I was in the railway station, seated on a wooden bench, waiting for my late night train to Bangalore. It was a dark cloudy night. The platform was old and the roof of the platform was torn out in many places. I looked around. Just across the corner, below the dustbin was seated a small bird. It appeared it's a fledgling ' a young bird that has recently left its nest. Possibly its flight abilities are not yet well developed. I looked closely at it. It looked like a sparrow. But I was not very sure; I have not seen this species for the last two decades. Its eyes were half closed and possibly it was feeling cold as well. I wondered ' why the parents of this little creature have left him alone? If at all he has to leave his nest, can't he get himself a feather jacket or something? Small pieces of old foam chair stuffing were lying around on the ground, but the little bird was sitting on the naked ground. How stupid ' I thought.
Fortunately my little dog Sandy was not there with me. Else, he would have moved heaven and earth together to make sure that this little creature leaves the place right away. Sandy feels at the top of the heaven when I come home. And when I am about to leave home after my holidays are over, he can somehow sense it, he never leaves me even for a minute. When my parents come out to see me off, the little Sandy looks really sad and give a very helpless look to me. But when I am at home, he is happy and gets jealous of other little creatures that come nearby ' stray puppies, frogs, mouse, cockroaches and small birds; even a small blow of wind that moves the curtain and disturbs him. Unlike other dogs, Sandy is vegetarian and he loves coconut, cucumber, paneer and crispy chocolates. I was still carrying some chocolates that I got for Sandy.
My thought again came back to the bird. Will this little bird be able to get some safe place in this world? Why couldn't he wait till the rainy season is over before he left his nest? I moved the small pieces of foam chair stuffing around the bird. I also took out a chocolate from my pocket, used my house keys to grind it into small pieces and put them near its beak. The bird just moved its neck a bit and didn't even touch the chocolate. Perhaps it was a grain eater and it didn't like the smell or the softness of the chocolate.
'You want to feed the bird? But son, birds don't eat chocolates' ' someone smiled and said from behind. I turned back ' it was an old man with gray hair, in a loose trouser and round neck old-navy T-shirt. A camera in a pouch was tied to his waist with a belt. He must be in his late fifties or early sixties. He continued 'you see - birds are excellent food finders. They don't have the option of going to the McDonald or to the Pizza Hut. They just live on their success. This little bird is yet to learn flying properly. But he is tying to understand the signal of the creator who has created him. He has to struggle for success and by tomorrow, he would learn flying to find his grain.'
I was really impressed with the old man. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis once said 'after thirty years of my research on the human mind, I still could not answer the most asked question ' what women want?' Even during my college days the most handsome and sought after guys who thought the way to a girl's heart is through chocolates and ice-cream, failed bitterly several times. And is this old man claiming that he knows even what this little young bird wants? The not-so-pleasant loudspeakers in the platform announced the delay of my train by further 20 minutes with the prerecorded sorry message. I came next to him and he continued his conversation.
He introduced himself ' 'I am Kishor, I was a senior Ornithologist with The Royal Society for The Protection of Birds, UK. I have taken voluntary retirement and have come back to India last year. Now I am writing a book on birds. I love studying and monitoring birds and so even after my retirement, I am doing it as a hobby. I have already done a lot of research on birds. But still I think I have to learn a lot from them'.
Don't you think UK could have given you better scope for research as well as a good lifestyle? And also there are not many people in India who will understand and appreciate your work. Why did you come back then? Is it because of your family or something?
Yes my family is here. But that is not the main reason for my home coming. You see, at your age, I also planned that after having a successful career I will come back home and will lead a peaceful life with family and friends. But now all my children are working and are away from home. Have you thought about it ' birds that travel almost every year, how do they find the direction to come back home? Some of them orient themselves by the sun, some by stars and some by physical features to guide them. Some birds also tune themselves to the earth's magnetic field to find their directions. Now given the fact, one half of all the birds migrate and fly around the globe every year and there is no predetermined path for them called fly ways, how do they learn? Is there a bird's school that teaches them this art? It's their destiny. It's the call of life. They just tune themselves to life and follow the call. Now don't you think you and me are like the birds? Are not we following our life's call and going places? And at the end this call only brings us back home. So now I am here in India.
That means people following their dreams and venturing out of their safety zones will never be happy? Though most of them know the way back to their nest, when their dream is realized, and they will come back home, there will be no one home to share their happiness with?
Well, that is an interesting point. In most cases, what we consider as happiness just disappears when we are about to get it, we can't catch it. So does it mean that we should never go after happiness? If all creatures of this universe are going after happiness, why should not we human beings? The problem is with our approach. Most of the living beings just live in the moment. They just go with their life and get happiness in the process. But we, the human beings, actually chase happiness. And this is a law of nature ' if you chase something, it will deceive you and it will go away from you. If you have joined a company and you are working only because you want a promotion, can you guarantee happiness for yourself? Obviously your working has got a much bigger purpose than just getting a promotion every year. So is for people following their dreams.
