Of Winged Creatures and Exit Paths
Where do lost flies go? I mean, they obviously go somewhere, which is how they get lost in the first place, but how do they get back to starting point?
On an average, the male Musca domestica has an average lifespan of 28 days. It’s top flight speed is 4/5 mph.
I wonder if it remembers where it started once it’s reached the end.
Why am I talking about flies after talking about gods? Well you see it's a natural progression:
As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods;[i] which makes me wonder- do flies go through existential crisis? Do they believe in fate?
Last Saturday I booked an Ola Share from my college. The first cab never turned up, and when we called him, he said he was waiting at Quest Mall, which, according to the information on his app, was the pick-up location that we had selected. I checked my app- it clearly said ‘Work’, which was a saved location- with the address of my college. Incidentally the place is at least 20 minutes’ walk from Quest Mall. So naturally, we had to book another cab. This guy insisted that we cross the road, since he would be coming from the opposite side. We obliged, and he picked us up and did an about turn at the seven-point-crossing, driving right past our college gate where we were standing in the first place. Go figure.
Anyway, we got into the cab- which already had two more passengers- one at the back, the other in the front seat. The latter had pushed his seat so far back that we had to squeeze ourselves into the car, barely finding space to keep our hands. What’s your problem, sir? If you need so much leg-space please fly Business Class next time. Fortunately, our ordeal wasn’t long as he got off the car within 5 minutes off our boarding, his drop-off being the National Medical College. Out he went, and in came the fly through the open door. And not liking the front of the car, it flew to the back, where it continued to harass me and my colleague for the entire length of our remaining journey. We tried to let it out by lowering the window glass, but insects inside a car have a strange way of behaving- they zoom away from the glass as soon as you try to lower it.
“The fly’s on a share ride too,” My colleague quipped.
But whose ride was the fly on? It got out with us, I noticed as it zoomed past my face and out into the wide world. Do flies have memories? Would this fly be confused by the new surroundings? Was it scared when it couldn’t get out? Can it find the way back? Or live long enough to return?
What is it like, trying to get out of someone else’s ride? This morning, a bird got trapped in my balcony. Bird brain! I thought exasperatedly, why can't you see the way out? Our balcony is partly covered by fibre-glass windows and repeatedly, the silly bird kept knocking its head into the glass, not noticing the free, glassless exit paths around. I could see it shaking against the invisible barrier, unable to find the way out.
I tried to help, but it only got more frightened. Finally, I think after about fifteen minutes, it found the courage to try a different route. It perched on the grill, still shaking, slowly dipping it’s head forward, fluttering it’s wings, and then, at last, flying out. Bon vol, little birdie! May you fly long and high.
I wonder how many of us stray away from ourselves on other people’s rides, unwitting figures in other people’s dreams, and I wonder, how many of us, like the bird, manage to find the exit paths when all ways seem closed.
This story has a postscript. Today I booked another share cab, and midway along the journey, the guy in front received a phone call. And from the conversation I couldn’t help overhearing, I realized that my co-passenger had recently been in jail on the charge of murdering his cousin and her husband, and his younger brother was still there. He was of course complaining about how he had been framed, and how the criminal lawyer was fleecing the family, and how his father had fallen ill as a result, and it could all be true, of course, but I didn’t expect honour-killing to hit me at such close quarters. According to the guy, his uncle hired contract killers. I don’t understand. What honour can be more important to a parent than a child’s happiness? And why do some parents think that they own their children, with absolute jurisdiction over all decisions of their lives?
I waver between rage and despair,
Between longing to cease
Or smash the world to pieces.
Between holding my breathe
Or screaming in vacuum.
To be, or not to be: that is the question.[ii]