I recently wrote a story about a city where birds could not fly, until one bird, a parrot decides to change that.
It is a story about self-awareness and journey to happiness. Rustum is a metaphor for people are on the journey of finding themselves.
I am sharing an extract from the story here:
“They were taken through an unknown route and put behind bars in a large room.
A few days back, Gary had seen the group walking towards the valley and followed them. He had informed his father who had ordered an investigative team to understand what the group was up to and based on their report, the trio had been arrested.
Rustum shouted from the cage – ‘Open this. Open this. What is our fault? How can you arrest us? What kind of law in this? Open the cage. Open the cage.’
Sasha, his friend, the flamingo, started sobbing. Rustum told her to stop crying.
‘Sasha, please stop crying. We are not criminals. This is absolutely not fair. Our parents will come to save us. This is unfair.’
Sandy had ordered the arrests. He ordered a meeting of the entire community the next day. Both Sasha’s and Rustum’s families had been informed of their arrest the night before. Cecil, the crow didn’t have a family. He was a loner and hence there was nobody to inform.
The families were worried and did not know where Rustum and Sasha had been kept. Rustum’s father had no clue about the flight project and so he wondered what that was all about.
‘How could they arrest Rustum? What nonsense is this? What could he have done?’ he said, looking at his wife.
Rustum’s mother pretended that she didn’t know anything although she was aware of what Rustum and his friends had been up to. She was quite worried about him.
Sasha’s family was equally tense and they could not believe that she had been arrested. Although they felt she could be a little lost in her dreams, she couldn’t commit any crime warranting arrest. What had happened?
The next morning, Sandy addressed the gathering. The other birds had no clue what the meeting was about, but since the chief had called a meeting out of the blue, everyone attended. Sandy, the eagle stood on a stage set up for him and spoke. Rustum’s and Sasha’s families were right in the front of the gathering.
‘Friends, I am sorry to call a meeting at such a short notice and thank you everyone for coming. There has been an event which I wanted to inform you about. Three members of our community have decided to do something beyond belief. I can’t even understand how such a stupid thought could enter their minds.’
By now, everyone was hooked and wanted to know the story. There were murmurs in the crowd.
‘What has happened? Do you know something? I don’t…do you.’
Sandy, the eagle and the leader of the community, spoke again.
‘Please be silent. I am going to let you know. A few days back, my son Gary came and informed me that his friend Rustum, Sasha, a flamingo and Cecil, the wise crow had been secretly running a mission.’
‘What kind of mission?’ somebody from the crowd said.
‘They were running a mission to attempt to fly. Based on Gary’s input, I set up an investigative team to understand what had been happening. The team observed that the trio were practising to take flight every day, close to the valley. They created a set-up from where they would attempt to fly and placed a bed of hay at the surface so they would not get hurt in case they fell.’
The murmurs increased in the crowd. A few began to laugh. Sandy continued.
‘Yes, my friends. You may laugh. But, these fools believe that birds could fly. They believe that we can fly. They have been practising for quite a long while now, a few months I believe. They don’t just think that they can fly. They believe that all of us can fly. However, I won’t let this stupidity continue. I can’t put the lives of all members in the community at risk just because of their stupidity and hence I ordered their arrest last night.’
The crowd listened to Sandy attentively.
‘I wanted to let all of you know that it is the correct decision. For decades, in Kabala, all birds have led a peaceful life. We have problems, but we are fine. We don’t take unnecessary risks with our lives. We have walked and we will continue to walk. Just because these three idiots believe that birds can fly, we can’t trust them. They can’t fly themselves. In fact, Rustum was injured himself for a few days while attempting to fly, which is when this stupid team took a break. These are details I have learnt from my investigative team.’
The crowd leaned on. Rustum’s father looked at his wife, shocked. Sasha’s family looked completely surprised as well. Everyone looked at them every now and then, a few with anger, a few with surprise.
‘Since Rustum’s and Sasha’s family are also here, we would like to ask them about the punishment that should be given to their kids. We will have to decide a punishment for Cecil as well.’
Rustum’s father spoke, as Sasha’s family also got closer.
‘I am sorry. Frankly, I had no clue about this, neither had my wife. In fact, he told us the injury happened inadvertently.’
Sasha’s family nodded and said they had no clue either. They insisted that they would not allow that project to continue if they knew and that Rustum and Sasha should be released.
Sandy heard them, as the entire community of birds spoke to each other about what they were witnessing. Sandy broke the silence.
‘Alright, so you did not know anything. What should we do then? They must be punished. We will call them here and let them apologise to everyone in public first, and then we will see.’
Sandy gestured to the pigeon guards to bring Rustum, Sasha and Cecil. The guards went to the room where they had been imprisoned for the night, took them out of the cage, and accosted them to the gathering.
When the trio reached the gathering, everyone stared at them. Most birds were angry, and a few were curious about what they had done.
Sandy looked at them and said, ‘here are the culprits.’
Rustum looked at his parents. His father was angry and his mother was crying. Sasha was scared of confronting her family, although she felt no regret. Cecil appeared as hard as a stone from his face.
Rustum looked at Sandy and thundered, ‘why we were arrested?’
Everyone, including his father was surprised at his audacity. He was asking the political leader of the community about his decision to arrest him and Rustum didn’t look scared at all.
He repeated his question.
‘Do I have the right to ask why we were arrested and why did we have to spend the night in a cage?’
Sandy looked at Rustum, narrowed his eyes and spoke.
‘You were arrested because you were trying to fly and put the lives of the entire community at stake. You think most, if not all birds can fly and that could risk everyone’s life here. You risked your own, but as the leader of the community, I can’t allow you and your friends to put everyone’s life in danger. Do you understand?’
