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A flight of pigeons: Ruskin Bond

Statesman News Service |

Stepping into my study turned into bliss when I came across A flight of pigeons, a novella written by Ruskin Bond and published in the early 1970s, gives the readers an insight into the voyage of escapism, family bonding and infatuation which even leads to the elimination of racial convictions inflicted on the European Labadoor family, along with the leaps and bounds acquired while shifting from a Hindu friend’s protection to a Muslim’s who are the rebels of the Indian Rebellion, 1857.

Set in the volatile period of the first war of independence, the novel begins with the death of Ruth Labadoor’s father before her in St. Mary’s church, by the Indian rebels who want to eliminate the existence of the Europeans in their town, Shahjahanpur. Mariam Labadoor stealthily escapes to a loyal Hindu friend, Lala Ramjimal who provides them with, food and shelter until Javed Khan – a Pathan and male lead hops into action and plans to kill them.

Having decided to do so, he withdraws his hatred after succumbing to the beauty and love of Ruth. He forcefully takes the family to his house and asks Mariam for her daughter’s hand in marriage. 

Nonetheless, Javed’s wife disregards his choices of marrying Ruth.

The Pathans refer to the Europeans as white pigeons who frequent Shahjahanpur descending from the hills. Mariam, being aware of the circumstances, lays a condition – if the British are able to defeat the Indians then Javed would have to leave Ruth forever and if the Indians (rebels) defeat the British, then she would allow for the marriage.

As a result of the condition, the Indian rebels are defeated with a lot of changes in the town and nation. 

It is later reported, that Javed Khan has been martyred. The Labadoors are finally set free and go back to their relatives. Ruth secretly loves Javed but gives in as he is no more. The novel ends with a flight of pigeons being set free, as they no longer hang within the cobwebs of twists of fate. Ruskin Bond has depicted the situations in a vivid manner.