Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Short sketch -- Disquietude

The desperate beating of wings woke me.

It was past midnight, and I could hear the soft patter of the rain on the tiled roof. It was not raining very heavily; the chirping of crickets and the croaking of frogs were heavy upon the cool night breeze. Yet, jarring upon the soothing night melodies was the frantic fluttering of wings somewhere on the rooftop. Some bird was trapped somewhere.

I went around, trying to locate the sound, but there was no room for a bird to enter through the wooden bars upon the windows below. It was an old house; the attic was accessible only by a narrow staircase at the back of the house. I knew it had to be the attic, but it was dark, and I was no longer the young girl who used to clamber nimbly up the steep stairs. I hesitated. What would I be able to do anyway?

The sound was becoming feebler and more desperate. Somewhere within my heart, an ache had risen, as if the bird was trapped within me and the wings were beating in desperation against my heart. I sat on my bed, hugging my legs. Unaccountably, tears were prickling at my eyelids.

And then I heard the plaintive cry of a dove through the now faint flapping.

I sighed and went out again. I grabbed an umbrella and went towards the kitchen and the backdoor.

Electricity was an unpredictable guest those monsoon days. The wind and rains caused a disruption almost every night; it had been out from evening. I lit a kerosene lantern from the kitchen and unbarred the wooden doors. The cooing was also getting faint, so I unlocked the grate to the stairs at the back and climbed slowly up the stairs. I could hear the flapping a bit more clearly now. The mournful cry sounded like not one, but two birds. I stepped on to the terrace and tried to locate the source of the sound with the feeble light of the lantern.

Hanging limply from one of the wooden beams, a plastic bag somehow tangled on one of its legs and caught on some nail on the beam was a slate grey dove. Flying around it crying plaintively was another one, probably its mate. The bird was struggling feebly, but it looked like it had exhausted its strength. I took one of the poles that we usually use to pluck mangoes in the summer and tried to reach it. The mate, thinking that I was attacking the helpless bird, flew at me, fiercely attacking me. I managed to flap it away, and tried again. This time, the nail loosened, and with a sickening thud, the bird landed at my feet, shuddering with exhaustion and fear.

I gently disentangled the plastic bag which had somehow got tied to its foot so tightly that I could see that it had broken in the frantic effort it had made to escape. I was no expert in the handling of birds: I simply went back to the kitchen, got some water and some wheat in a couple of bowls and left it next to the bird. I could feel its heartbeat still, but only faintly; I had not much expectation of its survival, and only a little hope.

I went back to my room and lay down, but sleep had fled from my eyes that night. The incident had evoked some forgotten sense of desperation in my own heart. The bird had come to symbolize the dreams that I had tied down with such merciless practicality. A dream, like bird, is born to fly free, and bondage of any sort is alien to it. To bind or hold captive a bird or a dream is to kill it.

I went up the next day, and saw that the bird had succumbed to its struggle and exhaustion. I dug a small grave for it in my garden and buried it. And my heart was still. The struggle had ceased within, as without.

The other bird, its mate, moped around the house for a few days, perhaps mourning its lost love . I did not see it after that.


At July 03, 2007 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good read once again! It does bring up pangs to see helplessness but very few could really do anything helpful! Blessed are those who could give help in time! Life goes on and opportunities too keeps coming. To make full use of it should be our life's motto!

At July 04, 2007 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There arises umpteen instances in our life, where we feel such helplessness!! That is the way God chooses to mellows down our PRIDE and arrogance and bring in us more humilty..! Nevertheless, such feelings always lies embedded in our heart..and often bring this disquetitude.. you described here...

A good read...! Keep yr postings regular..

At July 06, 2007 6:29 PM, Blogger it_just_happened said...

so, u decided for disquietude :-)
i think i've already commented enough on this.

At September 01, 2007 10:27 PM, Blogger Nithin Rajan said...

Nice read:)
I liked the comparison of dreams to the captive bird...

At September 07, 2008 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strands of Anxiety are coiled around this work,indeed it is diquietude !!

Good one Fareen :-)


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