“Pigeons at Daybreak”

The short story Pigeons at Daybreak describes the life and finally the death of Mr. Basu, as seen through the eyes of his caring and loving wife, Otima. Basu has been sick for quite a long time now and he suffers from a multiple of emotional and physical problems that often results into depression, asthma and poor eye sight (World, Literature). Otima on the other hand loves and cares for his husband because he has loved him all along despite his complex illness. There is nothing Basu can do and Otima does for him exclusively everything including reading the newspaper (Desai 222). As she reads the paper loudly one day, the family realizes that there is a planned shortage of power that night and Basu reacts with an attack from asthma since he fears that a hot night is coming and there is no electricity to run the fan (Desai 225).

Following this, his wife suggests that they move up on the terraces and spend the night there because air is cool in the night (Desai 226). However, Basu is uncomfortable and the night passes when he is in agony. At some point, he remembers the fun he had with his grandson when he took him to the roofs to see pigeons when he was still young. Nevertheless, this reminds him about the passage of time. Unable to sleep because of his increasingly discomfort ability, Basu recites the name of his grandson several times as though praying (World, Literature). As the night ushers in the light of the day, Otima goes back to the house to fetch some iced water for Basu. To her surprise, she finds that the power problem has been settled and there is power in the house (Desai 228).

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Otima rushes back to the terraces so that he can help him back into the house but he refuses claiming that it is cooler on the terraces and that he should be left alone. Otima notes the calmness in his voice and becomes assured that gentleness in his voice is a sign of acceptance, resignation and preparation for death. Meanwhile, Basu is convinced that that is the right place and time for his long awaited death. He finally lies flat, looks up and his mouth hangs open as the pigeons swing in the air and finally they disappear from his sight (Desai 228).

Throughout the story, we find out that Basu has never been comfortable in his life. He is ill and does not get contented in anything the wife does for him. He knows well that the finishing point to his illness is death but he does not want to accept this reality. He often snaps and mocks his wife as he is losing the battle against illness, time and death (Desai 224-226). However, when he is taken out on the terrace, even though he goes not get enough sleep as usual, he is happy to see the pigeons after a long time. The pigeons remind him of the sweet memories he had with his grandson and it is at this point that the ice in his heart melts and reality downs on him (Dasei 228). The birds therefore prepare him for his last journey thus signifying the missing link that would connect him to heaven.

Desai describes the pigeons as “opalescent, sunlit, like small pearls” (Dasei 228), because she wanted the reader to have a clear picture of how Basu’s death was connected to them. As Basu’s spirit left his body, the birds first appeared to him like opalescent beings hovering above his head, and as the spirit moved further, their size decreased as well and became brighter as the sun shone on them, and finally, their size diminished and became like small pearls when Basu had finally died (World, Literature).


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