Anna Tambour presents 


The virtuous medlar circle
thoroughly bletted


Excreta, etc.

by Bharatram Gaba


Three years ago, on a wet afternoon, we moved the last of our bags up to our new house.  The atmosphere was dreary and incredibly humid, but the hope in our hearts dispelled that.  We were moving from a spacious three-bedroom apartment in the affluent Western suburbs to a 300 sq. ft cubbyhole in the heart of middle-class Dadar (an area of Bombay).  No air-conditioner, no lift, no microwave, not even a shower, but the spring in our steps and the song on our lips shooed these piffles away.  We soon discovered that the roof leaked incessantly during the rains.  It was wetter inside the house than it was outside.  We didn’t care. 

Together we spent long nights adjusting buckets under the leaks and emptying the full ones, even shifting the sleeping kids around the place so that they weren’t in the way of spreading puddles.  In the heat wave that followed the rains, the house was little better than a 300 sq. ft oven, being directly under an open terrace.  But, this was our first HOME.

A year later, we installed an air-conditioner.  For this, a box-shaped grill had to be made around the unit just outside the window.  That was when it began – the attack of the pigeons. 

Each morning, one corner of the grill sported a new, half-finished nest and a mosaic of patterns on the machine where the birds had obviously performed their ablutions.  We tried everything.  Junk was put on the grill to starve them of space.  They found a way to nudge it aside, however heavy, and make a new nest.  A scary-looking doll was kept on the machine to act as a scarecrow.  The next day dawned on a scarecrow that had bird-droppings in all its openings. 

Finally, we resigned to it as a fact of life and instructed the helper to clean out the grill every day.  He did this with religious fervour every single morning, destroying the nest that must have been so painstakingly constructed the night before.  It became such an integral part of our daily ritual that like most other routines, we ceased to think about it.  Then, for our elder son’s holidays, we went back to my parents’s house.

 We stayed there for nearly two months – the duration of the summer vacation.  When we got back and opened the windows, an overpowering stench hit us.  The air-conditioner could hardly be seen under the carpet of excreta and feathers.  And in that familiar place on the grill, there was a large nest that looked complete in every respect.  Within the bowels of the nest were three small, yellow-white eggs. 

Fatigue from the heat gave way to rage as I armed myself with a broom and violently cleaned out the machine.  At that time, I do not know what stopped me from cleaning out the nest itself, but I gave vigorous instructions to have it disappear before I got back from work the next day. 

 I sure as hell don’t have a good memory.  But that next day, something about the nest kept nagging my mind.  Try as much as I did, I just couldn’t get any work completed.  I was surprised and a little frightened by this new feeling.  I called home to check whether the job had been done.  Nope, the helper hadn’t turned up that day and wasn’t expected for at least a week. 

A strange mixture of relief and irritation swept over me.  The irritation was because I was going to have to do the job.  About the relief, I hadn’t the faintest idea.  That night I went to bed with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

 The following morning saw me up at the crack of dawn, something I haven’t done since the day I was to get married.  After the daily unmentionables, I made myself a cup of tea and just sat back and gazed goofily at my family.  In the first light of the day, the children looked like little Angels, sleeping the sleep that only the innocent could.  That particular morning, my wife’s face looked more beautiful than I could ever remember. 

My thoughts wandered to what we’d been through together.  The last thirteen years had been one hell of a roller-coaster ride and she’d stuck by me every inch of the way.  It was a massive struggle to be able to make our own home, but we ultimately did it.  We had our own little place we called home and it was worth all the heartaches.  All at once, the stench from the open window hit me again and brought me back to the real world.  In a fit of anger, I jerked myself up, picked up a stick and rushed to the window. 

 I looked out at the nest.  The female pigeon was in it, sitting on the eggs.  That day, she didn’t fly off scared as she generally did when someone approached.  I could clearly discern what looked like naked fear as she looked at me from the corner of her eyes.  I could even sense her begin to tremble.  But she didn’t move from her place. 

 In the stillness of the morning, a tiny cracking sound reached my ears.  It seemed to come from under the female pigeon.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  The eggs were hatching! 

That was not a female pigeon sitting on the eggs,. That was a mother nestling her babies.  I could still make out the fear in her eyes, but she wouldn’t budge and leave her babies unprotected.  I looked back over my shoulder at my children again and remembered the times when my wife and I had put our bodies between them and the leaking roof.  I remembered the times when we’d stayed up nights taking turns fanning them with a newspaper because the power had failed.  The times we’d used our bodies to shade them from the morning sunlight as it streamed in through the curtainless windows.  I remembered that last Diwali (an Indian festival, supposedly of Light but more about Sound nowadays) when I’d held my shivering thirteen-month-old son tightly to my bosom and sung to him to try and calm his frayed nerves and protect him from the noise. 

I kept the stick down and looked back out at the nest.  Fed on a steady diet of “the manly things to do”, I tried desperately, but could not hold back the tears that began to form in my eyes.  That was not a nest, that was their Home.  And we had been destroying their Home.  I slowly withdrew from the window.  The daily routine pushed the incident out of my mind, and I left for work.

 The first thing I did that evening was to go over to the window and check on the birds.  There was nothing there.  Stunned, I was told that our helper had come in after all later that morning and had cleaned out the nest.  I couldn’t eat or sleep that night.  I was too scared to ask what had become of the eggs. 

 The ritual of going over to the window each morning continued for quite some time after that.  It gradually slowed down to checking once in a while for any signs of branches or feathers.  But I needn’t have bothered.  The birds never came back.



Bharatram Gaba (1967), on himself, when asked to write the dreaded bio:

The Americans & the Kiwis gave up trying to say my name and made me “Brat” – it stuck. I married my teenage sweetheart and we have 2 boys. We live in Bombay.
I used to write because I was too sad to talk. I was first published on (a women-centric website) by a friend. Then (and I probably contributed to it) Icleo went the way of hundreds of other websites – into the digital void. I don’t consider myself a writer in the truest sense of the word.
A.T on Bharatram ("Brat" doesn't stick here):
He makes me wonder what "the truest sense" is.
Coming soon, his wickedly funny side.
Bharatram Gaba can be contacted at
bratgaba (at)

The virtuous medlar circle

is part of
Anna Tambour and Others

"Excreta, etc." copyright © 2004 by Bharatram Gaba
"Excreta, etc." appears here with thanks to Bharatram Gaba, whose payment was less than a brass razoo.
This is part of a series of invited pieces by people I find deliciously inspiring, always a hoot, and who write like a bletted medlar tastes. A.T.
The Virtuous Medlar Circle © 2004