This was a post I had done ages ago. A cherished few of you, who used to visit my old blog, might recognize it. I am posting it today (with an update) because I cannot forget dear, dear Sam for more reasons than I care to count.
Today our pet parakeet hurt herself. In the evening back from work, I found blood all over her cage, apparently from a sore she had pried open with her hooked beak, the strength of which she herself does not know.
Well, I know now that keeping a pet bird is cruel and unethical, whether it be a parakeet or a Bird of Paradise. Nature intended them to be part of her finery, her bards and her emblems of freedom, of flight.
But when we got Sam sixteen years ago, we did not know she was a she, nor that it was wrong to want her. She came to us, a mass of wobbles and gobbles, squeaks ‘n screeches, all skin and no feather, with a disproportionately large beak and an appetite to match. She couldn’t keep anything down though. Or should I put it this way, whatever we fed her came out in acid splotches of warm, yellow-green on my study table. And she begged, no demanded, more food!
She has grown up with me and my sister and is as much a part of the family as any of us. She has mastered phrases like “What are you upto, Sam?”,”Have you eaten, Sam?” and “Mom I’m hungry, what’s for dinner?”, all picked up from the cacophony our home used to be when we were children.
She can keep up her end of the conversation, sometimes using various tones and moods, to everyone’s delirious amusement, which of course makes her angry and even more talkative. Our Sam takes herself seriously, she does.
Over the years Sam has become more imperious than ever in her demands, more fastidious about food, and more curious about goings-on all around her, somewhat like a voluble matriarch at her grand-daughter’s wedding.
And of course, when we sisters are away, Sam feels she is the mistress of all she surveys, scolding visitors in her best headmistress voice, and refusing any but the choicest of tidbits.
Tonight is medicine time for her, a paste of herbs for her back. Three or four of us will have to coax her out of her cage, subdue her, trying not to hurt her or ourselves in the process. Sam has a sharp beak, and she knows how to use it.
She isn’t scared of much, our Sam, and would give our dog a hard time with huge squawks and painful pecks if he came too near, offering a friendly sniff. Jimmy died last year, but Sam continues– unfazed.
There is one thing she is scared of, however.
Being outside her cage.
It drives her to the edge. After having bathed her and cleaned out her cage if we ever forget to shut the door, she gingerly climbs down and does the needful. Having never known flight or freedom, she knows her cage to be her only haven, and us, her only family.
I think of Sam and wonder about myself, about each one of us. What if the world we are so happy to be in and so scared to leave and the people around who we cannot live without, are not really the true essence of our existence?
What if it IS true, about the world being an illusion, what if all the world is really a stage and we are part of an all-encompassing make-believe?
Four years on, Sam is now a defiant twenty, a veritable ancient amongst parakeets.
Her beak is still a plum red, the ring on her neck a svelte black, and her face as green and expressive as ever: in her life with humans this bird has learned the value of facial expressions.
Till last year, her plumage grew out, green, luxuriant. Her tail was longer than her own height.
But suddenly, Sam has decided she has had enough of beauty. She now systematically plucks out her feathers as they appear, fiercely, with a vengeance.
As a result, all that remains is her naked, tiny body, all skin and bones. No tail, no feathers, except for those on her neck and head.
Sam continues to be unfazed. She hops up and down, does her daily routine, talks my mom down. She still has an imperious voice, our Sam.
I saw her this way and the image refuses to leave me. ( It was a shock, because the parents never mentioned anything during our marathon calls.)
I have seen death, pretty recently too, but this is a painful view of old age.
My mum says though she loves Sam, she now wants for our beloved pet to pass on.
My husband says Sam is happy the way she is, no change in her demeanor, so why should she not live on?
I wonder which one of them is right.