It all started at the end of January. Mother owl took shelter in the gaps between the tiles on the roof of the cottage where lives Didi.
The cottage is surrounded by a variety of tall and wonderful trees.
Owls hunt at night and rest in the daytime. On her return from her night’s duty, Mother owl would wake up Didi from her deep sleep with the flapping of her wings. She brought bits of meat for her two newborn babies. It may have been one or two or even three o’clock early in the morning, but yet, Didi would stir awake as soon as Mother owl arrived. She soon got into the habit of responding to Mother owl’s loud voice announcing the meal that she’d brought for her children.
“Here’s your dinner, dear little ones,” Mother owl would gently wake her babies up. Didi could hear the children chirping in glee. This story was repeated every night or early morning for many, many days.
Didi thought that this would make an interesting tale to narrate to her brother Dindin.
One day, Mother owl happened to overhear Didi and Dindin talking about her, and so she sent the following message to Dindin:
“Hello Dindin! Great brother Dindin! I, Mother owl, send you my greetings from high up in a tall coconut tree.
Didi has sheltered me and my two babies for weeks on the roof of her cottage.
She likes to call me Hibou which means ‘owl’ in a language that Didi speaks. The name has given me an identity of my own! My name is ‘Hibou’ now, and so I am not any nameless bird! I spend much of my time high up on the coconut tree, calling out to my babies, who are safe in the gaps between the tiles on Didi’s roof. I guess the time has come for them to leave their secure habitat and bid goodbye to their Mamma’s protective care. But, alas! My little grown-up babies still feel insecure, scared to stretch their wings and take their first jump from off the roof top and into open space. They are still a little hesitant to explore how life looks like in the sky and how the earth looks from above. Is this a sign that they still need their Mother's care? Tell me, my dear. You are a wise brother Dindin. And, if the time has indeed come for them to go off on their own, should I bid farewell forever to sister Didi and the delightful roof of her cottage? Maybe she’ll tell me that I should learn to trust, that my two grown-up babies are in the protective hands of their GREAT CREATOR, that they have to bid their Mamma goodbye, and that they will probably never be heard of again.”
Mother Hibou sat high up on the coconut tree and spent the whole day calling her little grown-up babies. Non-stop she called them, on and on again. One of them, in a gesture of obedience, ran out of the tiles on the roof and leapt into the air. But, alas! It tripped and fell to the ground! As you can well imagine, Mother Hibou was heartbroken. As luck would have it, a short while later, Didi passed by and saw the baby on the ground. She gently lifted the little one and held it in the palm of her hand.
It could easily be hurt by a dog, a cat, pouring rain, or an ill-intentioned human if it were left to fend for itself. Didi heard Mother Hibou desperately calling out for help. Didi hadn’t ever touched a baby owl before, but she couldn’t resist the sight of the poor little thing. Nor could she turn a deaf ear to Mother Hibou’s cries. Didi went away, crading the baby owl in the palm of her hand.
Would Mother Hibou, Didi wondered, fly down from the top of the coconut tree and pick up her baby from her hand? Did Mother Hibou approve of Didi’s gesture of concern? Did she sense that Didi would care for her little one? Hopefully she did! What is the mystery in Mother Hibou’s trust? Did Didi interpret Mother Hibou’s desperate call from her own narrow perspective? Is Mother Hibou unaware of the question of her child’s survival that Didi has now to tackle? How will Didi feed baby owl? She’s never fed an owl before! Who is there to catch a rat, a frog, a snake, a worm for baby owl, who is still unable to get its food on its own? Didi has powdered leaves of a certain plant with her. She read somewhere that some birds feed on these leaves, which they gather from salty lakes in tropical lands. And so, she mixes the leaf-powder with some water, pours the mixture into a syringe, and patiently starts to feed the concoction to baby owl, drop by drop. Two days later, baby owl is healed from the shock of having fallen down, but he is still unable to stretch his wings. He stands on his legs and looks around the four white washed walls of the room where Didi has kept him. He also accepts tiny bits of meat that Didi feeds him. Would this be the realization of a promise of survival? Didi is quite ignorant of owls’ natures, customs and traditions. She spoke to baby owl and made a covenantal promise to do all she could to help him to grow up healthy.
