One of my domestic help hailed from a village in Mohmand Agency. This individual stayed with the family for around fourteen years, serving us faithfully and then bid us goodbye to take care of his meagre land holding, which had become unproductive because of his continued absence. Like all good people, he was a great animal lover – a quality which resonated perfectly with me and my brood.

It was one of those bright sunny afternoons, when he turned up carrying a green ball of mud splattered feathers in his cupped hands and gingerly handed it over to me. I held the little parrot and to my horror found that one of its legs was dangling at an unnatural angle. The nature of the injury convinced me that it had been inflicted either by a callous human or by an animal higher up in the food chain. We gingerly set the limb in makeshift splints and bandaged it, while a small red beak tried weakly to sample our fingers. We then tended to the bird day and night and watched nature’s marvellous healing process take hold.

The latest member of our family gradually adopted me as its surrogate parent. He (the gender discovery came about much later) was named ‘Mian Mithoo’ simply for want of a better name and turned out to be a standup comedian par excellence. His favorite perch was on top of a metal piece of art on the mantelpiece, where he would sit all day long giving ‘I dare you’ looks to anyone who tried to approach him. As I returned from my office and entered the gate, he uncannily became aware of my arrival and emitted strange sounds, turning round and round on his perch. My appearance at the door would generate a fresh burst of energy signified by the flapping of wings and a change of perch from the mantel piece to my shoulder. Efforts to dislodge the wonderful rascal, so that I could have my sustenance were foiled, forcing me to have my mug of tea and biscuits much like Long John Silver.

As ‘Mithoo’ reached his prime, his flights became longer and more and more oriented towards the window. Around this time we decided to move our residence to another sector and had barely settled into our new home, when an open door provided the sought after opportunity to ‘Mian Ji’. A panicky shout from one of my children was enough to tell me that our green feathered family member had escaped. I rushed to the first floor terrace and saw the familiar figure flying round in circles above the house, oblivious of all the commotion he had caused on the ground. Suddenly he appeared to have decided on a destination and was soon beyond our sight. Utterly crestfallen and sad, I bid him goodbye and rejoined my family downstairs.

As dusk arrived, I began coping with horrific scenarios, where our parrot always ended up becoming cat-meal. I made one last trip to the terrace and stood watching the sun slowly sink behind the Margalla Hills, when something ‘whirred’ out of the gathering darkness and I felt a familiar weight on my shoulder followed instantly by a cold nibble on my ear lobe. I gave a whoop of joy and rushed down the stairs with the news, and a somber evening turned jovial to celebrate the ‘return of the prodigal’.

‘Mian Mithoo’ took flight twice more after this incident, but always returned, till I was advised firmly to clip his wings. I ignored the suggestion on the plea that birds were created with the ability to fly and that neither I nor anyone else was empowered to change what nature had provided. Then one day, carrying ‘Mithoo’ out on the lawn, I heard and then saw a flock of green parrots flying overhead. As on cue, the bird in my hands began squirming and biting in the most frantic manner. Seconds later, realization dawned on me and with a tearful look at my wonderful companion, I released him. A most wonderful thing then happened – ‘my’ parrot raced to join the flock, raising a cacophony of sounds and I watched in awe as the whole group turned back and circled above the house as if performing a final farewell manoeuvre. I never saw ‘Mian Mithoo’ again, but I have been happy in the knowledge that he is amongst his own kind and free as he was always meant to be.

The writer is a historian.