You said birds and human beings are quite alike. So why that birds seems so happy while most human beings just dream throughout their life to be happy?
Isn't it the dream of human beings to be free, just like a bird? Birds are beautiful creatures and more than anything they represent freedom and wildness. Don't we say 'free as a bird'? They can go wherever they want, whenever they want, even against gravity. We can only dream of this with our over populated cities, bad roads and stringent traffic rules. Though we are not completely free, still we break rules. Have you ever heard of a bird breaking a rule or a bird killing another bird of his group for success? Birds are happy because they have learned how to co-exist with their own group and the whole world.
So where is the mistake with human beings sir?
He turned his head to a small ray of light coming from a distant hill and said ' you see that light? That is the Budharaja hill of Sambalpur and that light is coming from the Lord Siva temple situated on the top of that hill. Once following few migrating birds, I went to that hill and spent the night in the backyard of the temple. In the night I had a dream ' I am seated near the Mahandi River under a Pipal tree (Ficus Religiosa, also called as Bodhi tree) and chanting 'Ohm Namah Sivaya'. Suddenly the rays of sun became very pleasant and the sun started descending, it came very close and touched my head. A very small but bright little bird came out of my heart and it started flying. Near the Mahandi River, five creatures were playing together ' a small mouse, a snake, a peacock, a bull and a tiger. The small bird felt very peaceful and started playing with the creatures.
Next day morning the bright sun light woke me up. The dream was still fresh in my mind. I told the priest about the dream. The priest explained - the Lord has shown you the path of wisdom. Lord Shiva is also called Pashupati (Pashu means living beings and Pati means master). He has shown you that all livings beings are his creation and they are happy when they co-exist peacefully. The bird that came out of your heart is your consciousness (Chaitanya ' that knows itself and that knows others). God is always happy, all peaceful. As all living beings are created by God himself, they are also happy. However, the so called evolved mind of human beings tricks them. That creates a veil of illusion around their senses. Though we all are connected to God all the time, the veil of illusion prevents us from realizing that. However the other living beings can feel the presence of God all the time. Since you are studying birds and their nature, the almighty wanted to show you the true nature of life. In your world, you do not even trust fellow human beings, forget about trusting an animal. But the creation of Shiva is all peaceful through perfect coexistence. In the family of Shiva, all the members have different carrier (vahana) animals. Shiva himself has Nandi (the bull) as his carrier. A snake surrounds his neck. Goddess Durga has the tiger as her vahana, Kartikeya has Peacock and Ganesha has the mouse. When the living beings are ignorant and they are just living to eat, the snake eats the mouse, the peacock eats the snake, the bull kills the peacock and the tiger eats the bull. But when they are blessed with divine knowledge and they become conscious, they can coexist peacefully. That is what God has shown you in your dream.
He continued further - You know son, I have thought several times about this dream and the explanation given by the priest. The more I think about it, the more I believe that every human being must know this truth. Now we all are so much fascinated with science that we are forgetting the actual purpose of science. My experience in studying bird science (ornithology) tells me that spirituality is the origin of science and every discovery in science leads to spirituality again. Spirituality is the science of understanding God, the creator and science is the tool given by him to understand his creations. Its like when it rains, we can see only the water coming from the clouds to the sea. But we cannot see with our eyes how that water is going from the sea to the clouds - it is the science tells us that. So when we are ignorant, we say the water is falling down (from the clouds). When we learn science, we say water is going up as well (from the sea). But when we become conscious and spiritual, we say water is not going anywhere as the clouds and the sea are just the same thing but different interpretations of the creation of God. Spirituality and science have always existed together. All living beings by nature are spiritual and hence are happy and peaceful. But we human beings - the most sophisticated creation of God are getting ahead in science (the discovery outside) but are going away from spirituality (the discovery within). This in turn is resulting in misery, confusion and fear in us. And the sad part is that we are trying to treat this illness from within the soul with something external. Can we be happy?
Are not the Gods doing anything about it sir?
(Smile), they have always helped us and they will continue to do that. Birds represent consciousness and they also represent freedom from earthly misery as they are often associated with the free blue sky. Through this little bird aren't the Gods telling us that we can also be free from miseries if we become conscious and put on our wings of wisdom? Like this little bird we have to just ask ourselves ' 'Who am I? Why am I here?' and we will get the answer.
The loudspeakers in the platform announced the arrival of the train to Bangalore. Both of us said good bye to each other. I occupied my berth in the train, ready to undertake another journey of life. I looked at the bird again from the window. In the platform was a half-opened book store with a poster saying:
Om asato ma sadgamaya,
Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya,
Om shantih shantih shantih
Oh Almighty! Lead us from the unreal (falsity) to the real (truth)!
From darkness to light!
From mortality to immortality!
Oh Almighty! May there be Peace! Peace! Peace!