She promised to let him free as soon as he stretches out its wings towards the infinite sky. Didi hopes that lovely owls endure forever.
Dindin responds to Didi’s story. Wow, this is so amazing, he thinks! He says that he always knew that Didi would be baby owl’s friend in some way… and so she is! And not just a friend, but the baby’s second mother! The gentle spirit of Mother Hibou speaks eloquently through Didi’s voice! Brother Dindin is sure that Mother Hibou is happy to leave her baby in the tender love and care of big Sister Didi. She understands, just like Didi, that we are all temporary pilgrims on this earth, with no permanent resting place. Our true home is in the vastness of the Sky…the infinite and eternal Sky! And, our hearts will remain restless until they rest in the vastness of the inner unfathomable Silence.
Dindin is really happy to hear all that’s happened. He -big brother- wishes sister Didi all the very best in her new adventure. Dindin’s prayers and wishes of good health are always there with her. Do take care, he says.
“I have much to tell you, dear brother Dindin,” says Baby Owl. “Many days have passed, and see how I look! I’m well-fed. My feathers are growing. I’m healthy, and I get good sleep, though I am as yet unable to fly high.
At sunset, Mother Didi takes me out in the green surroundings. I breathe in fresh air, wonder at the trees, and hear melodious sounds. Safe in the palm of her hands, nothing frightens me. Back in my little four-walled dwelling, I peep through the top of the door that Mother Didi keeps slightly open so that she can keep an eye on my mischievous behaviour.
At night, I hear my little baby sister’s chippings from between the roof tiles -she is still there-. I can also hear my Mamma, whom Mother Didi has named Hibou, whisper: ‘Here I am, baby’.”
This is what Dindin wrote in reply: “Dear Baby! Greetings from brother Dindin! I’m happy to hear that you’re keeping fine. Don’t worry; you’re in safe hands with Mother Didi. Enjoy your stay with her, eat well, sleep well and grow big and strong! A time will come when you will be ready to spread your wings and fly into the great big sky. Until then, relax and play with your new Mamma Didi, who takes good care of you, with joy, wonder and lots of love. Be well, my little friend. Really, I can’t wait to see you soon!”
And here is what Didi wrote to Dindin the other day: “Dear Dindin! I met with a friend who lives in the woods. People who live in the woods know many things about the trees and about various creatures that inhabit the forest. They have much wisdom and experience. The forest is sacred. It is the life-partner of those who live in it. This friend’s advice is as follows: If a baby owl happens to fall from its nest, observe from afar what's happening to him and what a mother owl might be doing if she were around. Only in rare cases of extreme danger should a baby owl be taken into human hands. Once so taken, a mother owl refuses to recognize its baby, who then survives if someone is kind enough to domesticate it.
That’s a challenging and mysterious reality that we ‘rational’ humans cannot understand. I am now faced with a great dilemma about whether or not I should adopt a baby owl. I don’t want a caged bird, with clipped wings, and tied feet, fearfully crying for freedom.
Now that Didi has taken charge of baby owl, she is responsible for what she has undertaken to nurture and is confronted with an ethical question of its survival. Did Didi render a disservice to baby owl by expressing her love and compassion by taking baby? Can Mother Hibou really disown her own child? Who will teach baby owl to hunt for food in the dark of the night? Didi refused to domesticate baby just to satisfy her ego. She would not hurt baby’s identity as an owl by doing so. Owls are created with a Divine purpose. They are sons and daughters of the great forest. They must behave as God intended them to. Didi struck upon a wonderful solution to the great dilemmas she faced. One day, she brought baby owl in front of a mirror and whispered: ‘Little Baby, do you recognize your own species?’ Looking into a mirror may be a strange experience for baby owl, thought Didi. It might even be great fun! When Didi put baby owl in front of the mirror, he turned his head around, in all the four directions, his beak open wide in wonder. ‘I’m cleverer than Didi!’, he squealed, ‘It’s me, just me, only me!’
