Our apartment was just like any other old apartment in those erstwhile refugee colonies of New Delhi. There was no water related problem. We belonged from riparian places. The only thing that concerned us while looking for an apartment in the capital was water. I liked it. Gourav liked it too. We were high functional drug users. At the end of the day, when we came back from our easy going jobs we would inject ourselves with serums that could help us catch nightmares in our sleep. It was charming at first- we had been doing that for quite a while promising to stop every other weekday. When we changed apartments we decided we would change our habits too, but it diffused into us from that place to here. Somehow I think we loved our nightmares. It was routine for us to to wake up to our own screams. So one fine morning when I was dreaming Indira Gandhi’s assassination scene, I wasn’t befuddled at all when I heard Gourav’s scream.
It sounded sharper than the notes of a man’s voice. I let it pass and went back to 1984. Soon, I heard a knock on my door and had to get up. Gourav was standing outside with his bare body and glowing red eyes. He made a face like he had seen a ghost. I asked him if something was wrong. He told me that there was a pigeon in the room. I was still delirious from last night’s dose, so I took some time to think. Now before I continue with this story- I must mention something about the pigeons of New Delhi.
The pigeons of New Delhi were once the pigeons of Old Delhi, they used to carry letters in the time of those old cruel Kings and were trained to unite restless and patient lovers through words. I had read this long ago in some history book- while preparing for the fraudulent IAS examinations. But alas, such lessons are deemed unimportant by our modern kings. But as far as legends go, I still fondly remember the story of the pigeon Princess.
Once upon a time, in that forgotten city of Delhi, there was a lost princess who kept pigeons. She used to scribble poetry and tuck them in their legs and lonely peasants would wake up in the morning to find their life moved by words. The king was aware of his daughter’s power over the masses and he encouraged his daughter to nurture her passion. He summoned poets from all over the world- and under their tutelage the princess got better. Words sometimes could be used to deceive people too, and one of the poets who had once arrived in the king’s court much to the ignorance of the nobles was the great trickster from Babylon. He was a man who had been instrumental in the downfall of kingdoms. He looked like someone who never aged. No one knew his power, but his words were just viciously sweet and subtly harmful. Under his tutelage the princess learnt the art of metaphors and how to lace poison in words. It wasn’t surprising the Princess fell in love with him, for who can resist the charm of being deceived in love? So one fine day, while beguiling over being in love the Princess wrote three words thousand times over and they were all made to be delivered into each and every home. If only the pigeons could read they would know what those words meant. There was a general unrest among the peasants after this. Due to the years of good governance it was easily appeased by the noble king. The wise men of the state who by this time were aware of what had happened ordered that the charmer of Babylon be put to trial. By virtue of the state laws- both he and the Princess were tried for treason against the King. This was punishable by beheading. The trickster deceived everyone and escaped. He was nowhere to be found. It was now only the Princess’s fate to be put to death. The noble king couldn’t put his own daughter to death so he let her go, and demanded a kingdom wide search for the trickster. The Princess was heartbroken in love, so she didn’t leave her bedchamber for the next eighteen days and at the end of the nineteenth day she couldn’t be found and it was said that she had turned into a pigeon herself- the bearer of words, which were mostly deceitful. Centuries had passed since that day and Delhi had shed so much blood, that even its history was written in the red ink of passion. Delhi had transformed into a modern metropolis of hubris and speed. There were pigeons everywhere and sometimes you could see them fly up and down in the roads, while sometimes you would find them beheaded by your exhaust fan, as if no one could escape fate in a city besotted with the King’s rule.
I asked Gourav whether he switched off the ceiling fan because nothing was worse than seeing a decimated carcass when you are high. He replied in the affirmative. I wish I was romantic enough to expect poetry from a frightened pigeon that was trapped inside his room. Wings were meant to be a blessing, and look at that sad pigeon stuck, alright. I never asked how it got in his room on the first place, and why it couldn’t get out, because Gourav provided me with all the answers. We always told this to ourselves- hey, we are drug users not abusers. So I went straight into the room with a stick and tried to realign the curtain so that the bird can go out, but alas, I couldn’t manage it in that state. The door lay ajar for a while and the pigeon sat quietly on his table, tilting its head in agony. Afternoon set in, while we slowly fell out of our inebriations as more blood flowed into our brain. Another weekend had begun with an unwelcome guest, there was no office today. I remembered texting a friend who suggested that we should cook it, for pigeons taste good. Man is the only animal who kills for no reason at all, and I decided not to kill it for a reason. The next time we ventured into the room, we couldn’t find the pigeon. We looked here and there, and examined all the nooks and corners with our big eyes, but there was no birdie.
The Bird has Flown.
We looked under the bed like children who look for coffers, and still there was no trace of any remotely winged creature except for some dead mosquitoes. We sighed and looked at each other wondering if we had imagined the entire episode, for the windows were closed and the curtains were drawn. Helplessly we tried looking for our serum collection to delete this day from our memory and it was here that we discovered a paper lying with words scripted in the language of poets.
جاگو اور دنیا تمہاری ہے
The Princess had come to us,
perhaps to deceive us into