Write an essay of 300 words
1. Portray the horrors of war as unfolded through the image of the peacock
2. Attempt an appreciation of A Chronicle of the Peacocks, commenting on the liberal use of various myths and images
Intizar Husain is a great Pakistani Urdu fiction writer. He has won numerous literary awards in both India and Pakistan. Husain has a brilliant prose style and he can easily evoke nostalgia for things and places of the past. He draws characters from the great classic The Mahabharata and shows the futility of war and the importance of universal peace, harmony, brotherhood and secularism. In this story A Chronicle of the Peacocks Husain describes the pain of partition, exile and lost memories. There is an allegorical touch in the story. The Peacocks of Rajasthan were frightened to death by the competitive testing of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan in May 1998. The narrator is very fond of peacocks because they represent beauty, grace, peace and love on the earth. Besides the peacocks, there are many images such as the weary duck on the far edge of a dark oil soaked sea, the lonely peacock of paradise sitting on the parapet of the terrace of the author, the peacocks of Jaipur, the koel, peacocks and other birds of Indraprastha and the royal swans of Manasarovar. They all represent the flora and fauna of Nature. The evil spirit of Aswatthama is the symbol of destructive activities of human beings. Through these powerful images the author effectively shows the futility and horror of war.
The narrator of the story read a news item in the newspaper. The news was that when the atomic bomb explosion took place in Rajasthan desert, the peacocks living there in peace had been so frightened that they had flown up screaming into the sky. The writer wrote a column expressing his sympathy for the peacocks. Once he had gone to Jaipur and stayed in the guest house. There he saw a crowd of peacocks with bright blue tails. They had a quiet dignity and a royal grace and a calm elegance and he felt as if he were in the very cradle of beauty, love and peace. The next evening he saw the same crowd of peacocks and he thought that they had come there to bid him farewell. But after the atom bomb explosion, he had a vision of a lonely peacock on a distant hill. The peacock appeared battered and bruised. He walked to the wounded peacock but on seeing a human being the peacock was frightened with fear and flew away.
This painful sight brought to his mind another image. It was a lonely duck covered with dirty slime and effluents and it could not fly because poison flows through the veins in his body. The weary duck is the symbol of the horrors of the war between the USA and Iraq, Saddam Hussain against his countrymen, the Iraqis against the Kuwaitis and the USA against the Iraqis. The poor duck has taken upon himself all the crime man has committed against man. The innocent flora and fauna of Nature suffer the punishments. The rich and the powerful enjoy life in luxury. The narrator says that the poor duck had the grace of a prophet of our times.
Because of the cruelties committed by man, the beautiful royal swans also disappeared from the world. Once upon a time both peacocks and royal swans were considered as the kings of the universe. At that time the lakes and ponds were pure and holy and the royal swans swam in the lake of Manasarovar. Now the lakes are dry, the rivers polluted and the air thick with the dust and smoke of bombs and the swans disappeared from the world. One day a peacock came and sat on the parapet of the terrace and the author tried to catch it and it flew away. His grandmother told him that the peacock was the bird of paradise. One day Satan disguised himself as a blind old man and tried to enter paradise. The peacock felt sympathy for the old man and took him inside the garden of paradise. When God found out that Adam and Eve committed sin, He banished Adam, Eve and also the Peacock.
The narrator walked through the streets of Sravasthi where Shree Buddha had lived long ago. There he saw a lonely Peacock on the hill. From there the author went to Delhi. It was the time of partition and communriots took place in every street of Delhi and thousands of people were butchered. Many homes were burnt down and lots of people ran away and Delhi was a sad and empty city. The author heard a peacock call from near the tomb of the saint Nizamuddin. The peacock call had come from long past.
Again his imagination unrolled to long, long past and once again heard the music of birds from a garden. He heard the whistle of the koel and the call of the peacock. It was Indraprastha, the city of Pandavas. The author was glad that thousands of peacocks had come to the garden of Indraprastha. But the moment they saw the narrator, they flew away in terror. Soon he found out that the great criminal of Kurukshetra was following him like a shadow. It was Ashwatthama who released the most dangerous weapon of the period called the Brahmastra. Ever since the Kurukshetra war ended the evil spirit of Ashwatthama has been wandering there.
Kurukshetra war was fought by Pandavas and Kauravas who are the children of the two brothers Pandu and Dhrtharashtrar. Dronacharya was their teacher and he taught Arjuna the use the Brhmastra. In the Kurukshetra war the teacher and his disciple Arjuna were in opposing camps fighting against each other. Both however, had taken a vow never to use the Brahmastra because it would destroy the whole world. Before his death Dronacharya taught his son Ashwatthama the use of the Brahmastra, but warned him never to use it. But after the death of his father, Ashwatthama released the Bhahmastra. On the advice of Shri Krishna, Arjuna released his Brahmastra to neutralize Asshwatthama’s weapon.
The fire was so intense that the flames burned all the three worlds. Vyasa Rishi who was in meditation was terrified. He went to Kurukshetra and asked both Arjuna and Ashwatthama to recall their weapons. Arjuna at once obeyed the order and recalled his weapon. Ashwatthama was unrepentant and said that he would change the path of his weapon and fall on the Pandava women folk and destroy their wombs and foetuses. So Shri Krishna cursed Ashwatthama that he would wander alone in the forests for three thousand years. His wounds would fill with pus and blood and they stink so much that people would run away from him in disgust.
The last days of Kurukshetra war were the most fearful. Women of Pandavas wept. There was mourning in every home. In every family a child had died. Subhadra, the wife of Arjuna wept bitterly because the Kauravas killed her son Abhimanyu. Subhadra had thought that Abhimanyu’s wife Uttara would give birth to a son and ensure the survival of the Pandava lineage. But Uttara fell unconscious after giving birth to a stillborn child. However Shri Krishna kept his promise to his sister Subhadra and gave life to the stillborn child who became Parikshit, the king of Hastinapur.
At the time of his Cornonation ceremony, Vyasa Rishi was there to bless the King. Parikshit asked Vyasa Rishi why the wise and the great Rishis who had great wisdom and knowledge among the Pandavas and Kauravas didn’t understand that war destroys everything including the victor and the defeated. Vyasa Rishi evaded the question and refused to answer it. He however indirectly said that during the times of war even the best and the wisest of men acted as fools and whatever is fated must come to pass.
The narrator says that the question of Parikshit is still relevant for India and Pakistan. The people of both these countries are brothers just like the Pandavas and Kauravas in the Kurukshetra war. Both of them possess the nuclear weapon which is the modern version of the Brahmastra. The narrator thought that the evil spirit of Ashwatthama belongs to the Mahabharatha and India and therefore the spirit of Ashwatthama does not come to Pakistan. But when he reached home at Lahore, he saw the spirit of Ashwatthama standing there just behind him like a shadow! Through this story the author tells us that we, the modern people of India and Pakistan must learn a lesson from the Kurukshetra war that modern nuclear warfare brings total destruction for all and therefore we should live in peace, brotherhood and love.