Thursday, June 2, 2011

Flight of Pigeons


I first saw the movie Junoon as a teenager and almost a decade later I read the novella – A Flight of Pigeons by Ruskin Bond – on which the film is based.
History was my favourite subject in the school and I found Junoon directed by Shyam Benegal interesting, but incomplete.
I was curious to know what happens to the Labadoors, Javed Khan's family and Lala Ramjimal after the English defeat the revolutionaries. I found the answers in the book.
The story is about the Labadoor family – Mariam, her daughter, Ruth, her aging mother, and cousins – who have to take shelter in the the home of their Hindu friend, Lala Ramjimal. It was the summer of 1857 and there was anger, animosity and hatred towards phirangi by the natives. The narrator of the story, Ruth tells us that her father and all their neighbours and friends were killed in the Shahjahanpur church by Indians. Yet, in the midst of all this hatred, the Labadoor family in hiding are showed kindness, respect and warmth, first by Lala and then by Javed Khan's family.
Javed Khan, along with his cousins, is one of the revolutionaries. And, yet he brings the Labadoor family from Lala's family. He does so because he is in love with Ruth.
The Pathan wants to marry the girl, while her mother, his wife, Firdaus and aunt are against the proposal. Ruth's fate is sealed when Mariam tells Javed that he could marry her daughter if the revolutionaries defeat the Britishers. Javed loses Delhi and consequently Ruth.
The book says that once the British rule was reestablished the Muslim noblemen who sided with the revolutionaries had their estates confiscated. The rebel leaders were either killed or brought to trial. Javed Khan is believed to have escaped to Nepal, while his family returned to Shahjahanpur once everything returned to normalcy. Lala Ramjimal settled down in Bareily, while the Labadoor's after a lot of travails reached Bharatpur, where Mariam's brother was stationed.

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