“No matter how hard one invests in captivity, the birds will eventually find their way to freedom.”
By Tawheed Wani
Sitting in a wooden chair on the front veranda of his house, the bird catcher was watching the encaged ones with a sense of smug. His face lit up seeing the captives making creaked sounds in the bird house placed in his sunny lawn. The struggling scene made him feel, as if he was the catcher of creatures.
By next sunrise, he was driven out by a sense of greed, in search of another prey. He stepped inside a city, where he found a tree plot surrounded by a garbage dump. He sat under a tree to drink water. It was then his eyes fell on a nest on the tree.
Climbing the tree to peep into the nest, he found an eagle sleeping with her young one. He spread his lofty hands and picked both of them up, with hinged smile on his crooked face.
It was already sundown when he returned home with his catch. He made them captives in his bird house and went to sleep.
When new dawn rose, he went to feed them. He gave them the best grains to eat. The young one ate comfortably, but the mother eagle was scared and reluctant to peck in captivity.
The bird catcher understood that the young eagle was stranger to the free world, and therefore it was easy to train him according to his wishes. However, the mother eagle knew a different world and felt suffocated at the idea of her snatched freedom. But for the sake of her young one, she faked normalcy.
As time passed, the mother-son eagle duo became habitual of the catcher’s dictates. The captivity had enforced its own rules and routine on them. Every day after feeding his birds, the catcher would instruct them how to be the quick followers of his commands—if they wish to be alive!
Among all his birds, the catcher was assured of the young eagle’s loyalty, for he was his taught. He was a grown-up now, yet dancing to his master’s tunes. This loyalty made him the catcher’s confidante.
So, one day, the catcher took him along for yet another hunt. They reached in a field where from, years ago, he had caught the mother eagle and her young one.
Oblivious of his state of enslavement, the young bird was amazed to see the free world — where birds were flying in the open sky, making joyful sounds and flapping gestures. It set him thinking. For the first time in his life, he had come to know about another world where, unlike him, none was following dictates.
That day when he returned to his bird house, the young eagle drew parallels between his captive world and the world he saw in the field.
Days passed in this thoughtful stance, before one day, he told the catcher: ‘I’ll help you catch more birds, if you let me go out there.”
Assured of his eagle’s loyalty, the catcher allowed him to fly up into an open field.
In a free world, the young eagle soon made friends with his flying-feather tribe. He enquired about their idea of living and shared his own life. Some three days passed in this exchange and interaction, before he was reminded of his master, and the pledge he made to him.
Perched on a tree branch, he was now waiting for a bird to take home. It was then a female eagle came fluttering to sit near him. She didn’t appear the usual bird acquaintance to him. They talked their hearts out, and instantly found solace in each other’s company.
The young eagle knew that he found a bird. And to his delight, she agreed to fly with him to his master’s place.
Back home, upon their arrival, the catcher was happy with his young eagle’s feat and gave the pair of eagles a special cage to live in, and the best grains to eat.
Initially, the female bird felt good; but with time, the captivity derailed her idea of living. She lost her peace of mind. The troubled male eagle tried to console her—‘everything will be fine with time’—but, nothing helped.
The female eagle kept feeling terrible. Even a special cage to live in and good grains to eat couldn’t end her feeling of suffocation.
With time, she forgot her chirpiness, turned pale and eventually fell ill. The anxious male eagle approached his master: ‘Please allow me to take her on the rooftop, for her crippled body need some sunlight.’
The catcher agreed. And the male eagle took her ailing companion to the rooftop. She felt better. On the third day, when it was time for them to return to their bird house, the female eagle started crying. She didn’t want the life of captivity anymore.
She wanted to be a free bird. That freedom was dearer to her, than the special place to live in, and good grains to eat.
So, it happened.
Out they flew, away from the catcher’s vicinity. They moved to the barren fields, where they took some easy breaths and a sigh of relief.
Soon, they were planning a life ahead. It was uncertain—devoid of assured cage and grains—but it was acceptable to them. They saw in each other’s eyes the resolve to face challenges the free world was about to throw at them.
Back home, however, the catcher was wondering: Perhaps, they’ve lost their way back to home. They would never deceive me, as they won’t be able to live on their own.
So, he came out in search of them. They were nowhere to be found. Tired, he took rest under the same tree he had caught the young eagle along with his mother years back. Thinking about his pair of eagles, he suddenly heard them talking on the tree branch above.
They felt liberated to him. Expressing joy, the birds were planning to make their own world—where no one could make them captive again.
Hearing them, the catcher finally realised: No matter how hard one invests in captivity, the birds will eventually find their way to freedom.
Tawheed Wani is a civil engineer and an aspiring storyteller from Srinagar.