Wednesday, January 13, 2010


"To the flames of holy fire was Meena consigned. "

A short story

(Written on return from Mukatsar Janaury 13, 2010, after a telephonic conversartion with Meera.
Today the world celebrates Lohri , the festival of flames. Lohri, Chritsmas or Diwali -- a nightingale sings herself to death every holy day.

And every holy day, a song emerges from the heart of her flames to make the day holy.)

" Assee kachchi umrai sara dard handhaa baithe,
Saade Joban de layee dard kunwara hor dio" - Shiv Batalvi

(In my tender age, did I exhaust all my share of pain,
For my youth now, let more virgin blood rain.) - Shiv Batalvi


Meena, the nightingale, had once flown over a nearby city and felt sad that it had a desert for its heart. The denizens of the city could neither sing nor smile nor dance nor love nor give. She decided to fly out of the jungle at night to fill the heart of the city with music and joy. Hardly had she flown out of the forest when she was lost, some said for ever.
The city hit her with a thousand shrieks of speeding cars and other vehicles, confused and confusing. She could not understand why everyone seemed in such great hurry, why the city was so impatient, restless and running in all directions in search of it knew not what. She saw little boxes that blared out sounds to the beat of drums with some folks billowing breath into split reeds. Some young boys and girls even seemed to be dancing to these sounds. Could these sounds be the music of the city? She wondered, and felt a little guilty that she could not understand or enjoy the music of the learned. It seemed so different from the music she had heard the winds and the river sing. The river and the winds never went to school, she thought, and nor had she. Could her song and the songs of the river and the winds and the moon have been more pleasing if they had gone school? She wondered, but then decided not to think any more about it. Something inside her said that though the sounds of the city were indeed music, it was music she could not enjoy. “May be, this is because I have not been taught to enjoy music,” she thought, but something inside her continued to say that music could not be taught, that it was like the winds that blew, the river that flowed, the flowers that blossomed without the need of learning.

The nightingale fell in love with young and old in the city. She loved children in particular because she thought they were like her – happy and illiterate. But they could sing. And they could smile and they could share the little they had. But they didn’t know the difference between a scorpion and a cockroach, not even the difference between a scorpion and a wild flower. To one totally unaware of the wisdom of the city, there was something vaguely similar in every sound that nature produced, in every form that one could see.

But the city was run on the learning of its wise - - cities always are -- wisdom which children and birds and flowers, animals, lovers and saints are not destined to see.
The Nightingale loved chrysanthemum and roses and lilies and lilacs. There was not a flower that blossomed in the flower-beds in the backyards of the city houses that she did not fall in love with. By night, she was in love with moonlight as much as she was in love with the glorious sun during the day. She loved the season when trees laden with fruit filled every garden and she loved fruit which had replaced delicate and beauteous flowers of spring.

Soon, flowerbeds in the city began to dislike her forays into the wild forest that stretched to the east. And they began to talk. And the city flowers began to deride her for her love for fruit. Before long, almost every soul in the city and the forest that lay nearby began to accuse her of being an opportunist, a selfish and greedy seeker of pleasures of the palette, eye and ear. She was dubbed a rake, and charged with seducing tender daisies of the town, daisies for whom she had sung lullabies at night.

In a huddle at midnight, the city decided to call the nightingale to a dark corner and subject her to judgment of city’s wisdom. During the trial, she was charged with misusing her songs to seduce the children of her hosts – city roses, city chrysanthemums, lilies, daisies, lilacs and sunflowers all. She was charged with seducing flowers of tender age, misusing her show of friendship with their parent plants.
In particular, said the city elders, she had driven a young passion flower to insanity by misleading him into believing she loved him whereas she was out merely to exploit his passions.
The nightingale remained quiet during the trial. She knew what she was being punished for. And she believed that she had been led into the city by a destiny she could not understand but a destiny that always knew what it was doing.

