Bhoja lived in the terai. The terai is the region at the foot of the Himalayas where the grasses grow tall, and the forest is thick.
Bhoja loved the forest. He knew the birds and beasts that lived there. He knew the trees where the honeybees built their huge combs, and the caves where the bats hung upside down.
He liked to sit by the pond where the sarus cranes waded, and the deer came when they were thirsty. And he loved the pool where the frogs croaked all day.
One day, while he was out roaming in the forest, he found an eaglet with a broken wing. It had fallen off its nest high on a semul tree. The huge tree was bare. It had shed its leaves to welcome spring.
In a few days it would get new buds. Soon its branches would be covered in masses of large, crimson flowers. Then would come fresh, new leaves.
But right now there wasn’t a single leaf on the tree.
Not able to fly, and with nothing to stop its fall, the eaglet had fluttered down…
down to the ground
It trembled with pain.
Seeing it suffer so, Bhoja bent down and stroked its head. Then gently, very gently, he picked it up and took it home.
He cleaned its broken wing with warm water. Then he did what his mother always did. He took a piece of turmeric root and ground it to a paste.
Carefully he put the paste on the wound. He tied the wing with a strip of soft, moist bark. And he made a bed of fine grass for the little bird to lie on.
Bhoja fed the eaglet each day. He gave it fresh milk from the goats, and sometimes a juicy fat caterpillar. Soon the wing began to heal.
As the eaglet got stronger, it began to follow Bhoja everywhere. It would be there, perched on his shoulder when he went into the forest. It walked along with him when he went to the shed to feed the goats. It would sit by him when he rested at home.
In time the bird grew big and strong. New feathers covered its wings. They were deep and silky and brown. Soon it was ready to fly.
Bhoja knew he could not keep it for long. It would not be fair. It was time to set it free…
Early one morning, when the sun had just risen, Bhoja took the eaglet high up a hill. He then let it go.
With a flutter of its wonderful wings, the bird soared into the sky. It flew higher and higher and higher.
Then suddenly, as if remembering something, it swooped down again. It would not leave sight of Bhoja. It circled low, and moved with him all day.
When evening came, Bhoja knew he’d have to do something. He waited till the sun began to set. Then he ran and hid in a nearby cave.
The eaglet flew round and round for a long while, searching for him. Then as shadows began to fall, it flew away.
Away and away and away.
Bhoja could see it in the distance, just a speck in the darkening sky.
Feeling happy that the bird was now free, he returned home.