Once upon a time, in the wide expanse of an everyday metropolitan city, lived a flock of sparrows. The Passer domesticus sparrow of house Passeridae, weighing an approximate of 24-40 grams and stretching at a length of 16 centimeters in measure, had a bright creamy-white belly and chestnut brown wings with a black and gray beak. They communicate via short and incessant chirping calls and feed strictly on a diet of grains, weed, insects and anything else they could lay their hands on. (Claws, I meant claws.) They resided in this highly populated Mediterranean city and developed a healthy fruitful relationship with it’s main inhabitants, the homo sapiens, which was majorly dependant upon the latter who laid down food and water by their balconies for the birds to feed on and the former who, well, chirped.

The flock  of sparrows of this city prided themselves on their ability to remain unified, disciplined and co-ordinated, especially during their everyday morning ritual of hovering above the city in search of food, water and also, well, recreation. At the break of dawn, the birds arranged themselves in a co-ordinated shape of an arrow, that diverged from the very front, each row then containing the amount of birds increasing in an arithmetic progression of 1-3-5-7 and so on and so forth towards the very end. They would then take off  and hover the wide open skies of the city, while constantly maintaining the same arrangement throughout the entirety of their flight.

The flight schedule was a strict, no-tolerance-whatsoever, routine that consisted of the flock taking off from base camp at sharp 0600 hours, hovering towards the Northern direction for a total of 1 hour, then finding a specific location for breakfast; breakfast mostly consisting of a nutritious diet of grains dispersed on the ground by morning joggers,the birds took into account the specific calorie count in order to maintain their BMI;  taking off again at 0715 hours, flying further North; stopping for rest and lunch at 1200 hours, this time the location being an amusement park in the middle of the city; feeding on a nutritious meal of worms under the ground, selectively choosing low calorie, dietary worms; taking off again at 1300 hours, this time the direction being South towards base camp of the flock; stopping at 1600 hours in a field for an evening snack of grass weeds  and worms (again, calorie count to be kept in mind as specified by the flock dietitian) while also storing the same for the little fledglings that rest at base camp; at 1630 hours they leave the field for base camp, flying towards the South, reaching base camp at 1900 hours sharp. All of this, while maintaining the constant arrow shaped co-ordinated arrangement the whole time.

Their Supreme Commander sparrow led the flock from the very front and also maintained a very tight ship under his regime. A 17 bird year old sparrow, he was a stern, cold fellow who always spoke in a rhyming rhetoric such as “Unification of body, unification of mind; Or else you shall be left behind” or “In all winds and in all weather; birds of a feather, flock together;” In a recent interview, when questioned about the rather strict, authoritarian conditions he kept the flock in, he replied, “We, at the Passiridae family, consider every member to be tiny pieces of puzzles that fit in as a whole. This requires every part to be properly and adequately shaped and polished. A bad egg, literally in our case, could spoil the entire flock.”

Each bird, since the very beginning of his/her time in the regiment, had been specially trained to maintain this co-ordinated arrangement of flight. This required them to be collectively conscious of the velocity of all the other birds, to flap their wings at the same time all the other birds did, thus maintaining negligible acceleration and a constant flight velocity. This also required them to be aware of the ever dynamic turbulence of the wind that they had to face everyday during their flight and had to make a collective assessment of all the external forces they would face during the flight in their mind in order to maintain the constant arrangement of the entire flock.

Which basically meant if one single bird was out of place in his/her assessment, it would disrupt the entire flock. So throughout their entire lives the birds had to maintain the same physical and mental structure like everyone else. Which required them to maintain a constant BMI (Body-Mass Index) of 1.3 (which the ASAP (Authorized Sparrow Association of Passiridae) had standardized). They were also taught the same aviation courses in schools and were required to maintain a constant velocity of 46 km/hr (Also standardized by the ASAP). They had the same body structure, the same appearance and the same way of thinking. They were all the same.

All of them, except one.

Weighing at a whooping 30 grams and a mere 8 centimeters inside its egg, the sparrow doctor had predicted that the bird may not make it, but despite all odds and its tremendously high BMI, our sparrow survived and hatched beautifully and was thus named by Mama and Papa sparrow as ‘Hope’.

