LazyEye

Once upon a golden bird

Things of wonder are things of wonder. They make us wonder, or why else would we call them things of wonder? For instance that soney ki chidiya thing? What soney ki chidiya? Where is it? Where was it, is probably a more correct way to ask.

But an even more correct way to frame that question is probably this: When was it? When was this soney ki chidiya? Time please. Or Date. Or month. Or year. Or decade. Or century. Or millennium. Or whatever it is that was there before everything was.

Was the soney ki chidiya there at that time before time began? Has anyone seen it? Or did it lay a golden egg and that was that? Golden bird. Golden egg. Story over. No more eggs of gold. No more bird of gold. Very likely that is what happened. But never mind. We are promised reliably that we are getting that bird back again: soney ki chidiya, the bird that sleeps, the sleeping bird. The bird will sleep and we shall go nightmaring upon its slumber. And we shall be terrified upon the thought of the soney ki chidiya waking up, because terrible things can then happen. So jaa, soney ki chidiya, so jaa, nahin to Gabbar aa jaayega. So sleeps the soney ki chidiya. Have you seen it? Can you sense it? Sleeping? Or dead? Sleeping forever? That soney ki chidiya?

Some things are often so far away from the limits of our gaze we cannot see them. Or so up close we will not see them, or often cannot, or often do not. Are dodos alive somewhere that we cannot see them? Or are they finally all dead and become myth? Like the soney ki chidiya?

Anyway. Never mind. There are more ordinary and quotidian things we cannot see.

Like warts on our noses. Or this thing called food. Look around. This nation is roaring around you. All this vastness that remains beyond and despite our overburdened numbers. All those open fields. All these fields eddied and voluptuous with gold. Look at them. These are what we made of hard earth. We tilled it. And we tilled it till the earth broke and yielded spaces for us. For us to seed the spaces in earth. To sow into the womb of earth that something that has turned to this: gold.

And this gold is, you know what? Ethanol. These are fields of ethanol. They will not be for us who laboured to coax a livelihood, a morsel on our unwashed plates of leaves, twice a day, or even once. They will be the stuff to feed the factories of profit, food for diesel and food for churning iron and steel. Food for the mills that will make of the gold we sowed protective liquids for protected hands: sanitisers. This is what we sowed that has now turned into these swinging fields — ethanol. And we thought it was, you know, food.

Or these looming cities, look at them. Just look at them. The sheer sparkling grandeur of them. The masonry, the marbling, the astounding square-footage of reflective glass, the bespoke greenery that maroons the air-conditioning, all this coolth in the midst of this killer heat. That we are waking. Without shadow. Without shelter. Without food. Without wish that we could inhabit. Without hope. Where are we going? Where are we walking to, with our heels charred on the melting asphalt, our bodies wilting, our souls, well, well, do we even have souls? Are we meant to? Who are we? Where are we going? But we know. We are the cursed ghosts of promises made to us. We are walking towards where lies the soney ki chidiya. It is what we willingly chose, this is what we wished for ourselves, this is the future we bequeathed ourselves with the only, and singular, right we still have — our vote. We went to the booth and we said:

Oh these fields that sing

Of promises that you’ll be fed

But y’know I’ll make them sting

And fill them all with the dead.

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