Flightless and Fightless — An Inhuman Story

 

The story is a product of my over-active imagination. The plight of the flightless birds of New Zealand is most definitely not. They are fighting a losing battle for survival. Without active love, encouragement, and support from the humans, who destroyed their habitat in the first place, these adorable birds will soon become history, as three-fourths of the various

species have already become.

 

 

Once upon a time, millions of moons ago, the Great One sat lost in thought. Something was not quite right with his newly created Earth. He twisted his head this way and that, should it perhaps be more tilted in its axis or less…for something didn't quite seem right. He closed his eyes in thought and the divine music of the stars filled his ears. Lulled by the soothing music after a long, hard day's work the Great One fell into a doze and started dreaming.

 

He dreamt of the gentlest and most beautiful of the sea princesses, the great Sutama rising from the white foams of the blue-green waters of the Southern Sea. She looked sad and her unparalled radiance somewhat dimmed. She seemed unmindful of the school of dolphins vying for her attention. The Dolphin princess and her companion Seatara asked the beautiful Sutama why she was so sad. The princess replied that the Great One had promised to create a haven for her on one corner of the newly created Earth, far away from the mortals. But the Great One seemed to have forgotten his promise and had got caught in other things.

 

The Great One remembered how the gentle princess had charmed the wild and unyielding seas with her honey-like voice and made them retreat to help him create land. He remembered his grateful promise to her.  The Great One sat cross-legged in meditation. Gathering all his creative powers he shaped a set of islands, small and big from his potter's wheel. With infinite love, he placed them gently one after the other on the blue-green Southern Sea like an offering of flowers loosely strewn together in a garland, in one far-away corner of the newly created Earth. He dipped his magic wand on the green depths of the Sea and touched it on the specially prepared brown soil of this enchanted island. Lo and behold! Green trees sprang up, thousands and thousands of them, giving the islands a velvety green look of eternal Spring. Passing clouds, on their tour of the newly created Earth, stopped overhead delighted at having found this enchanted island. Dissolving into drops of happiness, they gave up their heavenly abode and came down to form gurgling streams rushing to meet the blue-green Sea.  Sparkling streams, fragrant flowers of all colours, shapes, and sizes and over-ripe fruits, the Great One knew this was the brightest emerald ever to be discovered from the bowels of the newly created Earth. Pleased with his creation, the Great One invited the great sea princess Sutama to see her new home.

 

Now the golden Sun after a long day was about to set far in the western sky, when he looked down from his chariot and spied islands most divine. He raced his chariot on these enchanted islands and while it was a darky-dark night in the rest of the newly created Earth, it was a bright, sunshiny-day on the islands as the Sun lost in their beauty continued smiling on them. Only the neighing horses of his chariot reminded him of his duty as the Sun raced again to the Eastern skies to spread sunshine and laughter on the rest of the world, promising to return again when it was night time for the world.

 

The lovely Moon Maiden and the glittering stars stood witness as bathed in a pearly white aura rose from the midnight-blue Sea the beautiful sea princess Sutama. The white foams made a pathway paved with their priceless shells, pearls, and conches as she made her way to the islands. The beautiful Sutama bid her father-the mighty Southern Sea- a teary goodbye, promising to return to him if anything ever troubled her. The Sea gave her a white conch shell and told her to keep it safe with her always, for it would help her always in mysterious ways unknown to the humans or gods. Sutama came and fell in love with her new home.  She roamed around the islands hidden among the trees, each day delighting her with a new discovery-a new fruit even sweeter than before, a new flower more fragrant or colourful than the ones she had seen before to put in her hair. Wherever she went the trees seemed to know her and return back her love. At night, the Southern Sea would indulgently make way for her daughter to pass from one island to the other. Ages passed in happiness. The islands remained hidden and untouched by humans or animals or birds.

 

Gradually beautiful Sutama began to feel restless, she had no playmates like she had in the sea. Suddenly she began to remember Seatara the dolphin and the friendly octopuses with their jelly-like bodies and the fishes and the corals and the seals. But alas they could not come to the islands to play with her. A single tear drop mingled with the raindrops and the golden Sun almost hid behind a cloud unable to see Sutama's sadness. Sutama picked up the white conch shell that had been given to her by her father, the Sea, as a parting gift. She blew into it, unknowingly pouring out her longing for her lost playmates. The melodious conch transmitted her longing to the Great One instantly and sliding down the rainbow he came to see what was making princess Sutama so sad. The Sea came rushing to see his daughter, ready to take her back with him to the blue-green depths. Sutama did not want to go back leaving the enchanted islands, she only wanted friends. The Great One in his infinite wisdom knew it would have far-reaching consequences. But he gave in to the little princess's sadness and told her to close her eyes and blow the conch once more. The great Sea shook his head in sadness and went back to his watery abode.  As Sutama started blowing the conch with her eyes closed, Great One touched the conch with his magic wand. From the magic sound was created wings, hundreds and hundreds of them.  First came the colourful butterflies imitating all the shades of the Great One's magic rainbow. Then came the birds…not just birds but enchanting birds of these enchanted islands, unseen anywhere else in the newly created Earth. The colourful green and blue Tahake with his cherry-red beaks; the tail-less kiwi more mammal than bird; the funny owl-parrot Kakapo with his exotic fragrance and dog-like booming voice; the sea duck, later known as the Campbell Island Teal; the songbird or the Wren; the expert swimmer bush hen or Weka; the tallest bird on Earth, the Moa, and so on.  Finally running out of breath, Sutama opened her eyes and kept down the conch. To her great joy she saw thousands of winged friends everywhere.

