It is said that daily feeding of birds is a good karma, a virtuous ritual staunchly followed by the elders of our community and a practice that is usually insisted by the older generations upon the younger (the underlying belief being feeding crows with cooked rice implied feeding the manes to satisfy them by providing food which is essential to ensure peace and prosperity in the descendant families). The thought was something about which, so far, I had never given any logical importance and therefore never bothered about as well.
However, lately, having come across a lot of articles on the internet on this subject alongside the mention of certain astrological benefits too, I was just as inspired to try, start and give this a go. This also struck a chord as could be the probable unsaid reason why mom, grandmom, in-laws and all and sundry of our community of that generation routinely put a spatula full of rice on the window sill, immediately following the morning prayers and oblations. Always up when it comes to traditions and cultures, especially if it has some reasonable appeal, I found this one a good addition to my existing list because, if nothing, it would simply be a good deed to feed a living creature which would certainly enhance the positivity of ‘mind’ (i.e. if a bird flies off happily from my window sill because of a filled tummy, it would certainly make me happy too).
There were however the restraints, especially considering that we live in a foreign country where local restrictions could apply on certain things . Also, our conscious choice to live in a balcony-free flat, till our mischievous kiddo gets old & sensible enough to understand the risks of impudency was another limitation on finding a feeding spot where I could easily place a tray, clean and refill it without requiring to take out the time and effort of going to the to the terrace every time.
I toyed with the idea of fixing a small feeding tray on the outside of the glass door sash of one of my windows but all of those sills were extremely narrow to hold anything other than a light weight tray of the right dimensions. So creating the right feeding set-up appeared to be quite a challenge. However, my impetus to somehow accomplish this idea kept me going and I found myself roaming about each and every corner, storage area of the house looking for some such items out of which I could create a tray and finally decided to start with one that was created using a cardboard and wrapped with plastic cover (to keep the cardboard wet-proof). I decided to stick the tray outside the window sash using a two sided sticking tape. I also wandered about checking the dimensions of each window and finally settled on the living room one since it looked broad enough to hold the tray without causing it to fall off. Ideally a drinking water arrangement too could be desirable considering the plight of the poor birds in this scorching summer desert heat but I decided to put that off for a while. Briefly satisfied with the arrangements so far, my only eager hope was that my tray gets sighted by the birds.
The real story begins now for when I started diligently placing the rice, I realised that no bird was coming in and inevitably ended up cleaning off the sun-dried rice the next day. Persistence….I reminded myself…. everything takes its own time and course. And with the decision to be patient, nevertheless, it goes that I started trying more different ways to attract the birds and up I went there refilling the tray with a bowl of cooked rice and oh! lots of hopes too, well, not to mention the occasional checks that I kept doing to see if there was any outcome which unfortunately was nought. And so it followed for a couple of more days that I was only emptying, cleaning & refilling the tray, after which I almost had to resign to the idea that this is probably an outcome of the severe summer heat due to which most of the birds would have flown away and the ones which are around, probably have no clue of the food availability here.
At this moment, I felt the need for a ‘change of strategy’ like create something that would look like a coloured candy sucker, using roti dough and stick it up in a vertical position to make it distinctly visible to a flying bird but then again the idea looked a little difficult to implement considering the resources I had with me.
Not one to easily give up, I decided to give it one more shot by keeping rotis rolled up into a pyramid shape in a vertical position, to enable a flying bird to easily sight it…yet nothing turned up and the effort ended up with me and my maid disposing the hard dried rotis once again…and finally after some days of some more honest efforts, with all enthusiasm gone down, all interest / ideas everything waned, I even began forgetting to regularly put food in the tray (or was I rather giving up the hope itself ?) But for reasons of ancestral tradition, this feeble voice of mind somewhere kept stirring me to try on, albeit the bleak hopes to success. I nevertheless decided to anyway place some cooked rice and leave it lying there in the tray without cleaning or removing it, well if nothing, at least nature’s bacteria would consume it.
Couple of days had passed. By this time I had completely forgotten everything about the tray. And it had also been some days since I had last put the food. And then hurray!!! it happened. Busy focussed on some household chore in the afternoon, as I happened to stray near the window, I heard some knock-knock there. When I look up, lo & behold!!! there was this bird, a small myna, chirping away and vigorously knocking at the glass – her expression looked as if she`s questioning me ‘where’s the food?’. I was completely thrilled at what I should ideally call…err…my “success” but I was also unsure of how to proceed for if I open the window she is more likely to fly away. So I placed a roti only after she left and as expected, couple of hours later the roti was missing…apparently turns up that she’s getting to be a regular visitor.
Next day morning at about 5.45 am, as me and hubby were sipping our morning coffee /tea in the living room, the knock came again. I was amazed this time around at her expectation … food at 5.45 am??? who cooks so early in the morning?…I found myself telling her to kindly have some patience till the food was ready. But then I remembered the yesterday’s left-over roti & re-filled the tray with that. Some hours later, when I went to check, the tray was empty which I then re-filled with fresh food.
So now it goes that the small bird who frequents our house for food about four to five times a day is getting to be a ‘’regular’’ and I find myself ensuring that some spare rotis and rice was always available in the kitchen for her all-day feed. She starts bringing in some friends too 🙂 & eventually later, a group of sparrows too join the bandwagon. So at times there’s a myna party outside the window whereas during other times it’s a get together of the sparrows. But either way the relation of visible trust and bond for them had clearly formed with our house and this certainly felt soul-satisfying. So at night, before winding up my kitchen, if there are no left-over rotis, I would make sure that I place at least some bread crumbs in the tray so that when they come over to appease their early morning hunger, there`s at least a meal to eat. Whole of the day, I would always try and ensure that the tray was never empty. But eventually I got to understand that the birds are not much keen about the bread crumbs which get very hard after drying, so roti or rice it has to be and I started adding a little water to the food to prevent it from drying and keep it soft for them to eat.
These experiences are making me realise a couple of things. Firstly, doing small things does make a big difference to someone’s existence, be it even, a seemingly insignificant member of the planet such as a bird. Secondly, nature has made all the members of the planet inter-dependent on each other. These relationships, if regarded with the right values, space, respect and humane attitude can be beautiful. My kiddo loves chasing the birds that are playing out in the garden which I strongly dissuade in an attempt to develop that compassionate spark in her towards other beings (not that she does not have it though she is yet to come of an understandable age). After all, each one is a living being in the planet that has feelings and the desires (needless to mention the rights too) for security which we should learn to respect and co-exist.