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By Varun U. Shetty

You’re in Mumbai riding on the back of your friend's bike, and you notice the neighborhood stray dog trying to swallow a bird, its wing sticking out of its slobbering mouth, so you rescue the wet, shocked bird, take it to a quiet corner in the building compound; you feed it and give it water, but it doesn't move much other than a few steps, and no one in the building really cares about a broken pigeon but you, and that makes you wonder why people call them rats with wings, probably because they don't know that pigeons are the closest they'll ever get to knowing living dinosaurs, probably because they have forgotten that pigeons delivered messages for thousands of years, that these birds can find their home from hundreds of miles away while you are 8000 miles from where you were born, wondering if you know where you will fly to, at the end of your life, but still you are in disbelief that people are not impressed by the ultraviolet fluorescent scarves accenting their gray coats, the elegance in their stance, or how they don't see the brilliance in their anxious take-offs and stylish landings--your mind wanders and you don't remember if it was a single day or several, but you remember that the pigeon disappeared one day, that you and your friend were convinced that it was either that evil cat, or the grumpy gardener, and now you remember the other blind pigeon you tried to save but failed--you were confident that this time, it was that damn cat; and here come the others you have failed, like the love birds you killed unintentionally, or the Brahmini kite that fell out of the sky due to a heat stroke and died later, in your home, or that kitten on the side of the street with a deformed pelvis, or that puppy run over by a car, its head split open, and you realize that pigeons are not only a symbol of your personal failure to save animals but also the world's failure to see beauty.

Varun U. Shetty is a writer and intensivist from Mumbai, currently living in Shaker Hts., OH, whose work has appeared in The Wire, Olney Magazine, Literary Cleveland’s Breaking the Silence, Voices From the Edge online anthologies, The Bangalore Review, and Goa Today.

Photo by Jason Thayer, who found this pigeon shot dead, like seven or eight years ago when he was living in Chicago.


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