It is, as always, painful to watch the news bulletin which on most days begin with news of blasts, target killings, street crime or sectarian hatred. Following all this, in the end usually come the passing mention of floods, hunger, poverty and other issues that plague our homeland.
The manner with which the TV channel projected the news, marinated with spice, is perhaps to make it appetizing to the apathetic masses, who seem to have got immune to such news.
One such evening, when there were blasts in Quetta and Delhi simultaneously, along with the unabated target killings in Karachi, the bulletin was too spicy for my liking and I felt severely nauseated.
To get a breath of fresh air, I walked outside in the lawn. It was refreshing to see threesome geese…and saw that sitting beside the bird feeder. One of them was limping ( I guess was injured) while the other two were flapping their wings and trying to encircle the injured.
Dejected with my existence as a human being, I looked at the birds in an awe– ” Such free birds and travel over 4500 miles every year from Europe to Central Asian states, to finally arrive in Pakistani and Indian wetlands for winter. These migratory birds must have flown over awesome Karakorum, Suleiman and Hindukush Ranges, along the Indus River, to arrive in Pakistani marshes,” I pondered.
Sickened and overflowing with pensive emotions I found their partying in my lawn annoying and irritating. The geese’s a-hink-a-honk appeared unstoppable.
Perhaps I was envious of the research that I had read some years ago which found that these geese migrate thousands of miles as ‘one’ flock, rising above their individual self and if any bird falls sick or is injured, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly or until he is dead. And when done, then they launch out on their own or with another formation until they catch up with their group.
What a show of ‘empathy’, I wondered. And how shameful, we humans claiming higher brain function have almost forgotten this word.
As I sat to watch and feed them with wheat grains with my hands…I couldn’t resist but to share with them,
“I wish I was one of you.”
”Why? “, asked one. “Aren’t you the most intelligent species created by God?”
“Yes, but I love the way you tiny, pea-brained creatures fly thousands of miles , as free birds, who need no borders, passports or visas…even need no expensive tickets or advance bookings to travel each year …and there is no one to stop you.”
The goose eyes twinkled with pride, ”Yes indeed. But do you know how do we succeed in braving such distances?”
“Yeah, I read some research–you fly in flocks united as one group, in a V-formation, up to the destination.”
As I spelt the word ‘united’, my heart sank at the absolute disunity that we display being divided as Muslims-Ahmedis-Christians or even Shias-Sunnis instead of staying in a flock united as Pakistanis.
“Yes, unity and discipline are the foundation stones with which we brave through our arduous journey from Siberia to South Asia”, declared one of the geese.
“Discipline, that flying in a V you call discipline?” I taunted.
“Your scientists have researched and found out the reason why we fly in that V. Do you know why?”, he asked.
“Yeah I guess because to fly in an S would be tougher, Huhh!”, I mocked.
“Hahaha. You and your twisted human mind. Staying organised in a V gives us strength. The bird ahead flaps his wings to reduce the air resistance and gives a lift to the next behind it . Thus, the reduced air resistance is passed on to the bird immediately behind and subsequently the whole flock gets the benefit. And this way we are able to add 75% greater flying range than if each bird did it alone. “
Hearing this rang the bells in my mind of that painful High School Physics which taught us that principle of airlift. . But what’s the point, I thought, despite learning through science or through moral science, of the advantages of unity and discipline? Did we humans ever applied it in our real life?
I had no answer to the bird, but so true to my human nature, I made a nasty taunt,
“How mean, you let one bird as a leader do all the hard work. The one at the front does the most labour, ‘alone’ by flapping its wings through the air resistance. How inhuman?”
“You call this inhuman? Being cruel is so ‘human’ I would say”, the goose retorted.
That comment really hurt. I knew the goose was right. What hurt more was that it was a pea-brained goose making that comment about the most intelligent species created by God. (Thanks to the arrogance with which we judge each other too as big or small).
“Do you know we keep changing our leader and we all take turns to lead? When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.”
“Oh really, that’s strange. How do you elect your leader—like us through elections?”
“Elections? Why? For us each bird gets its turn to be the leader. Do you humans let everyone lead, in turns?” he remarked.
How silly of these birds, I felt. If I was one of them, I would never let anyone else take the lead except me. To hell with turns.Huhh.
“And mind you, our leader really works hard, not like human leaders who live a VVIP life and never are they willing to step down.” replied the bird, as if he read my thoughts.
“Not only do we stay united and disciplined, we keep our faith in whoever is our leader for that period.”
“What?” I inquired.
“See our leader leads and works hard the most. The ones behind, follow him with complete faith. The ones at the extreme back keep honking all through the journey. They honk ‘Keep going, we are right behind you’. Have you ever experienced how energising it is when someone gives you support and inspiration from behind? It synergises one’s capacity far beyond one’s capability.”
“Faith?” I was confused.
“Exactly, it is a mutual faith between the leader and rest of the flock. This trio of unity, discipline and faith enables us to travel thousands of kilometres braving harsh weather, sometimes even lack of food on the way”, remarked the goose.
My head hung in shame. They understood what was the true meaning of faith–not just the faith in God, but also of faith in the leadership, faith in the people and faith in one’s own abilities. And this faith should make us move forward, not kill each other. We perhaps have misconstrued ‘faith’ as just religion and keep quarrelling with each other in the name of that faith.
By now, I was feeling embarrassed of how a pea brained bird was singing songs of its greatness. My ego could not hold back and I screamed:
“Do you know this Unity, Discipline and Faith that you follow along the 4500 km journey, was actually a slogan given by our Founding Father?”
All the bird heads turned at me in awe…and after a long silent pause one of them remarked:
“You humans have heard of Unity, Discipline and Faith? Oh really?”
And with that exclamation, all three of them flew up in the sky, in a small V formation, towards the east , perhaps for their final destination in Bharatpur Bird sanctuary.
I kept staring at them, till they went out of sight. And with them, went out of mind the lesson they taught from their lives.
Why did I need to learn from those pea-brained birds ? Afterall I am the most intelligent species living on Earth.