In less than ten minutes, she found herself pronounced guilty of all the charges brought against her. She was sentenced to be burnt alive while in song. The city papers ran front-page stories on how justice had been done and how the city’s moral life had been saved by the city’s elders. They hailed it as "media impact", each newspaper prefixing the word impact with its own name: Times Impact, Timeless Impact, City Times Impact, Vernacular Impact, Me Impact, Us Impact etc.
The city – and everyone in it – had reason to sit round the fire to warm their hands as the day was the day of the holy fires.

To the flames of this holy fire was Meena consigned. No one saw her fluttering her wings or making any effort to escape. They said she was too ashamed to live or to try to escape.
Meena closed her eyes as flames of the holy fire crackled round her wings. In less than a minute, she was gone, a flame with other flames.

The city rejoiced that its religion and its morality had been saved from a diabolical danger. The elders told everyone to learn from the example of the sinful Meena.

Only the children were not convinced. Children can not distinguish between a scorpion and a flower. But every afternoon, a flame is seen going up into the skies from the heart of the city. Some say the flame resembles a song, while others say it’s like a prayer of a mad seer.
The city elders know, as only they can, that the flame is a hallucination of sick childish minds.


b&b said...

Another amazingly beautiful creation for your readers!

Prof. Harpreet said...

Rejoiced the short story, felt the pain of a being good & innocent.

Donald said...

Donald Banerjee said...

Spoken from the heart. Hats off to your narration of Nightingale in flames in your own inimitable style. The following lines stand out ....exploitation of the passion impact...and hallucination of sick childish minds.

Shoe Girl said...

Nice story... the kind that makes you ache in the pit of stomach somehow. Guess, everyone at some point of time has made to 'stand to the centre'

Not 'Stand to the center' for honor but for the shame, for being different.We all pay the mortgage. Don't we? Your story reminded me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull..

Dolly said...

“Nightingale”- first thing is that you have chosen a beautiful creature to base your story on, a perfect one to get into the traps of illusions. I just wondered if you would have chosen a ‘Tiger’ who even after falling into the traps fights back, indeed, not easy. But even being a weak and innocent by heart she was aware that ‘Something inside her said that though the sounds of the city were indeed music, it was music she could not enjoy.’ Like every individual is very much aware of the fact that what is wrong and what is right. But the moment she said “May be, this is because I have not been taught to enjoy music,” she completely ignored her consciousness and that’s where her mistake lies.
‘But something inside her continued to say that music could not be taught, that it was like the winds that blew the river that flowed, the flowers that blossomed without the need of learning.’ See like every one of us knows what is right she’s also aware if it but……. Like every one of us she ignored. Later on she completely fell into the traps of illusion and thought that she has now found the true happiness of life… like we find in luxuries and material world.
I just love the connection you made b/w nightingale and children, could be seen as Wordsworth’s romanticism but not exactly. The difference b/w the both is that “they didn’t know the difference between a scorpion and a cockroach, not even the difference between a scorpion and a wild flower.” but nightingale did know and that’s why the doubt about reality of life arouses in her which led her to so much of suffering. Children are too innocent to doubt that. But unfortunately even after knowing the fact that she feels more close to children, she could not understand that the reality is from where she has started.
Rest of the story is just beautifully written to show precisely how a person falls into the trap of so called illusionary-reality but Sir Ji sorry to say I’m not satisfied with the end of the story, may be other people are. As I said earlier if it would have been a ‘Tiger’ the story might have been different. The realization of self at the end by nightingale is questionable. Thought the faith comes with total surrender, surrendering not to the life ‘as it is’ but to the cause you are made to work on. Nightingale is no doubt a seeker of truth but she is not a fighter or healer which is simultaneously needed to attain the highest happiness of life. When I say ‘fighter’ it doesn’t mean fighting for your right but it means fighting for ‘Law’, ‘Religion’ or ‘Justice’. Like Arjuna did in Mahabharata for Krishna [God] to preserve ‘Justice’ [Law or religion].

Dolly said...

Kindly let me know if anywhere i have misunderstood..
One more thing, can you please follow my blog Sir so that I could reach you easily?

With Warm Regards,