Written by Nagoman
Translation by Fazal Baloch
I am a bird-trap. I have been entangled here for about a year now, at the top of a high kahur tree. The hot days and cold nights, the humidity and dryness, the wind and rain, the scorching heat of the summer winds, have all made me very weak. My rubber parts have decayed and broken off.The termites have eaten the wooden pin, and the iron arch has rusted.
Why do I remain suspended here in this awkward position? Who brought me to this miserable state? Well, it is quite a long story.
It was a pleasant and cloudy morning last summer. Badal took me and my two fellow bird-traps out of his dwarf-palm basket and set out for his father’s field. He was taking us to where he could position us to catch prey.
This basket was where I and my two companions slept at night. Badal did not leave us out overnight because frogs, mice and beetles would spring us, or ants would take the grains he used as bait. Therefore, we caught birds in the field during the day, and rested in the basket at night, talking about life.
Badal had built me three days before, and had begun taking me to the field, but I had not yet managed to catch a single bird. That’s why I felt a bit ashamed in front of my companions who had had caught so much prey.
My reason for not being able to catch anything was that on the first day I was set so tight that the birds took my grain without springing me, and on the second day I was set so loose, that I sprung all by myself. When that happened, the birds on the threshing floor flew away, and even after landing again, they stayed well away from me. So now I know – a birdtrap should not be set so tight that the birds can eat the grains off its trigger without springing it, nor should it be so loose that it springs at the blowing of the breeze.
That morning, Badal picked us up and took us straight to the sorghum threshing floor, where the sorghum was piled up on a patch of hard ground near the field. Many a bird visited this threshing floor. In addition to collar doves, it was common for laughing doves, black-headed buntings, babblers, sparrows and sometimes even common mynas to come by.
Now some laughing doves and babblers were pecking at grains. When Badal approached, they flew away and sat on a small kahur tree a short distance away. Badal put down the other two traps and placed me out. He dug the earth a little, positioned me there and gently covered me with soil. Then he blew away the soil, exposing the grain of sorghum pasted onto my trigger mechanism with resin. He put some millet stalks behind me to block the way of the birds approaching from behind, since we cannot catch birds that come from behind very firmly.
Badal placed out the other two traps as well. Then with the corner of his shawl he wiped away his footprints from around us, so that the birds would not suspect anything. Once he was done, he walked over to a kaler tree that stood at a distance and fixed his eyes on the threshing floor.
The weather was very pleasant. The clouds gave shade, and a cool breeze was blowing. The birds perching on the kaler and kahur trees around the threshing floor were intoxicated by the pleasant weather and praised it with their sweet voices.
At that very moment, two doves came flying and alighted atop the same high kahur tree in which I am now entangled. I was quite happy to see the birds increasing in number. I will definitely catch one of them, I thought. But I hadn’t caught any yet. I didn’t know if I could do it.
I was struggling in my heart as I waited for the birds to land on the threshing floor. Hiding behind the kaler tree, Badal waited for one of us to be sprung. The period of waiting kept increasing for all of us, but not a single bird had landed on the ground. They all remained perched on nearby kahur and kaler trees, singing and praising the fine weather.
At last our prolonged wait came to an end. A laughing dove flew down from the kahur tree and landed on the threshing floor. A few others followed it. Some were close to the other traps and one was coming slowly towards me. My heart pounded faster, and I think Badal’s did too, as he hid behind the kaler tree.
Pecking at grains, the laughing dove approached, stopped right in front of me, and was ready to peck the grain on my trigger, when at that very moment the two doves on the kahur tree glided down and landed to the side of the threshing floor. This sudden movement startled the laughing doves, and they flew to the very kaler tree that Badal was sitting behind. Spotting Badal, they continued to a small kahur tree nearby.
I was very upset with the doves because they had spoiled my chance to catch my prey. If they had not flown down, I would surely have caught the first prey of my life. For a moment I longed to spring myself, startling the doves and making them fly away. If they have caused my prey to escape, I will not let them forage here. But then I thought that I should not let them off so lightly. If I scare them off, they’ll just find another field or threshing floor and fill their stomachs. The best punishment is for me to catch one of them.
The two doves were moving gracefully, side by side around the threshing floor. At this very moment, the laughing doves that these collar doves had scared away also returned. I was quite happy, and my anger with the collar doves subsided. For the first time I took a good look at them. They were young, plump doves. One was male and the other female. Strolling side by side, they looked very beautiful. How happy they are, I thought. The poor birds did not know that the Angel of Death was lurking nearby, ready to take them at any moment.
For a brief second I felt a bit sorry for them, but then my desire to catch one of them – to catch my first-ever prey, and to win good-repute in the eyes of my companions and Badal – re-emerged and hardened my heart.
The male dove was coming towards me with the female following close behind. My heart beat more quickly again. One of them was about to become my prey. Now the long time of my and Badal’s waiting was about to end. Seeing my sorghum grain, the male walked faster towards me and pecked on my grain. My wooden pin slid out, and I snapped, trapping his neck instantly.
The moment I snapped, all the birds on the threshing floor flew away. But the mate of the trapped bird remained above me, circling. When Badal saw that I’d been sprung he rushed forward. Seeing him coming, the hovering bird retreated to a nearby kaler tree.
Badal removed the half-conscious dove from my jaws. He looked at the bird, smiled and addressed it in a merciless tone: “Come and peck at the sorghum, you damned freeloader!” He laughed loudly in his excitement.
I felt sorry. What a beautiful life they had had. But it crumbled in an instant, like the sandcastle of the crabs. How helpless and frightened they are now, the poor ones. I wished I hadn’t caught it! With regret I looked towards the dove held firmly in Badal’s hands. Now he is going to kill it and its mate will die of grief. I am responsible for the untimely death of both. I’ve ruined their happy life.
I was blaming myself with thoughts like these, but now things began to really get out of hand. Badal took a sickle from his waistband, faced in the direction of prayer and made ready to slaughter the male. Perched on the kaler-tree, the female was cooing mournfully.
I regretted having taken the blood of that innocent bird upon myself. How could I now rescue it from the lethal clutches of Death? This late realization was of no use. The worst had already happened.
Badal put the dove’s legs under his right foot and its wings under his left foot. He held its neck and head with his left hand and rubbed the sickle against its throat, all the while reciting “In the name of God, God is greatest.” Out of fear of death, the dove closed its eyes, and its female mate again started flying in circles above Badal. The sickle cut into the dove’s throat and its blood started spurting. It continued to twitch until it went cold.
Badal put a few droplets of the pure dove blood onto my wooden pin, so that I could catch even more birds in the future. But I… I was roasting in the blazing fire of regret.
From that day on I did not catch a single bird. Whenever some came close to me I set myself off, and any birds that were on the ground close to me and the other traps flew away. This was the only way that remained for me to get some slight relief from the agony of my sin.
Badal had patience with my untimely springing for a week or so, but how long could it last? One day, when I had yet again gone off at the wrong time, he got very angry and hurled me away with full force. Leaving his hand I ended up stuck in a forked twig at the top of this high kahur tree, and from that day on I have been hanging here.
Even though the rain and sun have cleansed the bloodstains on my wooden pin, the wounds inflicted on me by the hooked dagger of regret are still fresh, and whenever I hear the melancholic chanting ofa ringneck dove, a pain arises in my heart and the whole world becomes desolate.
Published: Nagoman (2003, 2012), Dar e Aps
Courtesy: Unheard Voices