By Savitri Narayanan
Aniruddh opened his eyes and quickly sat upright in his bed. The window curtain was parted and the sunlight was streaming in over his pillow.
‘So late!’, he told himself as he rushed out of the bedroom.
Usually by this time he would have been in his uniform, waiting to board the school bus but Sundays were special. Aniruddh and Alpa were allowed to sleep for as long as they wished. On Saturday nights they slept late too watching TV or playing board games or reading story books. If papa came home early  they would spend the evening out on the beach and eat out too.
‘Where’s everybody!’, thought Aniruddh as the house seemed strangely quiet. There was no one in the kitchen.
“Aniruddh, your glass of milk is beside the jar of matthri”, mummy called out from the verandah, “Help yourself!”
Out there in the front verandah, papa and mummy were reading the newspapers.  Alpa too was there sprawled on the floor, doing a crossword.
“Get one matthri for me too!”, she called.
Aniruddh was in for a shock! Through the kitchen window he could see a  peacock in the backyard! There it was, its colourful feathers trailing behind in full glory. What a beautiful sight!
“What’s taking you so long, my dearie?”, mummy walked in from behind.
Aniruddh gestured her to be quiet and pointed out of the window.
The peacock was struttering around gracefully eating something from the ground.
The helper Soumini walked in through the small gate at the back chatting with Ramu Kaka.
She glared at the peacock and said,
“So you came here too ! Go ahead, spoil whatever we have!”, shouted Ramu Kaka  at the sight of the peacock.
“Get lost idiot! Don’t fiddle with our plants !” He aimed the axe in a threatening mode.
The peacock turned back and It strutted towards the old, abandoned cottage beyond.
“Papa, what’s the matter?”, Aniruddh walked over to the verandah with his glass of milk, “A peacock in our backyard! So thrilling! Why are Ramu Kaka and Soumini Masi so upset?”
Alpa too joined in, “And they shooed it away! The last time we saw one was when we went to the zoo!”
“That’s where they should be”, in the zoo, in a cage!”, Ramu Kaka sounded annoyed,
“Ramu Kaka, peacock is such a beautiful bird and you’re shooing it away! Why?”
“Because it spoils our crops!”, he said irritation in his voice, “With so much effort we had dug up the ground, prepared the beds  and sowed green gram; early one morning when I opened the door, it was all gone! There was not only a peacock but a peahen too having a party! I did shoo them away but the damage was done!”
“You mean they ate up all those seeds you’d sown?”, asked Aniruddh, “In the forest  won’t they get their food?”
“They are omnivorous”, said mummy who was a science teacher, “They eat things like seeds, grains and also insects, small lizards, frogs, rodents and snakes; they’re not fond of bright sunlight so come out usually at dawn or dusk”.
“Our teacher said it is our national bird but endangered!”
“Yes, due to over-hunting”, agreed mummy, “people can’t have enough of the peacocks’ feathers!”
“Why do they come out at all?”, Aniruddh was puzzled, “Can’t they just stay in their forests?”
“Where are the forests, beta?”, asked Ramu Kaka, “Haven’t you seen that building complex coming up away from the highway? Any clue how many trees were cut?”
Soumini who was mopping the verandah added, “Not only peacocks, soon we’ll have monkeys, snakes, and may be tigers too come around looking for food!”
“It’s no laughing matter”, said mummy, “when hungry, they could harm us too!”
“What shall we do!”, said Aniruddh looking worried.
“Beta, at present we’re doing our best to protect our surroundings”, said Papa.
“Means what?”
“Those builders who’ve already cut so many trees had plans to make another complex next to it; we at the Citizens’ Forum have managed to get a stay order; let them look for another suitable venue!”
Papa put down the newspaper and got up, “Soon your generation will grow up and take charge of the world; the main thing is to be aware and do your bit to protect mother  nature!”
“Next week we have our discussion forum”, said Alpa, “This can be the topic, deforestation and afforestation!”
“We could discuss how to protect these peacocks, etc., who wander into our backyards”, said Aniriddh, “Or tigers too for that matter- they too need protection!”
Mummy and papa exchanged smiles as they said, “You children can surely think of strategies; let’s have a great Sunday breakfast!”
(The author is a retired educationist at present in Goa. A mother
and a grandmother, loves reading, writing and travelling.)