World Telecom Day- when pigeons, clouds and the moon played postman
This world telecom day let us remember our first postmen- the pigeons, clouds and even the pockmarked moon!
I think today is an excellent occasion when all of us should remember the various ways by which we communicated with each other. I am talking about the days when the telephone wasn’t invented. So let us go back to the days of doves, pigeons and the clouds- our first messengers.
Let us chat a bit about our first postmen- the clouds.
I am not sure whether these rain-bearing entities worked as messengers in other countries. Indians, however, have looked at these clouds as some sort of message carriers metaphorically.
The best example of clouds being considered as postmen is in the magnum epic, Meghdoot written by Kalidas. He is considered to be one of the best poets that the world has ever produced.
Kalidas lived in India more than a thousand years back and has written several dramas about Indian history. Though he wrote in Sanskrit, his works are now available in many languages around the world.
One of his best works is Meghdoot, meaning Cloud Messenger. The word ‘Megh’ means cloud and ‘Doot’ is the messenger. Therefore, this work is about a cloud that works as a messenger.
The story of Meghdoot unfolds like this.
A yaksha (a celestial person) is expelled by his master, Kuber, from Alkapuri ( capital of Kuber). The master is the Lord of Wealth.
After his expulsion, the yaksha comes to a city, Ramgiri and starts living there. But this poor chap cannot forget his beloved who continues to live in Alkapuri.
The condition of this yaksha worsens at the arrival of the monsoons. After all, who can forget one’s wife or girlfriend when the wind is laden with moisture, and there is greenery all around. In India, rains represent romance and there are countless love songs centered on the rainy season.
One day, during the month of Ashadh, the Yaksha was looking longingly at the cloud filled sky. The clouds were flying away as if they were in a hurry to reach their destinations.
An idea came to the Yaksha while he was looking at those cheerful clouds. He called one of those clouds and asked it to stop for a while. When the cloud paused its steps, the Yaksha requested it to convey his message to his beloved in Alkapuri. And this is how the Yaksha opens his heart and composes a long poem for his beloved.
The cloud becomes his messenger and transmits the message to the lady. Here is a short verse from Meghdoot. I have tried to translate the original Sanskrit verse into English so that you can understand it;
Oh lovelorn Megh, Alkapuri looks like a young beautiful woman who is in a dishevelled state (meaning whose sari has slithered off her thighs). When you reach Kailashpuri, you will easily recognize the home of my beloved.
But the Yaksha does not just write a poem for his partner. He also tells the cloud messenger about the path to be followed. This is the story of Meghdoot or the cloud messenger.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
While the clouds may or may not carry our messages to our beloved, in the older days, pigeons did a great job in sending messages.
We have so many stories about these birds acting as postmen. Sometimes these gentle bids acted as intermediaries between lovestruck souls while on a great many occasions, these birds also acted as spies.
I came across this article on spy pigeons while researching for this topic, you may like to read it later on. What this article says is that during the Second World War, the British Army used more than 16,000 pigeons to infiltrate the enemy lines.
Did all these birds come back to their homes? No. Just 10 percent of these ‘spies’ could return and the rest were either shot or eaten by their captors.
But in many parts of the world, pigeons also worked as carriers of love messages between lovers. Have a look at this video which is about a pigeon that flits between lovers. Though this song is pretty modern, the message behind it is pretty old.
While talking about the primitive modes of communication, who can forget the role of horses and camels.
In India, we have had a rich tradition of people on horseback acting as messengers. Horses were used to send messages till as late as the first half of the 20th century. These animals could run as long as 200 kilometers in a day. Some of them ran even faster and were prized for their speed.
If you thought that our World Telecom Day special story ended here, then hold your horses. In our part of the world, the moon also sometimes acts as a messenger between people. I cannot recall any Hindi song where the moon is a go-between lovers but here is an excellent song where a sister asks it to convey her love to her brother.Watch this video;
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