Baby owl narrated to brother Dindin the following:“Life between the four walls of Mother Didi’s room continues as usual. Mother Didi is very engaged these days. The other day, she went for an anti -corruption protest rally in the city’s Peace Garden. She left some food for me to pick at in her absence. Unlike before, that day I did not wait for her to feed me with her hands. I ate all by myself -the first time ever! When Mother Didi got back, she was really pleasantly surprised! She was sure that I had now become a full-fledged adolescent. She was even convinced that I could now understand her language. She talked about how people must raise their voices against things that undermine life. Maybe one day, she suggested, all the owls would join together in one loud chorus and cry out against all that destroys birds’ habitats, the forests, the trees, the creepers, the rivers, the frogs, the butterflies, the bees, the millipedes…. against all that ill-intentioned people do to satisfy their greedy egos.
This is indeed a life-nourishing call. I’ll make it my own for all days to come. And when I shall hear the drummer’s drum, I’ll go back as far as owls’ memory goes, to sing ancient stories and listen to the earth’s music, cultivating hope.
Brother Dindin, let me also say how I no longer fear mother Didi, as I did when she first brought me to her room. We share great moments of fun, looking together in the mirror. It seems as if both of us are twins! I hold onto Didi’s fingers and then jump upwards, reaching her upper arm, then her neck, and then, finally, her head. I pull her hair and pick her nose and cheeks! She is pleased and knows that I love her and feel secure”.
Few days later baby owl informed brother Dindin about the following event.
“Oh brother Dindin! Listen to a most surprising story! It’s about something that happened yesterday, at sunset, when Mother Didi and I went out for our usual evening walk. When she stopped to talk to the cheekoo tree close to her cottage to know if its fruits were about to ripen, I saw a lovely little fellow owl sitting on one of its branches! In turn, it began to stare at me!
It couldn’t be other than my very own twin sister; it struck me! I spoke aloud: ‘Look, Mother Didi at who’s here!’
Just then, I felt Mother Didi releasing her hold on me. She opened her palm, in which she had been carefully holding me, and surrendered me to the Great Unknown. I spread my little wings and flew up towards the infinite sky and perched atop a high pillar. From there, I greeted Mother Didi with the following words:
Bye Mother Didi! I saw freedom in the eyes of my little sister, and now I want to be free, too! But let me tell you, Mother Didi. You have given me your love and everything else I needed to become who I now am. There is great joy in giving - so they say. You now give me away -and I know that pains you- as the Divine unfolds my wings from the palm of your hands. Know that my joy in receiving freedom is overwhelming. I now belong to the forest and the trees. Trust, Mother Didi, in our Creator’s providence and let go. Be fine and cheerful always!’”
Didi wrote this to Dindin:
“Dear Dindin, baby owl has left the four walls of the cottage after that amazing encounter with his sister, whom he spotted sitting on a branch of the cheekoo tree. They decided to sit together on the very same branch until they become big. Mother Owl occasionally drops by to see how they are getting along. She is very happy seeing them flying around. But she is careful too, to alert them of any possible danger. At night, the two siblings explore their surroundings and learn hunting skills. Whenever I pass their way, I look up and search till I spot them high up in the branches of the cheekoo tree, hopping from branch to branch,
or sitting together, sharing their childhood memories, or dancing together to the call of life’s unending dream.
Some days later, when they were almost full adults, the siblings suddenly disappeared from the cheekoo tree. I know I might never see them again. But I also know that wherever they might be, they will dance to the songs of the stars and sing to the music of the forest!
Lead the dance, my beloved ones, and we shall follow!