Mohammad Yasir is a Physics graduate from the University of Delhi and currently enrolled in the Master's Programme at IIT.
But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage,
Can seldom see through his bars of rage.
— Maye Angelou
The phrase ‘birds of a feather flock together’ has been around in various forms for almost 6 centuries now. I find it no mere coincidence that its literal meaning is as true as its idiomatic exposition. In fact, its origins are closely knitted together with the two basic desire all birds possess – Flight and flock.
There is a feeling of safety, security, and comfort that accompanies being together with one's own kind. Each resounding chirp is echoed by a reassuring trill, as if to say, “Don't worry, we're in this together!”. And taming the skies with such a promise in company must be an indubitably remarkable experience. To pluck even a single beautiful creature from its flock, clip its wings, and snatch this inherent and instinctive emotion from it is one of the most cruel and inhumane crimes one can commit.
It is a sad reality and a heart-breaking truth that while mankind dreams & desires flying, taming seas, traversing far-away stars, and discovering new moons, it denies a smaller yet equally essential pleasure of fledged freedom to these beautiful creatures.
In one of the most powerful and prolific quotes ever, Maye Angelou describes the song of a caged bird as a “fearful trill”. For me, no one did it better. This creative illustration of a chained bird's forced song represents all its emotions in just two words. When you lock it up and clip its wings, you take away a bird's ability to fly and flight is almost all the pleasure a bird knows in its life.
In such a case, its mellifluous tweets are naught but the forced and broken chords of a sad and caged melody. A locked-up bird doesn't sing. It cries of fear and longs for freedom. It echoes a desire to fly and feel the wind ruffle its feathers as its flock chirps around it. Its dream of a soft rain on lush leaves & green grasslands remains a dream and its desire to find food, nest, and partner of its own choosing is sawed off. An endless sky, and the familiar rhymes of its flock is far more precious to a bird than gilded garlands and silver swings bought at the cost of its flight.
You can offer a golden cage to a weeping bird. But to truly wipe away those tears requires the humanity and the morality of choosing to let it fly.
Nature Seeks Balance
Of all the principles, systems, or beliefs that constitute this world, nature herself chooses and desires balance. She thrives on the ideas of order & harmony. To tweak, twist, or tear just one variable off the equation would send the scales toppling into chaos much like unsupported Jenga slabs.
Nature has set up a highly delicate equation of ecosystems. Every single species of animals, regardless of shape and size, is an important variable in that equation. Even a layman, a commoner, or someone of little understanding can attest to the fact that there is beauty in a bird's songs and colours. And this discussion doesn't end here.
There is a Scientific Importance of Free Birds in Nature
Scientists, ecologists, environmentalists, and other laureates know that besides such philosophical reasons, our survival is tied closely with that of all other species. Whether for pollination, or insect population control, birds have their own place in the ecosystem and it is necessary that we take all the necessary steps for their conservation as well as for their freedom. A paper by N. Criddle in the Canadian Field Naturalist Journal has recognized the importance of birds as destroyers of noxious insects. There are also various papers which signify the relation between improved pollination and presence of birds in the area.
And to top it all off, studies have found a few variety of trees that spread only when pollinated by birds, deeming the latter's presence significantly more essential to human survival.
Thus, the sundry stagger of birds in nature plays an important role in maintaining balance in the world. Letting them fly & thrive is essential not only because it is humane, but also because our own survival depends on it.
I plead guilty to the pleasures of hearing caged birds more often than I would prefer to admit. The practice is so deeply-established in society for commercial or recreational reasons that wiping it from existence sounds Herculean. And yet, choosing not to try speaks of many qualities but humanity.
Do you think we'll ever see a world where humankind truly understands its mistakes in caging these beautiful creatures?
© 2021 Mohammad Yasir