Hing: A story ending in divorce
One day many summers ago I was sitting in the courtyard of my neighborhood department store. Frantically going nowhere was a pigeon. People were busying by, which should have made this bird fly the coop, but it stuck close to a tree round and round and round. Curious, I went up to it. It ran away — it couldn’t fly! I reached down to pick it up and saw that something had taken a bite of its behind and took the tail clean off.
Bird in hand I went back to work.
Pigeons are seen as on par with sewer rats here. My coming into the building with said rat in hand caused quite the flutter — but I kept my bird.
When my boss understood that I intended to nurse the pigeon back to health he let me have the rest of the day off. This is how the bird became Byrd, my pet pigeon.
Long story short she eventually got well and it was time to release her. Bye Byrd! But no, the very next morning at sunrise I heard a loud thump on my veranda and cooing. Bryd came back, and she landed on my washing machine.
My washing machine sat on the veranda in front of a large storage space where I kept odds and ends, like cleaning supplies. I put food and water there for her and every morning at sun up I’d hear the familiar crash and drift back to sleep — and then one day they were two. Byrd was shacking up on my veranda!
Well, it was about this time that, thanks to Hiro, I got into Indian cooking. Remember my telling you I purchased everything in that first Indian cook book he gave me at once? When that parcel arrived there was one particular odor that permitted from the box — it reeked. The mailman was even curious enough to stay while I opened the box to find the offender: Two bottles of Hing, aka asafoetida.
Hing is a characteristic spice used throughout the Indian subcontinent. In small quantities it’s pleasant and chances are you’d recognize it, or at least associate it with Indian restaurants. Two bottles of it , however, is indescribable, so let me tell you what happened.
I had no idea how to handle the hing. Anywhere I put it in the apartment I could smell it. Plastic bags wouldn’t contain it. Freezing it only mellowed the punch. Hiding it in the most obscure parts of my cupboards was a taunt.
I put it on the veranda.
The next morning I heard that familiar thump — but there was no cooing. Moments later I heard wings beating a hasty retreat. The next morning the same thing happened. Then again. I had no where else to put the hing — I needed it! — so that hing came between me and Byrd who left with an empty nest and a bag of bird seed.
Postscript. It ends up you should keep your hing in a glass jar. The glass keeps that (now) wonderful aroma tamed and under lock.
The real Byrd. The photos were from my cell phone back then, so not the best quality. As you can see, she had no tail. I took care of her for about three months in house. I had to force feed her the first week. Then she got her will to live back. I really did enjoy her. She was quiet, docile, independent. Miss you, Byrd!