Although, since then the tiny, wholesome sparrow has had a tough time being a part of the regiment. It has always been difficult for Hope to maintain a BMI of 1.14. Even at the pinnacle of her growth, she was only 5 inches long while weighing roughly 45 pounds making her  BMI reach upto 2 in the overweight category. And while the other birds burnt the midnight oil at the bird gymnasium, our Hope loved to stroll around the base camp, laying down in the grass and watching the multitudes of stars and constellations in the nightsky above her. While the other birds fed on dietary regulations of grains as suggested by the dietitian, Hope ate to her heart’s content (and sometimes even more). While the other birds studied the same route of the Northern direction as specified in the syllabus at the bird school over and over, little Hope went beyond the constraints of the syllabus. She spent most of her time in the library, in the forbidden section, picking out  books about the Eastern and Western directions, while also studying accounts and travelogues of birds who’ve been to other cities.

Also, needless to say the flight schedules were a major (pardon my French) pain-in-the-tail. Hope could never keep up and was thus always kept at the very corner of the arrow. While the others flew around with ease and comfort, their wings flapping with the same co-ordiantion, up-down-up, up-down-up, monotonously, Hope, somehow, always managed to screw up the timing. While the others managed to maintain the constant velocity, the arrangement of the arrow completely intact, Hope struggled to carry her body around with the same speed as everyone else, always being left behind, accelerating and decelerating the whole time.

Anger was an underestimation of the emotion the Supreme Commander felt towards Hope. He was infuriated, maddened, dripping with rage at the very sight of her. “In 7 long sparrow years that I have served; I swear I have never seen a more rotten bird”, he once said to Hope.  And consequently, Hope was bullied, punished and given all the stored food load while returning to the base camp.

Social life was no cakewalk either. Teased and picked upon by the other birds for being overweight, Hope spent most of the time by herself, reading stories and travel diaries of other birds.

She dreamt of becoming a traveler bird herself, migrating all the time, flying off to distant, new skies, meeting new birds, who chirped in new languages, learning about their culture and the lifestyle of their species, and watch the world she hasn’t explored before enfold below her. She wondered if there lay more cities than the one she lived in. During the monotonous flight routines, she would envy the humans below her, free, unconstrained, without any regiment or Supreme Commander or co-ordination to be maintained, they could roam about wherever they wanted to. No boundaries, no restrictions. (Little did she knew though..anyways that’s a different story).

Days turned into weeks turned into months. Hope would wake up everyday at 0500 hours, take a bath, brush her wings and take off with the flock at 0600 hours. Then fly the daily routine, struggling to keep up with the flock throughout the whole flight and come back at 1900 hours back to base camp.

Everyday. All day. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over-

Until one Summer evening…

…as the flock was flying South to the base camp after Snacks, at roughly 1800 hours, everything was going as usual. The flock flew at a uniform speed of 46 km/hr in their precisely co-ordinated shape of an arrow in an increasing arithmetic progression of 1-3-5-7 and so on. The Supreme Commander led from the front hurling his regular phrases at the flock of “Northwards and Southwards we shall fly; In any other direction we shall die” and “If you are to serve as a proud sparrow; check your row and column and always maintain the arrow” and the new one “The shape of the arrow if you are unable to maintain; Hope, I swear, you are going to live in a world of pain.”

And all this while Hope, flew in the last row, at the very corner of the arrow strugging to maintain her pace with the others, flapping and piercing through the turbulent winds that lashed her back over and over and over…until she finally did something that noone in the history of the Passer domesticus specie had ever done before.

She shouted at the top of her lungs so loudly that everybody in rows ahead of her, including the Supreme Commander, could hear her, “No more shall I live like any other sparrow; Fuck you Supreme Commander, and fuck your arrow!” And saying this, she broke away from the flock.

She flew Westwards, as fast as her wings could carry her. All the while she could hear the distant shouting of the flock behind her, but she couldn’t make out what they were trying to say. She didn’t want to anyways. She could see the skies above her. Orange and soft, just the way she liked it. She could feel the summer breeze and for the first time in her life she did not feel the urgency to try and overcome it. Rather she let it lash her back a little, let it slow her down, let it ruffle her feathers and tingle her wings. No more constant velocity to maintain. No more arrow to co-ordinate. She could see the wide expanse of the metropolitan city passing by, it’s place now taken by a lush, green countryside. She could see the sun setting at a distance in the horizon. Softly, slowly. Never before had she looked at it directly in the eyes.

Never before had she wondered what journey lay ahead.