Peacocks can fly and peacocks are famed dancers, but flight is their best-kept secret.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University Campus in New Delhi is home to quite a number of these birds. On a summer morning, one might even see a gorgeous mass of feather and velvet taking off from the bush on one side of the road. The flight is short and heavy. The atmosphere becomes dense. Barometers record 76 millimeters of Mercury plus one flying peacock. Glass cases crack.
The flight ends a second too soon for one to look up and ascertain if Aladdin is in the cockpit tweaking the controls. The peacock’s body is without blemishes; the neck is of perfect velvet. The same cannot be said about its soul.
“The nightingale sings of adulterous wrong.” -T.S. Eliot
The peacock’s cry is harsh. When it is not harsh it is horny. Groups of peahens jumping eagerly into the bush speaks volumes about secret orgies, S&M, and what not.
Sex remains the cheesiest thing that God invented and man discovered. There is a bit of grandstanding involved in the design of the peacock. (It remains the greatest argument against evolutionary theory.) Does there remain a grain of gratuitous beauty that refuses to take flight?
The peacock is a melodramatic bird. (Its idea of domestic bliss takes place at the top of the Girls’ Hostel.) Melodrama is the acme of literature, the point at which language becomes scripture (but only Dostoevsky has written that kind of melodrama.) The peacock, after its flight, lands with a thud on the right side of that infinitesimally thin line that separates the cheesy from the eternal.
The peacock, more than any other bird, runs the risk of molestation, even from casual passersby. A Turkish visitor in Jawaharlal Nehru University once asked a Chowkidar (guard) if he could kill and stuff one of these birds for her. The Chowkidar’s reply was typical. “Madam, this is the Peacock, India’s national bird, and not a Turkey.”
The peacock is not a bird meant to move. Its dharma is to stand still and lure admirers. Dissolved in the peacock’s barometer-crushing flight are grains of gratuitous beauty, which finds expression in its dance. The dance is a mating ritual, a precursor to wham-bam, a la rabbits. The ethereal innocence of flight is coupled with the nobility of animal life.
There are no better candidates for tantric nirvana. I bet they achieve it every time.