Friday, October 8, 2010
Like I said, I teach English to Middle School students nowadays. The students recently appeared in their First Semester Examinations and Sixth Grade had, among others, a chapter called "Sing, Mockingbird". It's about a girl called Little Feather who valued her pretty feathered bird friends and often looked disdainfully at the not-so-attractive Sister Mockingbird. But then, one fine day, down with fever and quite sure that she won't make it without her bird friends, she is nursed back to health by their songs all night long...only to discover in the morning that it was the Mockingbird all along. That's when she discovers the true value of friendship.
The new term will find no mention of the mockingbird. My own experience with the bird began with Harper Lee's classic and ended a few years later with Eminem's autobiographical music video. Except that now, after reading that chapter, I just can't stop thinking about the Mockingbird. To sing your song for others to listen and heal with, to choose a life of anonymity and yet, cherish every bit of the startling miracle that the onlookers can't just walk past, you need more than pretty feathers for that.
A Mockingbird creates meaning in brief bursts. It doesn't have a story. It's more like a tweet. I mean it. If she were a human, you would find her on Twitter! It's like a patchwork quilt. Experiences stitched together and carried along quite like Hanuman and his mountain, on his quest for the Sanjeevani. A soldier would call it the armamentarian approach and to a researcher, it would just be data collection. Usha ma'am (God rest her soul), our Hindi teacher from school, introduced us to this beautiful word when we were 14; har-fan-maula. It's a bit like being the jack of all trades, but sounds ever so much lyrical.
A Mockingbird lives her life like a sharp, shooting beep. She loses sight of herself and her life. She is scared that she will never be completely honest with herself. It's a cursed life. If she could, she would have run away from herself just like Forrest Gump tried.
She could never have a bucket list. Words and experiences change meaning in her world like the moving staircases at Hogwarts. It would bother her that her wildest streaks would be tamer than she would want them to be. She would discard every pang of jealousy that crept in and reared it's head when a bird with pretty feathers walked by. She wouldn't sit on that barbed wire even if you made her pretty for a day.
She can't stop lying. She cannot be defined. Don't cage her with your promises of fame. She never promised you anything. She entertains you because she feels the pleasure it gives her. And that is the only thing in the world that she can trust.