Rustum did not answer. Sandy repeated.
‘Do you understand what I said?’
Rustum did not answer. Sasha looked at him with fear. Cecil looked at him. The entire community of birds looked at him with open mouth. Nobody could believe what was happening. This was the first time anybody had dared to misbehave with Sandy. Sandy was asking a question, and Rustum wasn’t answering.
Finally, Rustum spoke.
‘No, I am sorry. I do not understand.’
There was dead silence. Nobody could believe it. Rustum continued.
‘We did not put anybody’s life at risk. Yes, I believe that we as birds are born to fly but since none of us have flown before, we will have to learn to fly. However, we can fly, and be happier.’
Nobody spoke a word. Rustum continued.
‘For years, we have had to lead boring, dull and monotonous lives as birds. I have been trying to understand what has been missing all this while, and I realized that the answer lies in self-awareness. So, I began to discover and experiment. We realized as a result of our experiments that we could fly and that’s what we are born to do. We have wings. We can fly.’
Sasha had begun to gain confidence, Rustum spoke, looking at everyone. The birds were listening to him, with fear, and hope. Rustum continued.
‘As Sandy uncle said, we have been practising and making progress. Both Sasha and I have been practising flight and landing, which are two essential parts of flying. Cecil has been kind of guide and coach us. We could make no progress without him.’
‘Hey, stop…stop. We have had enough of your nonsense. We have decided to punish all three of you and before that, so as to minimize your punishment, all of you must apologize for this stupid experiment of yours, right here.’
Rustum looked at Sandy, confused.
‘Apologize for what? I don’t understand. What should we apologize for? We have done nothing wrong. If anything, we are trying to make bird life happier and meaningful.’
Some people in the gathering started wondering and talking about what Rustum was talking about. Although, most of the community still agreed with Sandy and felt that what the trio had done deserved punishment.
Sandy didn’t expect this transgression. He had expected to get his way. He had expected the trio to apologize in front of the community. He had wanted to punish them so as to set an example for everyone else, who went beyond the line from what was considered acceptable. He looked at Rustum with rage.
Rustum’s parents were scared, especially his mother. She ran up to Rustum and pleaded with him to apologize.
‘Rustum, my son, please do as you are asked.’
Sandy gestured towards the guards to take Rustum’s mother away from him. Rustum, on the other hand did not show any sign of remorse, or even fear. He told his mother not to worry.
Sandy looked at Cecil.
‘Cecil, do you wish to apologize for what the three of you have done? Do you think it is beyond the rules of Kabala? You are elder to both of these kids. You should have known better.’
It was Cecil’s turn to speak, who had been listening to the arguments between Sandy and Rustum so far.
‘Sandy, Rustum is right. It doesn’t matter how old I am, or how old you are. When we were young, we were quite conservative and did not think of happiness, joy and such valuable emotions. We led our lives in a humdrum fashion without really understanding who we are and what we are meant to do. Rustum asked those questions of himself, and he is in the right direction. I am with him. I will not apologize of it.’
Listening to her friend Rustum and Coach Cecil, Sasha’s confidence and courage both soared. She refused to apologize as well.
Sandy was furious.
He shouted at the top of his voice, looking at the trio.
‘I get it. But you need to understand that if you do not apologize, I have the power and the authority to punish you.’
The gathering was getting uneasy. There seemed to be divisions in opinion. The younger lot wanted to help Rustum and Sasha, but the elder lot was with Sandy. The young pigeons, flamingos, parrots and other birds found themselves helpless.
‘You will be punished since you have refused to budge.’
There was chaos and panic, as everyone wondered what was about to happen.
Sandy called out a few eagle guards and ordered them to take Rustum to the clock tower and push him down from there. He thought that would scare Rustum and he would change his mind.
He was wrong. Rustum didn’t change his mind, even if it meant dying for what he believed in.
His parents wailed. Sasha and Cecil pleaded with him to change his mind, but he didn’t. He looked determined.
The eagle guards took hold of him and started walking upstairs towards the clock tower, which was about 25 feet tall. Rustum looked determined and unrepentant.
Sandy was firm too, although a few birds in the community asked him to change his mind. Rustum had hurt his ego.
When the guards reached the top of the clock tower, the made Rustum stand right on top, and waited for Sandy’s instructions.
Sandy asked Rustum for the last time, ‘Rustum, do you want to apologise?’
Rustum did not respond. Sandy gestured to the guards to push Rustum off the tower. Everyone saw it including the community, his parents, Sasha, Cecil and Rustum himself. There was stunned silence.
As the guards were about to push Rustum, he clenched his entire body and as they pushed him, he opened his wings.
They pushed him and instead of falling down, Rustum took flight. In the moment everyone expected him to die, Rustum was born again.
He flew. He flapped his wings, and he flew.
The entire community of birds in Kabala had never seen something like that before. They looked at him, awestruck, as he flew over them doing rounds of the clock tower.
Sasha clapped, sobbing.
Cecil clapped, proud.
Rustum’s mother clapped, with tears in her eyes.
His father clapped, incredulous.
Rustum was alive. He knew in that moment that he had achieved what he had been longing for, all this life. He knew that anyone could find their happiness, like he did. He knew in that moment, that he had changed the lives of all birds, forever.
As everyone looked at him from the ground, he looked at them while flying in the air. He looked at Sasha, Cecil, his parents and the entire community of birds, he had grown up with.
Then, he flapped his wings harder to rise higher towards the sky and in that moment, Rustum smiled.”
The story is available on Amazon. You may find it here.
Thank you for reading.
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