What are the names of these two birds”, pointing to two little sparrows that had began pecking at the scattered grains.
“They are all sparrows,” I replied, “ all these little ones with brown feathers, some with darker faces. They do not have names as we don’t know name sparrows. They come here eat and then fly away.“
“But why cannot they have names? When all little children can have? You said children were like birds and birds were like children!” she looked at my Dad with an inquiry.
For a minute Dad was wondering what a good reply would be. He knew that a wrong answer could upset my little sister and she would bombard him with further questions. He placed down the water can he was holding. He had a lot of work to do and found the easiest way out.
“Oh! They can have names .What do you want to call them?”
“Let me think,” she said and sat down in a corner on a small stool, her cheeks resting on her palms, and drifting away into her wonder lands. I knew it will be quite a while before she came up with a name or two and buried my head in my story book. “Dad knows how to tackle the little imp,” I mused to myself.
Half an hour had passed and the skies had begin to grow dark. Most birds had left the balcony. The two little sparrows were still pecking at grains, flying away and returning back. They likely had a brood somewhere.
“It is time for dinner,” my mother’s voice sounded from the kitchen.
“But I am still thinking of names”, my sister muttered in a voice which was feeble and perhaps only she heard. I knew she would be dragged to the dinner table soon if she sat thinking about names.
“It is tie for dinner soon. Have you thought of names yet?’ my Dad looked at my sister.
“No!”,she nodded her head ”do not disturb, I am still thinking”.
“Do you need help?’ my dad sked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Are they big birds?” he asked.
“No they are tiny. Tiny and winy”, and then she shrieked with a loud voice.
“‘Yes they are Tiny and Winy, my two little sparrows.” She burst into a dance and circled round the balcony a few times as the two sparrows scared by the sudden loud voice flew to a nearby branch and returned to peck at the grains after she had stopped running around.
My mother knew something had happened the moment she heard my sister’s loud voice.
‘What is happening here,” her voice sounded at the threshold.
“Maa, I named these two little sparrows, Tiny and Winy,” she said pointing out to the little sparrows.
“That is nice. Here are some little grains. Feed them and come in for dinner all of you,” mother handed over a small bowl of broken rice as she returned to the kitchen. Dinner time talk was all about Tiny and Winy and description of why my sister thought those were the best names ever for two sparrows. She kept everyone engaged for the dinner hour with her glib chatter.
The whole neighborhood was soon listening to the stories of Tiny and Winy from my little sister and her friends came to our balcony to watch Tiny and Winy and verify her descriptions. The sparrows were regular for many years. Then they faded with her childhood into the distant past. I wonder at times where they could have vanished when I hear the word “Tiny”.