Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Pigeonhole Principle

Sundays are for reposing, relaxing, reveling, rejuvenation and for many other such –ings and -tions (that may not start with R). This Sunday of mine was spent in a pigeon ouster expedition. Do you know the pigeonhole principle?  It goes like this…
If n pigeons are put into m holes, with n > m, then at least one hole must contain more than one pigeon. I think the pigeons knew it too. Because we had started experiencing a hellish time with these birds of pray-tell-me-why-are-you-so-numerous. Some wily ones had managed to find such a hole in our verandah, where not one but more than one had cosied themselves. But we didn’t realize it at first. Every day, when the residents of No.XX including I returned from work and went out into the balcony to take in a breath of fresh air or hang up some clothes, a cacophony would be raised and a flock of feathers would try and fly to escape detection, strewing pebbles, little sticks and cement detritus all over the verandah in the process. My mom would shoo them away and set down to clean away the mess, only for the wretched pigeons to come and upset her efforts all over again. It would have gone on ad infinitum if not for this Sunday when my mom decided to amass an army of her own and give them a tough fight. She presented to the pigeon family her commander-in-chief, her best warrior alias my dad to defeat them in the battle of the pigeonhole. My brother stood next in command, handing dad the ammo, as he reached up to the hole on the ladder and swept away the nest that had been carefully put together by the parent pigeons. Dad ordered for a plastic polybag to be brought and the pigeon eggs were placed carefully in it, which was then handed over to my bro, who took it up to the roof (we do not take prisoners-of-war, so the eggs were kept aside; we are peace-loving denizens who however, do not brook invasion). My brother is young and not so well-versed in the military strategies, so one of the eggs broke on the way to the roof. Whether this fact was espied by the enemy force or not, I can’t say but they put up an admirable fight, what with all the flapping and fluttering. The canopy of fallen feathers befuddled the army of flat no. XX who retaliated with equal vigor as dad vigorously swiped away the wrecks of their nests and bro kept the flapping at bay with occasional shouts while my mother, the mastermind behind the battle stood with her hands on her hips, her fiery furry weapon (the broom) by her side. After some wrangling and hard work, the battle was finally over, the army bathed in feathers and debris.  Mom and dad exchanged sighs of relief and glances of victory. I sighed. What was my role in all this? I stayed inside, peering through the window, pleading and asking them if we couldn’t leave the cute birds alone?

“I will let the nest be if you promise to clean this mess every day. Will you?” asked my mom, while brandishing her favourite weapon, the oft-advertised jhadoo. Of course, I couldn’t. Cleaning gave me the cramps, mostly as an excuse and sometimes, literally as well. So, the nest had to go and the pigeonhole battle was won by the army of flat no. XX. After the battlefield had been cleared of the rubble, I tiptoed out, avoiding the remains of the nest packed in a polybag kept by the side of the wall, and looked at the line of pigeons perched on the electricity wires. I was sure they were planning a counter attack; some of them would probably strike back immediately, perhaps with another guerrilla strategy or some rudimentary approach (for instance the beaks) and some might start rehabilitation right away. I looked at them with a glance that tried to say I wasn’t in on this; I am neutral. I am Switzerland, leave me out. Just then a pigeon swarmed over my head, fluttering its wings and I ran inside, to claim my shelter with the residents of flat no. XX.

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