Theory:

The story seems to be set in a house, and a young girl named Payal and her mom were in conversation about Owlie.
 
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Payal shouted in fear that Owlie was missing and called her mom.
 
Her mom was annoyed and asked her where Owlie could have gone, as she had been sleeping in her cage sometime back.
 
Payal replied that Owlie was not there and she informed that the garden door is open. Then Payal's mother ran into the room, and she confirmed that Owlie was not there.
 
One may wonder, what will an owl do in a house? Payal's house was like a shelter for all kinds of helpless, deserted animals. People who saw lost dogs, cats that were hurt, baby birds that had fallen out of the nest - brought it straight to Payal's mother. She had a big heart to accommodate all of them even if her house did not have much space. They did not have a big farm or a big house. They had a small house, but she welcomed all creatures who needed her help. Her house was always used to such unexpected visitors - still, the arrival of Owlie had been unforgettable. Shefali didi (sister, in Hindi) had walked in one day, with a cardboard box in her hand.
 
Shefali seems to be a bigger girl than Payal because she referred to her as didi. She may be a neighbour or a friend, who had walked in with a box in her hand. Payal's mother opened the carton and saw an owlet (small owl) sitting in a corner. The owlet looked like a small ball in brown and grey colour. She picked up the owlet softly and kept it on her lap. She started talking to the owlet, just like she spoke to her dogs.  She had never touched or had an owl before, so she was very careful that she should not scare the owl. If she scared the owl, it might strike/bite with its beak. After the owl had settled down in her hand and relaxed, she put her inside a cage. Payal's mother always had empty cages, as any bird may come in anytime and she would rescue the bird. The owlet climbed on the rod and became comfortable.
 
bird-cage.jpg
 
Payal was excited, and she asked her mother how to name the owl. Her mother allowed her to choose a name for an owl. Payal suggested "Owlie", and that was how it was named. The problem of finding a name was over, but the next problem started; they wondered what do they generally feed owls with!
  
Owls usually hunt and eat their food. They eat rats, snakes, frogs etc. But in Payal's house, all of them were vegetarian, and they fed the dogs also with vegetarian food only. Payal's mother hated meat. But they had to buy meat to feed the owl. Payal got the contact number of the meat shop from her friend and called the meat shop. They delivered half a kilogram of minced meat. It was the first-day the meat was brought into their house. That was the reason why the arrival of Owlie had been so unforgettable. Payal and her mom put the meat in front of Owlie.
 
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Mother birds generally feed their young ones by shoving food down their throat.
  
Since Owlie's mother was not there, Payal's mother decided to be the mother of the owl. She took a small bit of the meat with her right hand and mashed it up until it was soft. She pressed Owlie's beak to open the beak with her left hand and pushed the food down her throat. Immediately, Owlie fell from the rod to the floor of the cage. She laid down with her feet facing upwards.
 
Payal was shocked when Owlie fell down. She screamed "Mom" and said that she had killed Owlie. Payal's mother was also equally horrified. She wondered what she had done to the poor little bird. Payal and her mother hugged each other and started crying and expressed their grief over Owlie's death. Then they started discussing about where to bury the owl. At the same time, Owlie opened one eye first, then the other! Quietly she got up and climbed the perch.
 
Later, Payal understood that falling down and acting to be dead was Owlie's way of protecting herself from enemies or danger. Payal and her mother were not dangers to Owlie, but Owlie was a baby owl who did not know that. These incidents happened on the first day when Owlie got home; Owlie needed time to understand whether they were dangerous or not.
 
Initially, Payal's mother had to force Owlie to eat. But later, Owlie understood that if a hand came towards her, it was for giving her food. She would open her mouth automatically, and her beak would make a loud bite of the food. But for Owlie, she did not know when she will be fed. Whenever a hand came to her, she thought someone was giving her food, and she would bite into the hand. So every time Payal and her mother tried to touch Owlie, Owlie thought they were giving her food and bit their hands. So Payal and her mom had a lot of bite marks in their fingers.
 
Payal started reading more about owls and their habits she understood that Owlie was a Spotted Owlet.
  
