It had been 15 minutes and Avichal had still not pulled the trigger. He had had a perfect aim all this while as he hid himself behind the bushes. The pair of white pigeons had still not spotted him. He could have taken a shot any time and easily taken down one pigeon. But the problem was that he couldn’t decide which one.

He knew perfectly well that these were not just two friend pigeons chit-chatting at the edge of a pond. These were a couple. He knew it from his experience of chasing and hunting birds. They were very clearly a couple. And they were there to steal some moments of privacy and intimacy. A small pond with green trees all around was just the perfect setting on a summer noon. And if he took a shot, one was sure to die and the other was sure to survive. He had no issues with anyone of them dying. It didn’t matter to him. But he couldn’t help sympathizing with the one that survives.

Hunting was a hobby for Avichal and birds were his favorite. Born in a super rich family, he never had to think about earning money. He always had it. He would spend weeks at a time in different forests of India chasing birds with his gun. Though he wasn’t particularly kind-hearted, he wasn’t cruel either. He just liked it. And he was fairly accomplished in this hobby. Once, he killed 4 birds with a single shot as a group of migratory birds was flying in V formation. He wasn’t a legend but he was skilled enough to become one some day. And yet, here he was, lying down on his stomach, hiding himself behind bushes, not making an iota of noise, with a perfect aim but not able to pull the trigger.

When he took the aim at the female pigeon, he thought about his wife. What if he gets the news that his wife is dead. How will he react? Will he go mad? How will his son react? Who would feed his son bites after bites while he is ready to run to the playground?

And when he took the aim at the male pigeon, he again thought about his wife. What if he himself dies right now, right here in this forest? How will his wife take it? Will she be alright? Will she be able to carry on with life as if nothing ever happened? And what about his son? Will he miss him? Will he learn the ways of this world without his father guiding him?

In either case, he didn’t care about death. He had seen enough of it. And he himself had killed several birds and other animals without a bit of remorse. He was ok with the concept of life-leaving-the-body. As of now, his concern was the pigeon that would survive. Wouldn’t the survivor be miserable if he pulled the trigger? And that thought of making someone miserable was disturbing him.

This was the root of his delimma. The question in front of him was not whom to kill. The question was whom to make miserable. And he couldn’t find an answer.

While Avichal was still struggling with this dilemma, a powerful gust of wind came from the east. The tree branches swayed, a cloud of dust rose and dry leaves fell from the trees into the clear water of the pond. The pigeons took a flight as if the nature had sent them a signal to leave. As Avichal saw them soaring up in the sky and flying away, he went through a mix of emotions.

On the whole, he was mildly happy. His ordeal was over and he didn’t have to make a choice that he didn’t want to make. This was the first time a bird escaped from Avichal after he had taken the aim. And that was a bit disappointing for him. But the satisfaction of not making anyone miserable far outweighed this tiny disappointment.

For a few minutes, he remained motionless lying on the green grass. He enjoyed looking at the tree branches swaying slowly against the backdrop of clear blue sky. Then he got up, put his gun on the left shoulder and walked towards the jeep that he had parked nearby. He drove down to his farm house with a smile of amusement on his face. The memory of white pigeons was fresh and strong. It kept floating in his mind; making him happy in a way that he couldn’t understand.

He was hungry and as he walked across the courtyard of his farm house, he called his servant and asked him to be ready with the food. He hanged his gun on a wall in his room, washed himself up and almost rushed back to the courtyard drawn by the appetizing smell of the food. He knew what it was. Partridge curry. His favorite. He had the excitement of a small child as he sat on the chair and took a large piece of partridge meat on his plate.

And then the pigeons resurfaced in his memory. And he thought if the partridge he was about to eat also had a mate. What if it did? What would have happened to him or her? Is the surviving one miserable? How long will the other one remain miserable? Is he responsible for causing that misery? He didn’t mind a bird dying. But he didn’t like a bird being miserable. Not anymore.

Without being very conscious of it, he started taking small bites of the food. As the meat pieces were squeezed by the teeth, the spicy juice covered his tongue. The taste buds marveled at the curry. But the mind was not on the partridge that was dead and served in a dish on his plate. It was rather on a partridge that was crying right now, far away in the forest. A partridge that just lost its mate.

His train of thoughts got interrupted by the ringing of his phone. It was from his wife. He was happy that his wife was alive. And that he was alive. But then he looked at the dead partridge on his plate. And thought about a miserable partridge crying in the forest.