Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Boishakhi Blues: Do our "little" in a large way?

The first time I recall going to a Pahela Boishakh event was 1965. The place was idyllic Madhabdi near Narsinghdhi. It was Dad's idea that I come along to what he promised would be a day of fun, and for the first time in my life I was exposed to the great tradition of the Hal khatha, which is basically the opening of new books of accounts for traders; indeed any business, a new book was/is opened every year on Pahela Boishakh.

I spent a full day of mischievous fun at Madhabdi, which at the time was a sprawling center for the dyes and chemicals business in the then East Pakistan, and one my father was associated with - hence the invites.

There was no singing or dancing, as one would expect these days, but I couldn't help overlook that everybody wore new dresses, and yes a lot of mishti and good food to go with it. Exhausted with all the running about - (with Zamir Ali my minder trying his best to keep me in best behavior), I dozed off the afternoon at a 'gaddi' of a 'mohajan' and when it was time to return - I was in for a surprise.

From boudi, the wife of a mohajan who had earlier hand fed me her deliciously cooked shorsho ilish fish was a New Year's gift! A pair of pigeon in a neat basket. The male was brown in color and the female white. From that moment on, the ecstatic 8-year-old in me went flying to the seventh heaven with the beautiful birds. In retrospect, I don't think I ever quite managed to 'home' my way back to plain grounds!

The pigeon's touched my spirit and I soon found myself becoming obsessed with them. I would feed them, and spent sleepless nights worrying if the ugly tomcat would make a 'feast' of them! In school I would point at the pigeons flying in and out of the portico to my friends that they were 'mine' and back home it would be pigeons again. I would spend hours watching them in mouth agape wonder till Mum would raise hell that it was time to get to studies.

Dad was a great pigeon aficionado as I soon learnt, and by the time we left Narayangang (where I was born) to move to Dhaka in 1968, our flock of pigeon was close to 50. Our family was very poor, but Dad to keep me (by then an 'out-of-control' prankster on way to becoming a delinquent) occupied, spent a whole deal of money and purchased several other species, with one of the most prized pair being the 'lokkhya' - pigeons with tails resembling that of peacock.

It was a great wonder to see the original pair breed and re-breed to a staggering 6 pairs and I probably oversaw a dozen eggs, that hatched these beautiful little chicks without feathers, and became adult pigeon that went flying, and yet came back to me before dusk.

When they mated, I would think they were attacking each other and rush in to intervene, till Dad quietly explained to me things about "the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees and the moon up above - and a thing called LOVE". Education?

It was freedom of the pigeons, their ability to fly and go wherever the felt like going, that had me zapped, and to think of it - freedom has in many ways been my life long goal, in a world where you are only as free as you think you want to be. An unfettered mind is life's greatest deception, yet we pursue it with so much vigor - simply because it cannot be any other way, in a world where we bask in insolent arrogance in our propensity to deny freedom to our fellow man.

I think the pigeon serves as a reminder, that it is perhaps the only domesticated bird that has lived with man for ions, yet both creatures have complimented each other on freedom or the lack of it……with the pigeon having the upper hand - NOT man.

I woke up this morning to the 'bak bakum kum' sound of a pair of pigeon's. In Adabor where I live, forget pigeons, one doesn't even see sparrows, and this wonderful sound and sight brought me into a very contemplative state of mind. With Choitro Shongkranti and Boishakh festivities set to begin in a couple of hours, and while we take stock of the year gone by, can we all do our little in a large way that individual freedom is respected?

This day (12th April) 18 years back Dad went 'flying off' from this world, way beyond to the world of our shapeless, formless Maker, and tell you what, I think he has been most certainly employed as a pigeon keeper!

I will be going over to his grave later in the evening and not that he needs one, say a prayer for his soul, and also may the Lord gOD send us more pigeons courtesy him this and in future Boishakh.

With that, Shubho Noboborsho to everybody.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very touching piece. Enjoyed it very much.
May your father rest in peace.


7:33 AM  

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