Drifting in cage and out again
Hark unknown bird does fly
Shackles of my heart
Bird and I, never apart
With them I would thee bind
Rooms it had eight
And doors it had nine
Windows betwixt you find
Up above the glittering hall
Mirrors that make you blind
What fate alas makes bird do thus
Caged bird breaks free to fly
Of bamboo raw the cage I saw
This mind of mine still longs oh so
Lalon Fakir cries as he sees with his eyes
The cage wither and go*
The body, the soul, the self, the universe, Lalon saw freedom not as an entity outside
oneself, but as a lived experience. Within yet afar. Ephemeral but tactile. With wings
but encaged. New forms of slavery form new forms of chains. Violence suffered in
silence. Ancestral land commandeered. Resistance made illegal.
What mask does freedom now wear? Freedom to profit is the new elixir. Freedom to
reach distant markets, to exploit cheap labour. The word that takes us to such
dizzying heights leaves the deepest of wounds with its loss. ‘Foreign’ sounding
names, ‘wrong’ coloured skin, ‘different’ passports, circumscribe our new freedoms.
Going beyond walls built to occupy territory. Beyond bombs dropped to coerce the
unarmed. Beyond cells built to hold the other. Artists paint with colours that don’t
exist. Write with words as yet un-invented. Photograph where light is yet to reach.
The cage. The door. The wing. The soul. Freedom.
*Translation by Shahidul Alam from "Khachar bhitor ochin pakhi" by Fakir Lalon Shah.