By Eisha Sarkar

The great thing about working at Pax Populi is that you not only have beautiful cultural exchanges with your student in Afghanistan but also with your fellow tutors and peers. Most of the members on the team come from different countries and diverse academic, professional and cultural backgrounds with a wide variety of interests. Once such person I met on this team is Kirthi Jayakumar, Pax Populi’s regional coordinator in South Asia. Kirthi is based in Chennai in south India while I live in Vadodara in the western state of Gujarat. The two places are culturally as different as Russia and Italy, just to give you an example. And yet, in spite of our different backgrounds, we have much in common: our love for art, writing, teaching, music, peace and Persian.

When I got to know that she has authored a book called The Dove’s Lament, I had to read it. It took me from one country to another around the world and brought to life the people who are caught in conflict but are often reduced to mere statistics. It’s a compelling read. But what really captured my attention is Kirthi’s dove artwork on the cover.

The Doves Lament - Cover

As a fan of ornithology, I always look out for the symbolism of birds in the media, literature, music and arts. The dove and the eagle are my two favourites. One is the messenger of peace, the other of strength. while browsing online, I once stumbled upon this passage from The Golden Pigeon written by Indian author Shahid Siddiqui:

“What would you like to be, an eagle or a dove?” Babur asked with a smile.

“A dove, a Shirazi pigeon, as my father Azizuddin Khan wanted me to be,” I replied.

“Pigeons are more powerful than eagles. They can fly faster, they have more endurance, greater stamina. Their vision is as strong as that of an eagle, but they can never be the kings and masters,” Babur said, as if he were weighing my options. “Eagles are hunters and pigeons are romantic lovers. What would you like to be, my dear Shiraz?”

“I am not a killer; I cannot be an eagle. I am a romantic lover like you and would prefer to be a pigeon.” Babur’s laughter shattered the silence of the full moon night. “You consider me a pigeon and not an eagle, a romantic lover and not a ruthless conquerer and empire-builder. Have you not read your history, my dear boy?”

“I have read your heart; it is that of a dove, not an eagle.”

During the next session with my student Jami, I shared this passage with him. He had earlier mentioned that the eagle was his favourite bird. I teased him, “So Qasem Jami, are you a kabootar (pigeon) or a baaz (eagle)?” “I am a dove!” “Really?” “Yes.” I smiled.