In the heat of war, civilians and innocents are doomed to get singed. A Flight of Pigeons by Ruskin Bond is one such story which underlines the agony of miserable people amidst the war days. At the time of sepoy mutiny of 1857 in India, the time was building around to free the country from the clutches of the British Raj.
Local Indians in the small towns of North India took up killing and plundering the army employed by the British and in the process they were also burning and killing the male members of Firangis (white skin people) and taking the girls and women away for their purposes.
Ruth Labadoor and her family lives in Shahjahanpur. Her father is not a big officer (only a clerk) in the government but still a white man. So, one Sunday morning Ruth and her father when go to the church where some hooligans attack them and some white people die including her father. She runs away for help and on the way meets Lala Ramajilal, their trusted servant, who informs her that her bungalow has been put on fire but the family members are safe with him at his house.
In the oppressing summer, Lala keeps her fate-ravaged family in his home hidden for several days until one day Javed Khan, a ferocious and notorious Pathan, finds them and takes away Ruth and her mother, Mariam, to his home. Later Javed reveals that he wished to marry Ruth. Ruth’s mother Mariam hails from Muslim background thus she knows how to handle local people, especially Muslims. She keeps averting Javed’s marriage proposal day by day on some or other pretexts. On the other hand, Javed Khan’s wife is also worried about her marriage as Javed is crazy for that girl.
They stay in the Pathan community for several months, though people treated them well but the loss of her father was irreversible and they don’t know whether they would be able to live free like earlier days or would be able to find other relatives of their creed. She does not whether her relatives are dead or alive. When Javed presses Mariam for Ruth’s marriage, Mariam agrees on one condition that if Delhi fell to the locals and the British are moved out of the country then she would give her daughter’s hand to him. And soon as it was unexpected, the British restore their position in the country by trampling the mutiny, many Nawabs were hanged and people like Javed run away to other countries.
With the change in political landscape, the family with the help of a military convoy travels to Bharatpur to unite with the other relatives of the family.
The novella takes up an interesting flight but as the story progresses and the victims settle in the Pathan community the story loses its charm because the struggle of the victims looks like have ceased. However, the raw culture and traditions presented by the author of that time are indeed real and helps in taking a sneak-peak of life during the time when colonizing was a thing of normal aspect for white people.