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Of Exit Paths


Ruchira Mandal


Last Saturday, I booked an Uber Share from my college. My colleague and I got into

the cab, which already had two more passengers- one at the back, the other in the front seat. The latter had pushed his seat so far back that we had to squeeze ourselves into the car, barely finding space to for our hands.

Excuse me, sir? What's your problem? If you need so much leg-space, please fly

Business Class next time.

Fortunately, our ordeal wasn’t long as he got off the car within 5 minutes of our boarding, his drop-off being the nearby hospital. Out he went, and in came the fly through the open door.

And not liking the front of the car, it flew to the back, where it continued to harass me and my colleague for the entire length of our remaining journey. We tried to let it out by lowering the window glass, but insects inside a car have a strange way of behaving – they zoom away from the glass as soon as you try to lower it.

“The fly’s on a share ride too,” my colleague quipped.

But whose ride was the fly on? I noticed it got out with us, as it zoomed past my face and out into the wide world. Do flies have memories? Would this fly be confused by the new

surroundings? Was it scared when it couldn’t get out? Can it find the way back? Or live long

enough to return?

What is it like, trying to get out of someone else’s ride?

This morning, a bird was trapped in the balcony in our house that joined my bedroom with my parents'. Naturally, it then couldn’t figure out

which way it had come through, and there was much frantic flapping of the wings.

Bird brain! I thought exasperated after my friendly attempt at guidance was met with

extreme and hostile distrust – why can't you see the way out?

The balcony is partly covered by fiberglass windows, and repeatedly, the bird kept knocking its head into the glass, not noticing the free, glassless exit paths around.

I tried to help again, but it only got more frightened. Just a foot away outside our

balcony, its partner did an anxious trapeze routine on the telephone wire as it twittered

encouragement. Or perhaps it was just a long lecture on the dangers of flying alone. I wouldn’t know. Don’t speak the language, you see?

Finally, I think after about fifteen minutes, the trapped bird found the courage to try a

different route. It perched on the grill. It was still shaking, slowly dipping its head forward,

fluttering its wings, and then, at last, flying out.

Bon vol, little birdie! May you fly long and high!

I wonder how many of us stray away from ourselves on other people’s rides, unwitting

figures in other people’s dreams. How many of us, like the bird, manage to find the exit paths when all ways seem closed? I wonder if the winged creatures of the world have a philosophy about entrapment and release. And when they find their ways into gilded cages, do they tell themselves that it is stupid or dangerous to fly? Or a sin?


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