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Spotted Owletshave:
  • Grey-brown fur.
  • Heavy white spots.
  • Pale face.
  • Yellow eyes.
  • White neckband, (which looked like a ribbon for Payal).
Payal started taking care of Owlie and her needs. Her jobs included:
  • Cleaning the cage every day.
  • Filling the water bowl.
  • Feeding her - she loved the way Owlie took the food from her hand.
Payal kept the cage covered during the day. Owls are night birds, so mostly Owlie slept through the day. At nights, owls are active. So she took off the cage cover during the nights. Payal and her mom had decided that after Owlie grows big, they would let her fly away. But Owlie should learn to fly before that, so they kept her in a closed room. That way, Owlie can learn to fly within the room without getting hurt.
 
After a lot of discussion, they moved her cage to the library, which was Payal's favourite room. The library had two doors - one opened to the garden, and the other gave access to the rest of the house. The library had tall bookshelves, and Payal loved to spend time there, reading all types of books. The shelves also had a lot of decorative household ornaments. Her mother loved these knickknacks - pretty things like pottery, dolls, wooden and clay birds and animals - all collected from around the world, wherever they had travelled.
  
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After Owlie moved to the library, there were strict rules for everybody in the house. Nobody should leave the two doors open - either day or night. Every night, Payal opened the cage door and put minced meat pieces on the top of the cage. This was to check whether Owlie is flying during the nights and also learn to find her food.
  
Every day morning, Payal would go to the library to say hello to Owlie, and she closed the cage door when she left to school. She would always seeOwlie on her perch, the rod in the cage, even though the cage door was open. So she stopped closing the cage door during the day. Nobody went into the room during the day, and Owlie was also asleep most of the day. So there was no point in closing the cage door anyway. Payal found that Owlie had been flying during the night because she saw bits of meat all over the room. Her idea had worked; she put the meat on the cage so that Owlie can learn to search for her food.
 
In the evening, after she came back from school, she looked into the library first. Generally, she would find Owlie sleeping on the perch. But that day, the cage was empty. The door to the garden was also open. Owlie was nowhere in sight. Payal cried loudly and asked her mom, who had left the garden door open. She wailed how they would find Owlie again. Her mom asked her not to panic and assured that she must be somewhere around. They closed the garden door and searched every nook and corner of the room - behind doors, on top of the tall bookshelves. But Owlie was not there.
 
Payal was crying, and tears came down her cheeks. Their goal was to make Owlie learn to fly so that she can fly away someday, but not this early. She was still very young and small, and she would not know how to hunt for her food. Also, there were dangers from bigger birds like kite or eagle, which may attack Owlie. Finally, they decided Owlie was not there, and they gave up the search. They decided to open up all the doors and windows so that the room can have some fresh air. Payal was wiping her tears as she opened the doors, and still, she had some hope that Owlie might return if she kept the doors open.
 
Payal's mom went on to continue her household work. She came back after two hours, and she saw Payal looking at Owlie's cage with sorrow. Her mom wanted to divert her from the sorrow, and she asked her to go and read a good book. Her mom knew that reading a book would cheer her up. Payal exhaled heavily from her sorrow but agreed and started looking for a book that she has not read before.
  
Payal noticed a curio on the shelf that she had never seen before. Curios are rare, unusual, or intriguing objects. She wondered where it came from. It looked like a miniature toy of an owl.
 
toy owl.jpg
 
She went to pick it up, and to her surprise, it opened one eye! It was Owlie, pretending to be the curio. Payal shouted "Mom!" and said she was back. She scoldedOwlie saying not to frighten her up again like that and put her back in the cage. Payal claimed that Owlie winked back at her. Maybe she did because Owlie seemed to like Payal from the way she played with her.
 
Glossary of difficult words:
 

Words

Meanings

abandoned

deserted, left alone

advent

arrival of a notable person/thing

aghast

shocked, horrified

bawled

shout or call out noisily

carton

a box, usually for packaging food supplies, milk etc.

crossly

annoyed/irritated

curio

rare, unusual, or intriguing objects

didi

sister (in Hindi)

errands

chores, tasks, work

gazing mournfully

look intently with sorrow

howled

weep and cry out loudly

knickknacks

small, colorful decorative ornaments

memorable

unforgettable

owlet

a tiny, young owl

pale

light in color

pecked

strike/bite with beak

perch

a temporary resting  place (here, the rod in the cage where Owlie was sitting)

pottery

pots, dishes made of clay

pretend

act/pose

seldom

rare

shove

push roughly

shut

close

snap

make a loud biting sound

squished

mashed

swoop down

attack with a sweeping movement

swore

promised solemnly, claimed

turn up

appear/arrive

yell in panic

shout in fear