Dreams are so weird. But this one that I had this night does not feel too strange. It is either sixth sense or nonsense as most dreams often are. Anyways, thought I should put it up before it evaporates. And by the way, does anyone know the spelling of ‘disillusionmen’? Don’t know why I keep making this typo, sorry.
Apologies: Pratima H
DRUMS were being beaten in frenzy. Bugles were rising in their decibels. Huge red flags were being waved in full flourish. Someone was about to enter the jungle.
It appeared to be an important, and an unceasing dark night.
Eagles of all colours and beaks thronged around the big rock. Somewhere in a corner, atop a disheveled bush of marigolds, perched tenuously, were all the sparrows too.
The fear in their feet was swimming in their eyes as HE could see from the distance.
HE had spent two hours already, being elbowed out by other eagles, and trying to keep his foothold in the teeming droves.
HE had already asked his friend, an indigo-coloured eagle with white claws, about the whole fuss that they were witness to since evening. His friend, busy preening himself, had laughed. “Don’t you know?
What a hole you live in comrade! It’s about the pink sparrow.”
“Oh!” HE had gone into a self-flagellating silence after hearing this.
The case of the pink sparrow had left him feeling a tinge of shame and shock at his brethren and he still had not mustered the will to share it aloud.
Breaking the trail of his thoughts, rose a deep, calm but strong voice that overwhelmed the din in an instant.
The owl had arrived, finally.
As the owl gestured everyone to take their seats and asked the green sparrow to step forward, HE admired and understood the mystery about this wise bird.
HE had always wondered, “Is the owl wise because it stays awake in the wee hours and survives a dark night? Or is it the other way round?”
Perhaps, today the answer would present itself, HE hoped.
The green sparrow bowed in genuine deference and started conveying a collective request, “Thou Just Bird of our jungle, we beseech you to kindly punish that eagle for his greed. The eagle has wronged a sparrow very brutally this time.”
The owl shifted a firm piercing gaze towards the herd of the powerful birds.
They started passing the gaze around like a hot potato.
The black-eyed, bluntly-beaked one said, “Not me, I had just stolen and eaten an egg last Monday. It must be the brown one that one had killed the sparrow it had caged for five years.”
“I very well had the mighty right to do so, shut up you moron!” the brown one driveled. “It was my slave. It was getting too boring and un-amusing.”
Some eagles around it tutted and supported its grief sympathetically.
They pointed a claw to a white eagle. “That’s the one to argue with. It made a sparrow bleed this very morning. It even clipped its wings with its poignant beak, for all we know. Surely it had no reason.”
“Of course I had the right provocation you nasty curtain-twitchers. That little ignorant bird had no idea of this jungle’s rules. It was flashing its red plumes and dancing on a flower happily.” The accused made a plea.
Another wave of understanding floated among the eagles.
Provoked eagles get angry and they have all the right and means to butcher any bird then. That was, indeed, the manifesto of the jungle.
“Who is it then?” The owl attempted another probe.
He gently hinted the sparrows to point out the accused.
A trembling wing fluttered and everyone’s attention was brought to a majestic, huge, grey-tinged eagle with the sharpest claws among the entire flock.
The owl did not waste any minute to start questioning the rather intimidating beast.
“Did you or did you not pounce on the pink sparrow and tore it to pieces?”
“Yes,” came a completely unapologetic answer.
The beast continued, “I very much did. I was hungry. The stupid little bird had the unabashed nonchalance to sing at a high pitch after the sun had set. It invited its murder in sheer chutzpah. We are the birds of prey. We are not humans. We still belong to the species called ‘animals’ if I may remind. There is no demarcation between our carnal needs and rightful ways thankfully. Why are we even summoned here if I can ask?”
Its argument triggered a series of noises in the hordes.
“Yes, the humans are supposed to keep their ‘id’ under control with the layer called ‘super ego’ as I could gather from the book by some Freud that I had to chew during last year’s famine. It was so distasteful, that book and others. Such disgusting rules of co-existence! Sensitivity and all that balderdash! Predatory birds like us are not endowed with any mercy or concern. Don’t we know?”