 

Life took on a dream-like quality for Sutama and her bird friends. In the enchanted islands made for love, the birds soon forgot all ancient wisdom that the Great One had whispered on their ears on self-defence. There was no need for defence in a land hidden yet from humans and animals. The trees happily offered them ripe fruits and the clean streams provided them with water. Sutama and her friends divided the up-keep or maintaining the ecology balance of the islands between them. They divided chores between them such that they covered all the jobs of birds, animals, mammals, and humans in other parts of the Earth. To carry out so many chores, some worked during the day, and some during the night. Soon the birds realized that they did not need wings anymore. They had found their home and Sutama. They had no desire to see what was beyond the islands. They told Sutama that they wished to surrender their wings to the Great One. Sutama was very happy that her friends had chosen to make the islands their permanent home and sent a thought wave to the Great One. The Great One came down to meet them and hear what they say. Though filled with misgiving he decided not to interfere, for each had to meet her destiny. He made these birds flightless but filled them with other adorable qualities to make up for their loss of flight.

 

Funny things began to happen to the birds. The Kakapo started gaining a lot of weight and became the heaviest parrot of the Earth. Its eyes became like owls and it became nocturnal. Its faint fragrance got more exotic and stronger. It also became the longest-living bird of the Earth, proving to Sutama's great joy, all theories of obesity wrong. What else happened to Kakapo? He became an expert climber of trees, the monkey of the enchanted islands. Though a loner and eccentric by nature, the Kakapo was one of Sutama's most-liked friends for he had lost all fear and any remaining wisdom for self-defence. He was gentle, intelligent, affectionate, and very friendly.  He could climb up on Sutama's shoulders and stay perched there happily. The sea duck or Campbell Island Teal also became nocturnal and flightless becoming the only flightless and nocturnal ducks of the world. His boomings in the night lulled Sutama to sleep.

 

The Kiwi lost her wing and became a bird mammal. Instead of air-filled hollow bones seen in birds, her bones became filled with bone marrows as seen in mammals. Her body temperature also fell by 2ºC to become at par with mammals. Both the ovaries of the Kiwi began to function, another gift from the Great One, for only one ovary functions commonly in birds. She developed large ear openings unlike birds and like mammals and downy plumage more like mammalian hair than avian feather. The most adorable feather though was she developed two nostrils at the end of her bill and developed a strong sense of smell. Though small in size her stout legs and claws made her a powerful fighter, runner, and swimmer.  Like the Kiwi, the woodhen or Weka too lost her wings and though a land bird became an excellent swimmer. They became Sutama's swimming companions. The Moa became the giant elephant of the birds. It fed on plants and helped maintain the bird-plant balance of the islands.

 

Sutama and her friends continued to live happily for 80 million years hidden yet and undisturbed by the rest of the not-so-newly-created-Earth.  Around 1000 years ago, the humans first discovered the enchanted islands-first the Polynesians and then the European settlers. They brought their pets and other mammals and settled down in Sutama's island. At first, Sutama had not minded, she and her bird-friends had welcomed the new comers. But the humans, not known for sensitivity or restraint, let loose their greed and their pets on the islands. Did the birds strike back? Unfortunately having lived in complete harmony and peace they could not understand greed. They just kept gradually retreating into extinction. Unable to see her friends' plight, who had lost all self-defence techniques and fell easy prey to the plunderers, Sutama blew on her magic conch till she dissolved into a mass of white foam and merged as one with her father's tears. The land which used to be Sutama's island came to be known as New Zealand. In the thousand years of human habitation, 75% of Sutama's friends have also disappeared from the Earth. The adorable Moa is no more. There are only 80 odd-Kakapo left battling out for survival.

 

On dark nights when the Moon Maiden hides her face behind the clouds, we can still here the conch blowing from the bottom of the Sea, praying for love and redemption for the existing ‘edge ecology' birds, the bravest of Sutama's friends who are fighting an increasingly losing battle, and lament the loss of the gentler ones- The lament echoes in the Great One's soul and Mother Earth's soul. What went wrong with the humans-by far their most intelligent and heartless creation?

 Sample Image  Rhea

 Sample Image  Moa

 Sample Image  Takahe

 

 Sample Image  kapako

 Sample Image Kiwi

 

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