Syed Imdad



Syed Imdad


The Rebellion Of The 4th Of July

The Rebellion Of The 4th Of July

11 mins

It started gradually. “The Advent of the Pigeons” this part of our history will be known as. It is certain. It is still going on. We never imagined that we could be ousted in an unbelievably linear progression of events. It was a pianissimo, to begin with. It added to the flavor, the colors that we observed in our daily proceedings. Not that the human world is lacking in variety in its palette. It is in fact, extremely vibrant. There are times when our younglings take months to be accustomed to the visual stimuli thrown their way on the course of our daily sorties. However, we agree as a species, collectively, that it is devastatingly boring and monotonic. But for the occasional surprise. And much to our dismay, unarmed with superior sight or a sense of smell or even auditory perception, whole lives are sometimes spent in preparing for situations that never arrive, never arise. Our elders called it a realist attitude towards life, life as a sparrow. We were getting slaughtered by unseen forces and we had no knowledge of what had hit us, what is hitting us as we go and retire in our nest boxes, and will rest only with our obliteration – complete and gradual. Our grassland, woodland, and desert cousins, whose lives are different than ours in unfathomable degrees do not understand. They like to believe that we live a luxurious life- full of vanities and material pleasures. They speak the truth, yet they do not understand. Nana sparrow always used to say before we would close our eyes in the evening – “sometimes knowledge of the truth is not enough to actually know the nature of things, of being“– it was an assertion that we could not comprehend by the medium of the words, it was an argument that we have come to internalize. Through experience and observation. The nest boxes have increased proportionately to our deaths. I find it ironical and I often joke about it with my partners across breeding seasons. Some of them appreciate my sense of humor. Most don’t. Mating has become tiresome over the years if you ask me. The males these days are either too busy surviving or too busy fluttering their wings in suggestive ways. And those chirps to woo me! Someone needs to tell them they do not sound original, and I hate plagiarism. But it is what it is. I mate because I have to. There is not much of a choice, you see. The only respite is I can rant and express displeasure vocally if anything crass is hurled my way under the garb of seduction. I do not fall for those cheap tricks. I have developed a sense of reputation. They say I am a drastic influence on young females. But it is what it is. Some feelings just take birth and self-nurture themselves into glorious manifestation. I am just a vessel. And I was a vessel when I staged the rebellion yesterday. The old and the young alike are in awe of me and are treating me like a cult hero. I denounce such claims personally. I had a feeling rearing deep inside me and I expressed it. I did not know it was a rebellious act, an act of glory that chronicler uncle would journal to be included in our histories. He is our Herodotus. Grossly inaccurate but also a pioneer. I love him. I did not love pigeons. At least until yesterday. Rebellion changed the scheme of things. Or so I hope.

There is a reason why this age is the “Age of Pigeons”. “From a city-dwelling avian perspective” you would think. No dearth of perspectives these days I tell you. Anything and everything can fit the bill. Yet, you are at best, wrong. At the risk of being prophetic, I will opine that it is THE age of pigeons, all life forms combined. Like it was the age of dinosaurs and the age of mammoths at one point in time. It definitely is not the age of humans as those fellow bipeds like to believe. Huh! It never can be. It is pigeons and pigeons alone who are destined to rule this epoch. Why so? you may ask. Well! For starters look at sheer numbers!! They have been multiplying even as we become “endangered” according to some organization with a panda for a logo. We are “common” in our nomenclature but not in our numbers. Not anymore. Historian uncle has documented our heydays well in his chronicles – of course with handsome amounts of glorification and exaggeration – and I shall lend you a volume or two if you are interested. Or you can hit up one of those ornithologists or bird watchers too for a human version of the story. None of them are incorrect. The truth is that we are a declining species while the pigeons are multiplying in zest. Worse (or better) still (a matter of perspectives – might be so that you are pigeon reading this and I do not want to raise a storm of controversies for no reason) – they are adapting. They can adapt to the threat of humans. Catfishes (those are scary) and even hordes of competitors. If you are to interview any of them, they will categorically endorse and brag about this trait. And if you are to interview me, I will tell you who they like to meet on the battlefield. It is us wee sparrows. We have accepted our fates and resigned to the oppression. Not that it is systemic. Our mother, nature, does not discriminate as those humans do. Birds of different feathers willingly and fearlessly flock together. She says we are all her children and she cannot be aligned towards the interests of one at the expense of another. I support her. Never wrong, mother nature. But the pigeons, I did not necessarily support them. And hence the rebellion of July the 4th. Red-letter day. I still maintain and will do so forever, that I had just expressed my feeling and my younglings followed suit. It was not planned or strategized – one bit. It was as it was. It stands as it is. 

It was a glorious monsoon afternoon that greeted us yesterday – and I decided to take our younglings for a sortie. The wind was delectable for glides and drifts and I exactly knew the place to find food when our airborne division felt the need for it. The third floor of the tallest concrete building in our neighborhood. Kind family of humans – they devotedly left grains for us, not just leftovers of overcooked food. We are overwhelmed at the slightest glimpse of even the latter these days. So that was a hotspot, is a hotspot. Not just for us but for a few other flutters as well. We divided time and space if the former did coincide, although it was a rare event. The sortie was memorable even for an old wing-like myself – there were ample vortices and pockets in the air. The monsoons have been delicious this year and we are enjoying it, even with our small wings. Some joys are universal. Like unconditional love, a great monsoon, a brilliant spring with an abundance of grains and insects to feed on. You cannot colonize them even with the greatest of force that you can muster. We just need to pull down the walls which scream of segregation in technicolor. The third-floor balcony was not universal – it was an exclusive “sparrows only” club. Until it ceased to be.

