Griffins

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There was once an eagle. She sat on a cliff and stared down. She was deigned to jump, into the torrent below, because the camel didn't care. And as she stared, deep in the water, the camel mated with the fish.

I started wearing the hijaab when I first joined college. I have been wearing it, on and off since then. I could see the reasoning behind it, but even then as of now, I hate being physically restricted or confined.

"You don't exist in other peoples' minds, live in your own. If you push and kick real hard, you can swim."


She was brought up among many birds, but no one was as magnificent as the hoopoe. The hoopoe was not an apology, was not just a part of a self. The hoopoe represented for her the possibility of being complete. If there were tears in her world, the hoopoe never spoke of them and took them in her stride. The hoopoe was the antipode in her life. It was when the hoopoe met her mate that the eagle realized what she was up against, in how she was building herself.As a being with a primary purpose,a companion of God in writing her destiny.

Watching the hoopoe duo wed in solemn societal and spiritual consent the eagle wondered if the camel and she would ever have the same kind of sanction. The hoopoe pairing had weakened her ideas on her own life. And when she told the camel, he knew how she felt, but was afraid of what it meant. He was not ready to give in, and besides, he was preparing steadily, to let go.


Meanwhile, a senile turtle waited for the eagle to return to him. The eagle had first laid eyes on the turtle when she was a fledgeling.He had represented to her the coming together of two worlds that she sought to be acquainted with. The fluid world of ideas, and the solid world of science. He carried with him the power to be in both places at the same time.


The eagle would leave the camel for stretches of time. On one such sojourn, she realized how incomplete she was without him, and sent him a letter expressing the thought. On returning home, however she didn't rush out to meet him. It was the holy month of Ramadan and she held back, awaiting from him an affirmation of the same thought. After each journey she returned to her family and would proceed to blend in as if her travels had never eroded, only strengthened her service to God and to them. This commitment boggled the camel, but he never expressed it to her, except the time that they were with the fish.


The eagle's life was by no means simple. She could only look at it in fragments. And her vision faltered in many places because she had dulled away many parts of her memory from consciousness. What this left her with was the ability to look at her past, microcosmically at certain areas and then alternate between microcosms from time to time.


The turtle had brought with him, along with the verbal pleasure of discourse, expanses of mindscape that she flew through with him, taking him with her into, each microcosm, looking at it afresh and asking questions about the way that things were. He drew her out and although he rarely spoke, he created for her an imagination broad enough to encompass them, as an 'entity'. And in this imagination she dwelt, learning from him what he had to teach her, and loving him, with his myriad stories.He loved her, but had a life away from her in the water where they could never be seen together. So, in order to be in this world, she had to swim.


The waters where he led her, though, were shallow, and soon, there developed a suture in their watery copular imagination. The eagle, unshielded in her flighty vision to the rules of the water world found in the turtle's lair a story that had gone past that excluded her. Confronted with this reality and with the difficulty in sustaining their imagination, she left the turtle, reluctantly and sadly. But she still made sure she attended all his nightly discourses by the sea-shore. When inspired, he could reach profound dominions with insightful clarity.


It was on these nightly discourses by the sea that she met the camel. And with him, the desert was opened out to her: vast and expansive, and with the slightest hint of a purpose to her journey. They didn't travel together , for he was too self possessed to let anyone go with him yet, so each entered at their will and were allies, but not companions. For the first time in the camel, she found a muse that was distinct from herself, and yet wide enough to contain her, for a short while at least. They were both content, because for him in the bargain lay the promise of a companion, and they were thus conjoined in their lust and their purity.


The camel had made the eagle want all the things that fledglings want. A safe home and conjugal bliss. And after the hoopoe union, it seemed like a beautiful dream in which she knew she didn't fit in, but it was a good dream as far as dreams are concerned. Self consciously now, she had to swim, because that was the path that she had chosen to tread, and fly, because she, like the hoopoe wanted to also be a part of the airy universe.


Identity is at the crux of the camel and eagle story. She couldn't let go of her airborne ness, he his land. But the camel wasn't a rooted being. He could travel far and live on nothing. He was self-sufficient. The place of his birth was not the same when he returned to it, his home now in fragments that were scattered in various far flung parts of the desert. In this aridness he could only relate to the temporary comfort of the oasis, and then move on. That was all he desired out of the eagle.


Still, the desire for love lay wrangled in some part of the lake he carried, undaunted by the desert's scorching heat, still fresh somewhere in a molecule.


The eagle and he built, out of each of their fragments a makeshift home. But only the eagle depended on it. The camel was so uprooted that this, even, he could let go of.


This is where the fish enters our story. The fish is the most rooted being in this story. The camel was attracted by her for her sheer certainty. While his world with the eagle gave him a new sense of companionship, he built on it the boat on which he went out to meet her.


So, the eagle shriveled up in the reality of her angst left the land of the camel, the fish, and the turtle and of her birth. She took the desert with her, in her vision and lived in its heat, in its memory and in its vastness. She left behind, for the camel and the fish,a garment, a piece of stitched cloth, which she felt she had to give to the fish. And she took it to her, and the fish accepted it. The fish, in need of past narratives, took it. The eagle then told the camel of the significance of the garment, she had one of his.The story of garments in this story remains incomplete, to unfurl, with the lives of these three creatures.


Their parting was sweet. They were both beyond tears, he in the promise of his new love, and she, her new sorrow. It wasn't a parting, yet. They were both waiting for life to give them that absolution. Neither had the heart to declare it thus.


They story of the camel and the eagle will end when her residual life with him comes to a standstill. And the wheels for it are set in motion, inexorably and with a violence that neither wants to be subjected to, but would rather not let fate play the first part in executing, so they live it today until it ends. In writing their destiny, each wants to be the principal player, and so their cowardice to not let the pungent acid of separation hit their faces completely makes them lead half lives, both bleak and rosy, both real and illusionary, both with and without. Neither has the fortune of complete annihilation in love, because of lust, and the seeds of lust, scattered all over their lives. They walk their separate paths and don't dream of union but of closure. They will fashion and alter their lives so as to never see each other again. They will preserve, for posterity the image of each other, but neither will be the same person. That is the good in all of this.

What is meant by moving on? It comes from the courage to take an extreme step and build your life around it, until its time to take the next extreme step.


The camel and the fish began a new life and the garment that the eagle gave was with them. Out of the garment she carried with her, she began hers. And she began to cover herself again, in the beginning out of unwillingness to let anyone other than the camel know her, and then, out of shame, and modesty, which she gathered from the days before the camel, before the turtle. The eagle learnt many things from knowing the fish, some of which she has to unlearn, and some, build on. In order to be ambidextrous, she uses technology that she learnt form the fish, like gills that let her inhabit places she couldn't access otherwise. But being a creature of the air requires her to take wing, and from the camel, she learnt how to survive aloneness. The turtle can see her, and awaits an encounter, for him a closure, a confrontation, with her airborne ness, like her confrontation with is fluid domain.


This triadic journey between air, water and land leads our story to the destination of its closing, or like they say, its beginning. And this is the Giant's Causeway, a long Island of hexagonal volcanic stones on water, and in order to cross this one must be airborne as well as land born, and in case of a fall one must be able to swim. In the end of the Giant's Causeway , which she now traverses, is a cliff. From which, dear eagle, you must drop, so in the absence of all struts, you will finally fly.


Raheema Begum

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