Everyone hailed in agreement. Shrieks of support and anger got infuriated next.
“The sparrows are weak. They are our prey, since evolution. It’s our right to gnaw at them, shred them to feathers as and when we like. Why so much brouhaha over it? It’s not that we eat their young ones on normal days. We spare them, unless there is an exceptional day. We eat the little ones or the eggs only on a rare mood. Their mothers should be thankful. These ingrate fauna I tell you!” someone spoke.
Another one joined, “This can not go on. It’s unfair. Don’t these tender birds know their fate is to be chewed to saliva unless they can stay in their holes? It’s their prerogative to defend themselves, not ours not to attack. Last month also you called up an enquiry unnecessarily. After all, it was just a case of a morning orgy. A sparrow tried to be a rather too-early bird and a klatch of fifty vultures happened to be around. We and they did not kill it, for your information. Its wings were only mangled while we had fun. It was a mob thing. Majority is always right, even if it is a wrong time. In fact, you should suspend those hour-limitations of yours from henceforth is what I demand. Why this curbing of hours to prey? We need to survive after all!”
The swarm rose in angst, thumping their feet and soon the noise billowed into a thick, dark, monstrous elegy. The eagles were enraged, and the owl knew it had to deliver the judgement fast.
“Ok, calm down, please, I have arrived on a fair conclusion.” It insisted everyone, using its firm posture and heritage once again.
It worked. The fierce crowd lulled momentarily, allowing the owl to deliver the decision quickly.
“I can understand that the eagles have been wronged. Their rights have been unjustly challenged and the precincts of a sparrow’s duties in this jungle have been violated, even if it’s been in ignorance. The sparrows, certainly, have not been conducting themselves discreetly. To make matters worse, they have started demanding a normal, fearless life, which, by the promulgation of destiny, am afraid, is not for them to ask. I hence, come to conclude, that these disrespectful sparrows should be given an extreme punishment. I ordain them to be put inside the hot balloon and sent into the black hole for good.”
Claps and whistles of celebration erupted from all eagles, barring two.
An old eagle, with white whiskers, interrupted and requested the owl to reconsider the decision. “Good wise bird, please think again. We need the sparrows. They at least chirrup and spread melody in our brusque world. They also help us make good nests and take care of the eaglets in gentle ways. All they need from us are the few worms we supply them. They can be warned and allowed to inhabit this place.”
The other eagle was him. HE nodded, even though he had only grasped half of what the old one had said.
The owl uttered an implacable reply, “I am sorry gentleman. The decision has been made. These petite heads that have dared to rise today, need to be taught a lesson. As to the chirpings and hay-gathering, we can arrange to get some machines and toys that humans have invented. The new gadgets serve the purpose we want. But this punishment is irreversible. I order all sizes, colours and genres of sparrows as well as their eggs to enter the balloon with immediate effect. I will personally ensure they are blown far away into the sky, never to return our grand lands.”
Cheers and boisterous flapping of wings ensued his final words.
The group of sparrows meekly obeyed and queued up for the big balloon.
The green one found the right moment, escaped everyone’s eyes and came up to the owl who was corralling the sparrows in neat rows. SHE whispered, “Thank you so much. We will be ever so grateful.” She hid her smile in a veil of pain and hustled up to the balloon.
HE stood there, more surprised and shocked than when the evening had started.
Suddenly his eyes became a little petrified as he saw the other eagles around amok with glee. Something occurred to him and he could not stop himself from rushing to the owl and asking, “Sir, can this by any small sliver of chance mean that eagles will have nothing to prey upon from now on? Does it mean they can start preying each other some day?”
The owl returned a silent stare, and the way it looked deeply in his eyes made him intensely scared.
“Please let me join these sparrows, even if they are going nowhere.” HE almost pleaded.
The owl gently pushed him away. “Sorry, eagles can not be punished.” The balloon and the owl started floating upwards, leaving behind a berserk pack of eagles dancing merrily.