I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings! Maliha Zainab

Credits: Mir Suhail

It’s winter and the sky seems deserted yet again. There are no birds taking flight. Under the crimson sky, lies a land whose dwellers have been caged. Often resorted to as the paradise on earth, this land is now no more than an open-air prison. WELCOME TO KASHMIR !

It is one fine winter morning and today’s forecast predicts a snowfall in the higher reaches. It’s been really a long time since we had a good blanket of snow wrapping the entire town beneath it. As I wait for the season’s treat, I hear some faint voices from the neighbouring lawn.

I peep out of the window, only to find old Kak feeding the birds. Kak an old man in the neighbourhood would often be seen telling stories to young children. Draped in a shawl, Kak lay there chanting songs to the birds. The sparrows chirping as he sang old Kashmiri folk-songs to ’em like a lullaby. And then comes the Bulbul.

“Walo myani Bulbulo …. Kyah wanai kyah gov myanis yath aashiyanas “, Kak sings.

He sings as he tells his tale to the Bulbul who in the midst is pecking grains and chirping back as if it understands the song. The old man narrates his saga to the free bird. The saga of Kashmir – a beautiful land that time and again had fallen into the hands of cruel rulers. Singing, he tells the Bulbul how he had seen his holy land turn into a graveyard, how he saw his own people getting butchered by the tyrants. Some of those who managed to escape migrated to far off lands leaving behind their land which till date awaits their homecoming. Kashmir owing to its conflict has generated a wave of brain drain supplying some of the best talent to the world while it awaits in anticipation the return of the same. Someday they will come back, all of them, for it is their land calling ’em. Their roots would trace ’em to their own land one day and they’ll all come back forever. And one day Kashmir would bloom into paradise again.”

At this instance, the Bulbul, still pecking the grains, comes flying on Kak’s shoulder and then immediately takes its flight off into the sky to meet his other companions. Kak, however is still singing.

I am reminded of two people at this instance, Allama Iqbal and P L Dunbar. In one of his eulogy titled as Parindey ki Faryad, Allama narrates the scenario of a caged bird. Dunbar on the other hand, comes up with a comparison between a free and a caged bird in his poem, Sympathy ;

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom !

When you’ve grown up spending summers of unrest in the world’s highest militarized zone being confined to your home, you know things are beyond your control. You know you are like a caged bird with no escape. And then you slowly start agonizing your existence.



At this point, you feel like having being driven into a cycle of psychological trauma. You need a vent for your feelings. And like the caged bird, you turn to your creator. You tell him everything you hold inside. You tell him how those tyrants who invaded your land retain their occupation by murdering, raping and torturing your brethren, how they turned your paradise into a prison. And god tells you to bear witness in history, to bear witness how in the past such oppressors have met their fate. You know you are no mystic bliss, yet at this point, you feel like holding on to that string of your faith. With this you see a new ray of hope. You know there is a spring ahead, all you need to do is pass the test. And you shall see how your oppressors meet their fate. You’ll bear witness to them as they bear witness to history and yet don’t learn.




We shall see, verily we shall see , as rightly as Faiz said it ;

Hum dekhenge
laazim hai ke hum bhii dekhenge
hum dekhenge

who din ke jis kaa waada hai
hum dekhenge

jo lauh-e-azal mein likhaa hai

hum dekhenge

jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e-giraan
rooii kii tarah ud jaayenge
hum mahkoomon ke paaoon tale
yeh dhartii dhad dhad dhadkegii
aur ahl-e-hakam ke sar uupar
jab bijlii kad kad kadkegii

hum dekhenge

jab arz-e-Khudaa ke kaabe se
sab butt uthwaaye jaayenge
hum ahl-e-safaa mardood-e-haram
masnad pe bithaaye jaayenge
sab taaj uchhaale jaayenge
sab takhth giraaye jaayenge

hum dekhenge

bus naam rahegaa Allah kaa
jo Gaayab bhii hai haazir bhii
jo manzar bhii hai naazir bhii
uthegaa “ina-i-haqq” kaa naaraa
jo main bhii hoon aur tum bhii ho
aur raaj karegii Khalq-e-Khudaa
jo main bhii hoon aur tum bhii ho

hum dekhenge

laazim hai ke hum bhii dekhenge
hum dekhenge    [ -Faiz Ahmed Faiz ]