It was a handsome specimen – steel grey with green eyes and shades of blue in its feathers. I liked its approach and descent. Alas! It did not stop at that. Straight as an arrow, it attacked the grains.

We were perplexed at first. We had never faced invasion. We had read and heard of activism and resistance, but were woefully ignorant of the tactical details of staging one on the ground. This element of surprise was however quickly superseded by the feeling of neglect. It just started feasting without invitation or acknowledgment, and armed with an appetite like it was, it devoured a third of the grains in the first few minutes. We did not feel threatened but an acute pain of non-existence. We were being ignored. Simply ignored. Interring those pangs of pain and angst without provocation, we realized what it feels to be ignored and marginalized by a system. The pigeon was visible and scalable – but it was the system in our eyes – large, dominant, and feigning ignorance of our hardships and our lives. Simple ignorance of the lives of others masquerading as the goodwill and tolerance exhibited at not having inflicted pain or atrocities. It was too much to handle and comprehend. We did the one thing that was becoming of an oppressed species – we flew. Escaped. Not because of any fear but because of the indifference. It was too much to take. Too brutal a storm to navigate.

The younglings followed my lead – without protest or even a raised feather to express disagreement. We circled the building and the mounds of concrete adjacent to it. There was no one watching our plight. Afternoon siestas mattered more than the displacement of a species, the subtle push towards death and obscurity that we had received. It was so gentle that even the wind did not get a whiff of it in its ocean of sensitivity. We kept circling, resting, and circling again. For an eternity. The sun changed positions, visibly. The intruder had had its fill. But it had not left. It seemed to be rejoicing – celebrating its newfound superiority in a world that was it's own in the first place. Unsettling. I kept my flock put and contemplated a course of action. I was met with a blank slate with no templates to refer to. I had heard of such stories from peers and elders. But when faced with it myself, I felt lost. So damn lost that I could not simply and logically fly back to the nest box that awaited me. I was not particularly hungry, nor were the younglings. We were used to coasting through far worse. But we had never coasted through apathy. We were now. I was perplexed, yet again.

Eons passed, or as humans try to measure it, it might have been 2-3 minutes. Something sparked and sparkled. Deep inside my fragile bones, the bottom of my palpitating heart. I needed to stake a claim. It was just that. The balcony was ours and I was willing to share. I was not willing to surrender, capitulate to the enormity of size and the fear of assault, of death. I drew up the air in my bones and my lungs. I saluted the wind with my wings. And let loose. Before I knew I was in the third-floor balcony of my favorite house. There was a din which I was initially oblivious to, but soon realized was the music of the younglings, my younglings. I stared at the intruder – waiting for his beak to pierce my neck, his talons to drag the life out of my pumping heart. I felt fire raging within my own heart and I let it rage. Even if it led to my own demise. I was, as they say, ready to embrace death at the cost of a righteous stab at regaining freedom. My birthright. Our birthright.

Nothing of the sort transpired or I would not have been recounting these details. What happened instead was rather ordinary – the intruder stared and stared and uttered a guttural screech full of disappointment and fury. We doubled down with our own philharmonic orchestra of threatened common sparrows conducted by yours truly. Another epoch passed. A 4-5-minute-long epoch. And then nothing. Simply nothing. I saw the younglings triumphant and pecking away at the grains that remained. I, on the other hand, had experienced a climax and it had passed. Brought back into my own body of delicate wings and hollow bones, of all my facticity of momentary existence with the horizon screaming red of extinction, I was dawning into a moment of undesired reflection. The burden and the struggle of existence gnawed and gnawed, and I could not taste the grainy taste of the grains I was swallowing with extreme haste. It was contradictory, contradictory to the freedom that the grains tasted like. It was confusing. It was magnificent. It was rebellion without organization – a struggle that was so natural that I did not feel like a victor. I just felt hungry and I ate. And ate.

I do not know whether we were evicted by the pigeon in the first go. Or whether we simply were scared on our own, frightened by the size and the history that the pigeon boasted of. I do not even know why we returned. Was it because deep down we did want to share, that our feigned sense of elitism in having access to a sacred feeding ground was actually corroding our appetites and it needed an intruder for us to come clean? Did the pigeon actually crave for us to rebel and share space? Was it lonely in its magnificence? Were we lonely in our inherent sense of protectionism? Or were we meant to share that space, and mother played us, to teach us all a lesson? Mother Nature can be deceiving in her appearance and love. She is non-linear, unlike the advent of the pigeons. I like that chapter in our history. It is rife with tales of oppression. 

But at least in a corner – gilded for sure, forgotten might be – within a tiny golden box with big black letters, it will also feature tales of rebellion, the rebellion of the 4th of July amongst them.

Also, maybe, I do not hate pigeons anymore. Maybe, I love them. But that is a tale for another time, another life. 

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