The Burning Desert




The sandy expanse of the desert spreads like an endless carpet. This time of the year the normally muddy tinge has a deep orange hue. As head of the flock, my pressed lips and furrowed brow brings the chief minister waddling towards me. “Ain’t the tourists avoiding us?” the blithering disappointment is like fuel to a seething worry. “The tourist ain’t the problem fella?” “Ain’t it? I though we were happy shakin and prancin to the abundant music and food!”  His waggling eyebrows and haggard laugh irritates me. I ignore. The focus is elsewhere. The new brood is just beginning to stick their necks out. Water is life for them. The changing colour of the desert strongly hints at an impending drought.  “Your Lordship! Today’s water has been served.” The minister’s words pull me away from the scrutiny. The taught feathery tail loosens. I feel relieved. “Your intuition isn’t misplaced Lordship. The last time the desert turned this colour, an entire tribe of our forefathers was eliminated.” His words pike anxiety. “Hmmmmm! If we don’t act now, history could be repeated.” I amble towards the cactus shrubs. The mothers look tense. There is no time to waste.  I signal to the minster, “Call the tribe meeting immediately.” All members hustle towards the meeting mound. The water carriers stand separate.  They are the higher echelons in the tribe. Reaching that seat in the hierarchy is no mean feat. An accomplishment dotted with immense hardships. They battle predators, heat and sandstorms to make sure our throats aren’t ever parched. As the Lordship, I too am required to bow down in reverence. “My dear family, we have stood steadfast in the face of all hardships, holding each other strong. It is time for another test. As head of this tribe of Sandgrouse, I will not fail you. It is definite that the desert will burn this year. Something that happened decades ago. As birds close to the sand, our intuitive gift forewarns.” Everyone looks in the direction of my pointed finger. The specter of sand rising from the horizon resembles a ball of fire by now. Nothing can survive the onslaught as nature prepares to unleash fury on the land.  “Let’s move now. The water bearers will reach us after collecting whatever they can as reserve for the next few days. The others are to follow the minister and me.” The panic is evident. But with time we have learnt that whenever man interferes with the ways of nature, the outcome brings ruin. More for us and many like us.  I shun the reasoning and thoughts, desperate to move my flock to safety. Mothers nestle the young ones amidst feathery coats. Water bearers hustle. I stand transfixed looking at the myth of the burning desert transform into reality.    *** Author’s Note –  The Sandgrouse are desert birds/birds living in parched areas. They have a unique adaptation whereby to satisfy the thirst of their chicks, male sandgrouse carry water back to the nest in their feathers which have coiled hairlike extensions. They are also known as the desert water carriers. I have used them symbolically to talk about how any upheavel in nature can affect the non-human living community.     Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!