Of Mockingbirds, Lame Ducks, Scared Pigeons and the Great Indian Bustard
To be honest, our nightmare began not very long ago when the Bald American Eagle with a quiver full of arrows in its beak just frowned and expelled Devyani Khobragade from the US of A—shrill claims of diplomatic immunity not withstanding. Ever since, birds big and small have possessed us.
If it’s not the ‘Caged Parrot’, then it is an accused in custody allegedly for perpetrating ‘Hindu’ terrorist Acts singing like a Canary. When we turn our gaze to escape them, we encounter the Ostrich with its head buried in sand that also is known as the Congress party. Or, are greeted by the effervescent ‘Left’ that persists with the illusion that it is the mythical creature Phoenix that will surely rise from its ashes. The BSP and SP remind us of the two sisters of Cinderella and—to mix two bedtime stories for not really grown-up—who never could manage the transformation from Ugly Ducklings to Pretty Swans.
Bespectacled grey eminences boasting of unmatched economic expertise gracing the government benches are beginning to remind us more of the bird-brained mount of Laxmi—the goddess of wealth—than those who kept company and shared the wisdom of Minerva. Not one but many bird-watchers have likened Doc Manmohan Singh to a Lame Duck for some time now. Had he not maintained such deafening silence and quacked once in a while, one would have recalled loveable creations of Walt Disney—Donald and his clan. What of Modi streaking past in the sky far above others? Is he a Condor-like bird, airplane or Superman?
The younger generation of politicians resembles less common and at times ‘nobler’ birds. The Congress VP in our disturbing dreams stonewalls all questioning by resorting to stock counter-questioning of ‘how much wood would a wood-peck peck if a good wood-peck could peck good peck’ variety, tempting his detractors to speculate about why some feathered creatures are called Mockingbirds. For blind followers, he is the superbly discerning swan celebrated in Indian legend and lore with the ability to distinguish between much more than grain and chaff—the neer ksheer viveka—that alone can rescue the nation in these dark times. The Swan, we are told, feeds on pearls alone—else it prefers to starve. Also, it prefers to take off on its mysterious flight unaccompanied.
There is no dearth of Peacocks—in the ruling coalition or in the ranks of the Opposition—Laluji to Farooq saab, Salman Bhai or multi-tasking and talking through many hats he wears Sibal to wisecracking Mani (no longer one of the Nava Ratnam), not to forget social engineering Nitish—who never tire of preening and busily strutting the stage oblivious of the fact that it’s their ugly feet that the audience is revolted by. Whoever said Dead as a Dodo had no idea that the innocent bird incapable of flight or fright continues to flourish in Hindustan.
There was a time when the rare deceitful and dishonest khadi-clad politician was abused as ‘bagula bhagat’—the dangerous crane masquerading as a harmless devotee in meditative trance. Today, those elected to positions of power find no reason to pretend. They extract more than the proverbial pound of flesh by thrusting vulture-like beaks in our face and menacingly expanding their wings. But we do the large scavenging birds grave injustice. Despite their fierce appearance, they served us well till threatened with extinction. No corrupt politician or one with pronounced and proven criminal tendencies has ever perished due to consumption of toxic food or lost weight or sleep languishing in jail. They trust in the law of the land and know well that as the law takes its (meandering) course, they have nothing to fear.
Lost forever are the days of our innocence when Chacha Nehru set free pigeons of peace. Now what we see is the spectacle of flight of scared pigeons startled by the unexpected entry of a tomcat amid them. The feline smacking its lips in anticipation of a feast doesn’t seem to be bothered that some specie are ‘protected’ and can’t be devoured. Be it the Himalayan Quail or Black Partridge.
Antics of AAP replay each one of our sleepless nights. Is Kejriwal emulating the majestic bird that had inspired Iqbal to write—palatana, jhapatana, palat kar jhapatana lahu garm rakhne ka hai ek bahana (literally, to turn sharply in mid flight, to swoop in a dive is just to keep the blood flowing in the veins warm)? Does this mean that the corrupt prey needn’t fear the ‘predator’ who in reality is a dervish of birds who makes no nest?
An irresponsibly naughty friend has quipped that the Great Indian Bustard may be an extremely rare bird that has its habitat in the desert, but misspell it and it’s the most common species in the political aviary.