A Flight of Pigeons is a novella by Indian author, Ruskin Bond. The story is set in 1857, and is about Ruth Labadoor and her family (who are British) who take help of Hindus and Muslims to reach their relatives when the family’s patriarch is killed in a church by the Indian rebels. The novella is a mix of fiction and non fiction and was adapted into a film in 1978 called Junoon by Shyam Benegal, starring Shashi Kapoor, his wife Jennifer Kendal, and Nafisa Ali.
The Novel starts with the death of the father of Ruth Labadoor in front of her eyes in a church. This murder is committed by the Indian rebels who are a part of the 1857 mutiny and who have decided to kill all the Britishers of the small town Shahjahanpur. It is then that Mariam Labadoor, who is the mother of the narrator, Ruth Labadoor comes into action. She takes their entire family of 6 to their trusted friend Lala Ramjimal who keeps them at his home and gives them the maximum security and shelter he can give. The Pathan leader Javed Khan comes to know that there are a few foreigners living in Lala’s home and he suddenly comes into their house and forcefully takes away Ruth and Mariam Labadoor to his home. The rest of the book is followed by the various happening in the Labadoor family, who are very warmly welcomed by different family members of Javed Khan. But, Javed Khan himself is a cunning man and he pleads to marry Ruth Labadoor. Mariam saves her daughter many times as she does not want her to marry Javed Khan. She keeps a condition that if the British are able to take on the country once again, then she would not let him marry her daughter and if they lose to the rebels, then she would give her daughter to him. The British are able to take hold of the country and Javed Khan is killed in one of the fights with the British. With lots of help and support, the Labadoor family finally reach their relatives.