They called me a rebel without a cause, or was it one without a pause? I guess they were right either way. Today, if I live to tell you the story of my kind, it’s only because I’m one of a kind. I’m a goose. Yes, one of those domesticated geese at Sukhna Lake, who escaped the clutches of the men in white that cold December 18 night. Perhaps, I survived to tell you our side of the story.
Yes, it’s been 10 days since the special team of livestock health workers of the Chandigarh administration arrived in white protective gear and destroyed our little island so lovingly built in the middle of the lake. The killings, or should we call them culling, started late in the afternoon on a day when even the sun chose to desert us.
I knew something was amiss and decided not to follow the gaggle. Instinct told me that our goose had been cooked (pun unintended). How could my friends trust those weird-looking humans in white overalls, masks and goggles, I wondered. Why were they leading them to the island, liberally sprinkling food to follow? Who were these people?
“They’re luring us. There’s something wrong,” I cackled from a distance. Some of my friends heard me but still chose to follow the rest. They swam fast and waddled up the steps behind those alien figures. Soon, they were out of sight.
I waited with bated breath, unable to fathom what was going on. Was I acting like a rebel again, I thought to myself. Should I venture into the freezing water too and find my way up to the treat zone? Why was I feeling uneasy? Why was my heart thumping so loud? These were just some of the questions troubling me as I hid in one of the boats, which ironically looked like a garish red goose. The boat bobbed in the silent waters till suddenly I saw flames leaping in the air. I watched the fiery end from a distance. I’d never felt so helpless.
It’s been cold and lonely ever since.
The other morning I learnt I had made headlines. ‘Goose spotted at Sukhna island’, the paper said. What wrong had I done? I had only trundled down the Sukhna path to figure out if it had snowed in Chandigarh. The road was pristine white and so was the entrance to the neighbouring Haryana Raj Bhavan. It looked breathtaking until I sneezed and all hell broke loose. Men emerged from nowhere and I was forced to beat a hasty retreat. “There it is! I bet it has the flu,” shouted one of them as I waddled as fast as my legs could carry me.
The flu has reached a feverish pitch, I thought, making myself comfortable under a seat in the goose-shaped boat. I also learnt that it wasn’t snowflakes on the street but lime dust that the health workers had dusted the lake surroundings with as part of their surveillance drill. No wonder it had made me sneeze.
I was angry with the newspaper that claimed that there had been an avian flu outbreak. I was angrier that the lake had been declared a “sanitised area” for three months! Ever heard of that in Chandigarh? The lake is the city’s soul and now we had to live without it for 90 days!
I envied the migratory birds in the distance and thought about their less fortunate domesticated cousins and our commonplace friends, the crows. ‘500 crows found dead in Tarn Taran, bird flu suspected’ screamed the next day’s headline. I wondered how the reporter would’ve reached the magic figure of 500. Did he really get to count all 500? How could he tell one crow from the other?
Chickens, or should we say chicken retailers, were hit hardest last week for they went to the extent of organising free lunches on streets in Sectors 21 and 29 of Chandigarh to prove to the world that it’s fine to feast on non-vegetarian fare because, well, chickens aren’t geese. Interestingly, the retailers were ready to hand those — who didn’t chicken out — free meals, but did you notice the fact that the rates of broilers and eggs remained unchanged. Being human, indeed. I have all the time in the world these days, that is, till my time comes. After considerable introspection, I have reached the conclusion that the bird flu scare spread faster than the virus itself. They say this is common in the age of social media. The world shares information (or in this case misinformation) and adds to the confusion. Perhaps, you could set the record straight and give your feathered friends a chance to live.