Monday, May 25, 2009

Masa-kali Zara Matak Kali and the Plight of the Pigeons

It’s beyond doubt. Age and awareness are accomplices to murder- the murder of innocence and that too the pure and pristine innocence nurtured from childhood.

The other day a flock of pigeons brought home this brutal point.Not so much in Berhampur but it was in Cuttack that I noticed that many in my neighbourhood had pigeons on their rooftops. Once released from their pigeonholes they would soar towards the skies. Everyday early in the morning they would flap their wings ungainly and circle around the house. After a few minutes of freedom, the owner would call them with a slightly over-exaggerated throaty beckon call, “Aaaaaaaa, Aaaaa, Aaaa, Aa.” They would then descend happily and eat the grains spread for them. The loud flapping of their wings and their equally sonorous, “guttaar guttaar” was real music to ears. Nice neighbourhood, Nice souls, I thought about such people.

A feeling that I carried with me for over three decades.

A few years back I began a closer relationship with these lovely pigeons. My elder brother began feeding them on his rooftop. Soon the trickle became a torrent and believe it or not almost a hundred pigeons descend every morning for their feast. This became one of the ‘highs’ during my trips to Bubaneshwar. It became a daily morning ritual. We would throw the grains and pigeons would come flapping wildly to our rooftop. You could then sit in a reclining chair, sip your morning cuppa tea, browse through the newspapers or simply gossip about this and that with your family members while the birds would be busy feasting. The more adventurous would literally eat out of your hands. And all the while they would make that guttar guttar noise.

I could identify three personality types. The fat ones (motoos) would monopolize areas of the roof where others dare not enter. The smart ones (chaaloos) would go to those areas not frequented by the fat ones yet grab a good meal. The meek ones (darpoks) would wait for their turn in safe corners. I noticed that there were also the romantic ones who would even steal a kiss or two in between their breakfast!! Who says there is time and place for everything? Tell it to the birds!!

The endearing nature of this feathered species was also reinforced by the fact that they were considered reliable and faithful carriers of love letters penned by romantics during the age when love was a crime. In fact history is a witness to the fact that emperors and generals used pigeons regularly for carrying their messages across hostile terrain. The Orissa police still have these feathered faithful in their ranks. When Nehru inaugurated the Hirakud dam he had to address a meeting in Cuttack the next day. The report of the dam inauguration was carried by a pigeon in four hours flat and was available in Cuttack even before Nehru had arrived!!

Then came the film Delhi 6 and the Masak Kali song. It’s a hummabale light fun tune which along with its slick promos pushed me into seeing the film. But the film itself brought home a different grim reality. Masak kali, the most beautiful pigeon, could not fly. Why was it so? The answer was simple- because she was the most beautiful and therefore the owners favourite. And the owner, fearing the risk of losing her, clipped her wings. A heavy price indeed that Masak kali had to pay for being beautiful.

Things quickly fell in place for me. The unusual extra effort that the pigeons were making to fly when I had encountered them in childhood was probably because of this. The owners of these pigeons were not good Samaritans after all. They had clipped the wings of their ‘loved’ ones ensuring that they couldn’t fly far.

I felt sad but little did I realize that worse was still to come.

Last week, in a distant village, I noticed a series of earthen pots hanging at the roof-top level of a thatched hut. “What’s that?”, I enquired. I was told that pigeons invariably lay their eggs in a very safe corner and an earthen pot tilted at a particular angle was their most favoured egg laying site. The pigeons too consider it their home and spend the nights there in the relative warmth of the earthen pots.

“Oh, a good Samaritan who loves birds,” I said aloud.

“Good Samaritan my foot”, retorted my colleague. “He is doing this because he supplements his income by selling pigeon meat”.

After enticing them with love for years he was simply waiting for them to fatten so that he could get a good price. Once the bargain was struck, all that the owner now had to do was to put the lid on the earthen pot.

It was like being struck by lightning. Call it ignorance, innocence or sheer idiocy I had never ever thought that these innocent lovable birds were actually being ‘loved’ and reared for their meat. That the cute carriers of love letters were actually a source of culinary delight simply devastated me.

It sure was a recipe for a perfect murder - the murder of innocence.

Fly pigeon fly

When shall you learn about your folly?
When shall you read the tell tale signs?
When shall you realize,
That the hand that feeds you,
Shall one day feast on you?

Fly pigeon fly,
You know not what’s in store for you.

When you eat out of his palms,
When your perch on his shoulders,
When you straddle on his rooftop,
When you walk down the courtyard,
Don’t you see those feathers
That once belonged to your brothers?
Don’t you see that blood stain
Where your parents died in pain?
Don’t you ever look around
And miss your friends that no longer surround?

Fly pigeon fly,
You know not what’s in store for you.

Never have I tied a letter around you,
With heartfelt lines for the lovely lady.
Never have I ordered armies to advance,
With a message tied to your slender legs.
The lover,
The emperor,
The general,
Always have used you,
The message I have is just for you:
For you are:My love,
My innocence,
My fractured soul.
And the message is worth repeating till my last breath:

Fly pigeon fly,
You know not
what’s in store for you.

P.S:With due apologies to all those who relish pigeon meat.
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