Lu Xun and the birds – Sarvesvar Dayal Saxena

A Poem by Sarvesvar Dayal Saxena

Lu Xun and the birds

In my childhood I had seen Lu Xun roaming in the mango groves of my village,
Chatting with old men in barns, smoking pipe and playing with young men in fields all se to be harvested
You often find him now roaming dense jungles.
“you, here?
“yes birds have held me back.”Birds?”
“In these jungles, bullets are fired, and birds get scared.”
“Is anyone hunting?”
“Birds do not interest hunters anymore.”
“Good. But why then this fear?”
“Fear is there… the gunshots are heard, and they take off, scared, spanning the jungle like a canopy. And when they return, they settle on treetops, terrorized.”
“They say they often see dead bodies tied to trees. They live in fear that the tree they perch on would be one of those. They believe such trees cease to be trees. Their leaves cease to be trees. Flames leap upward from these trees, and their leaves smolder like embers. The birds cannot perch and nest. They fear the whole jungle will be aflame one day.”
“Do the birds recognize the dead bodies?”
“No, no one recognizes them.”
“Do the dead bodies belong to the well-groomed and well-fed?”
“No, often the weak and beggarly. Be brave and full of courage. They love trees and birds. They are drunk with the idea of turning the jungle into heaven.”
“What are you doing?”
“I understand the birds quite a bit. I try to tell them that they should swoop, all together, on those who tie men to trees and shoot. If they do so before the shots are fired, they won’t have to see these bad days.”
“But the guns can be trained at them too.”
“No guns carry enough bullets to wipe off millions. And if attacked by hordes, the gun-wielding hands will tremble. They will drop their guns. This is what I am saying to teach them. Many have understood, but in this jungle, there are all types of birds, speaking many tongues. Their colors are different. They take some time to fathom all this, but soon I will learn their ways and teach them all. And make them one… free from fear.”It was late evening . I was eager to come out of the jungle.

I bade him good bye in a hurry  and set out . He was going to the interiors and the birds have encircled him . No bird looked my way .

For I have not visited the jungles but I know for certain that Lu Xun is there.

By now he must have learnt their different languages . after a few days bullets will not be fired anymore and birds will twitter and sing fearlessly .

(Courtesy: People Hanging from the Pegs by Sarvesvar dayal Sakxena
Translated in to English by Vijay Munshi)

Sarvesvar Dayal Saxena (1927-83) is one of the finest poets in Modern Hindi poetry . His poetry was an advance in modern hindi poetry which was fast changing in  response to the breakdown of values and in protest against the establishment.

courtesy AHRC

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