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What is the right time for the caged birds to fly?

By G. Balasubramanian

“He is a caged bird. He cannot fly. His mindset is that”. When Mr. Alex spoke about of one his committed employees I was surprised. “He has an excellent track record. He is a good performer. But he defeats himself often. He believes that he cannot be good and happy anywhere else. Well, this company is indeed proud of him. But he needs to move to a broader universe. He is capable of it. No counselling does help him.”

I have seen several caged birds. They flap their wings any number of times within the cage because they want to show everybody outside that they are live and active. They do show their intent to fly, but even if the door of the cage is open, they don’t fly – because they look at the bright sunny world outside and start wondering what would happen if they had to face the weather? “I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright” says Stephen King, the American author.

I remember the story of the farmer who went on throwing the seeds on his farming land. Two seeds fell nearby. Soon one of them just peeped out of its shell. The other remarked “Hey, what are you doing? Don’t show your face out. It is sunny. It may rain. There is likely to be a strong wind and you may be blown off somewhere else. Just be back to your shell and enjoy your stay.” The second seed did not listen. It just saw the world out. “Oh, my God! How beautiful it is” it wondered. It had to suffer the heat, the rain and in that process, it became wise and grew. Over a few months it grew into a plant and started bearing the fruits. The first seed started laughing. “I told you that you have to suffer and see, how many fruits are you carrying on your head.” And a hen which walked nearby picked up this lonely seed and moved away. To some in the professional world, who are happy with their ‘comfort zones,’ this is indeed a challenge. They have the caged bird mentality. “No bird in a cage ever speaks. What is there to say? The sky is everywhere, churning above its head, blue and endless, calling out to it. But the caged bird can't answer anything except 'I cannot'”, says Sonya Hartnett, the award-winning author from Australia.

I do not argue for every caged bird. Some of them have injured wings. Some of them have other health issues. Some of them are victims of a poor and selfish mentor. Some of them are happy that they are taken care of for their basic needs. But there are several people who cannot fly and ‘they do so, because they cannot” The belief that one cannot do better, the belief one cannot grow bigger, the belief that everything outside is bad is a mindset that chains them to their past. The belief that there is a ladder outside and if we try, we can move ahead step by step, even though we may not be able to fly, is a healthy insight everyone needs to develop.

Enterprise is an important noun that needs to be converted into an adjective before the title of every young person’s name. No amount of qualification, no amount of skill, no amount of support would be enough to push an individual forward unless one is willing to move ahead. When I see some caged birds, despite their brilliance to stay in their cages because they are regularly fed with their nuts, I wonder what the good language would be they would understand to liberate themselves from their disbelief. “Sir, unless I get a good job befitting my qualification, I will stay at home” I have no quarrel with the man who said this to me. But I wonder ‘how long’? When would the Lady Luck find time to be free and come and knock at his doors? What is the right time for him to be out of the cage? No Nostradamus would be ready to do this prediction. “Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness” says Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Learning is a continuous activity. The certification of an institution of learning is no guarantee for the job one desires. It may be and may not be. Planning to grow in career and in riches is indeed a vital part of human growth and one should have them. But one needs to be pragmatic to the environment one lives. Continuous learning spirit and the proof of learnability are the two wings which would make one to be noted and engaged. Where knowledge and skills are wrapped with emotional intelligence, the future keeps its gates open and wide. One could take a royal walk. But denial to grow with change, denial to transform the self with the need are roadblocks and many caged birds celebrate them.

Defeating the self is a negative game. Some of us play that without realizing its implication and feel happy with a few success stories good enough to be framed for our drawing rooms. “Sir, I am from a rural area. It is difficult for me to cope with a corporate culture.”, “Sir, I have all through my life been mediocre and so I should find a job which will meet my standards.” – and there are many other statements we give unto ourselves to find pleasure in pain. Some of us are finding solace in defeating the self as an existential gift we have received; some of us defeat the self as we feel shy, a lesser dog before someone else who has outwitted us somewhere; some of us are willing to celebrate an imposed sickness on our persona and believe that no drugs exist for recovery from them. Defeating the self is an intellectual and psychological suicide. Willingness to get up and move ahead is exhibition of life. Caged birds need to listen to the song of freedom that ‘they can and hence they will do so.” Says Maya Angelou “But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams.”

History is proof enough to show how people have liberated from all their limitations and scaled higher peaks of excellence in life. Imagine of the gentleman who told me that he is taking a voluntary retirement because his future is sealed in the organization. No problem, if he is willing to fly rather than be living with the resources at his disposal. Heaving a sigh, Mr. Panda said, “I have worked for twenty-five years; enough, it is time for me to sit and enjoy.” Excellent, if he could rediscover his potential in social service or something else to celebrate life. The world is vast, there are opportunities, if one could seek them.

What about those caged birds which are in golden cages? – They are no commanders, they are good to be admired at, but they don’t give any positive message for the laboring lot; to those who have a thirst to drink the nectar of life!

The words of Rabindranath Tagore should inspire the caged birds. “I have read in books that we are called 'caged birds'. I cannot speak for others, but I had so much in this cage of mine that there was not room for it in the universe- at least that is what I then felt.”

So, what is the right time for the caged birds to fly? – Today and Now!