My name is Mittu. It not a name given by my parents. In fact I never had any name till Sanju found me. I was born in a village by the river. It had fruit gardens and mustard fields. I lived there with my family and a friend. My father was killed when I was a baby. He was electrocuted. Since then I have been afraid of electric poles and those snake-like high voltage wires.
My mother brought up me and my two siblings with great care and affection. I was the most handsome looking among all the young children in our group. My mother always kept an eye on me until that fateful day.
I was out in the mango orchard on a fine sunny Sunday when something hit me on my back and I fell on the ground witching with pain. A boy stood there with a sling shot laughing mercilessly. He picked me up roughly, took me home and caged me.
Since then I am here. Sanju, as I later found his name, was a ruffian who had no love for any one. He fought with other children, brutally kicked the street dogs, poked the village cows and troubled his parents no end.
He even cut my wings and poked me with a sharp thing insisting that I should say his name. I cried in vain .Sometimes the kind woman of the house threatened Sanju and made him run but mostly she was herself so oppressed by the two male members in her home that I was left alone to fight my battle. She was Sanju’s mother.
She would get up at about four in the morning and whole day she slogged in the house, got water from the well, cut grass in the fields, tended the cows and silently took the abuses and sometimes beatings of her drunkard husband. Thankfully he was rarely at home. He stayed in a home nearby with another woman who liked to put on a lot of make up and made him dance to her tunes. I know because Sanju one day took me there. She did not allow him to leave me at her home so we had to return the same night.
I liked Sanju’s mother. I think she understood my sorrow and misery just as I did hers. Many a times she would gaze at the open sky and then look at me with such kindness and passion that it made my heart melt. I too would look out from my cage and watch the swaying trees, the birds merrily chirping on them, the vast sky with candy floss clouds.
She would sigh too and get back to work .Like me she too was caged in her home, dying to spread her wings and free her from all the shackles. We developed a silent bond between us. She would smile and talk to me when alone in the house. Many a times I heard her singing to herself. She taught me to say RAM RAM but this I would say only when the two tyrants were not around. Sanju continued to bully me and even kept me hungry for two days when she went to attend some wedding in the next village.
I watched in horror as she suffered abuses from her husband as well as her son. Many a times there would be no food left for her and she would go hungry. Some times if she had a little left to eat Sanju would demand food again and she would lovingly forego her meal. It infuriated me but I was just a spectator. No one was concerned about her well-being. Even when the men wore new clothes I always saw her in an old sari.
I longed to get out of the cage and tried in vain to open the latch .She must have noticed me doing that because one day she opened the cage and set me free. There was a small wall made of mud where she set me with her soft hands and smilingly said, “Fly away little bird. Enjoy your freedom.”
I wanted to take her with me. I looked at her with moist eyes and tried to spread my wings and fly but fell on my face.
I discovered with horror that No bird with chopped wings could fly. It was the most helpless moment of my life. She too watched with silent pain as she carefully lifted me and caressed my back.
She took me back in the veranda and made me sit near her as she cooked the lunch. She talked with me of her childhood and many other things and I jumped around her in joy, trying to respond as well as I could. I had never seen her so happy.
I would perch on her shoulder as she would hang clothes on the clothes line or just hop around alongside when she cleaned the veranda with a small broom. We became inseparable. Two friends who were resigned to their fate and making the best of it. Life got some meaning for both of us and I did not miss my mother and family that much.
Whole day I would roam around free, eating fruits, nuts and other good stuff. Sometimes I would drop a few nuts in her lap or do some antics which would make her laugh. That would make her look ten years younger. It pleased me no ends to watch her laugh and enjoy.
Life went on well till the day she fell sick. Although she could barely walk, she still did her routine work. I felt sorry and frustrated. Her condition went from bad to worse and the two heartless men abandoned her and moved into the big house of that fashionable lady.
She mutely watched her plight.
Sanju did not care much about me anymore so I roamed free and the cage was put in one corner. I would silently sit near her bed watching her muttering to herself .The little girl who sometimes came to take milk now came once a day to feed her. She even gave me water and food. I prayed for her happiness.
She died in her sleep after few days. I was beside her when she breathed last. My cries must have brought the little girl’s mother for she came and hurriedly informed the others.
I now stay with her family. Many a time I go to the abandoned house and look around and feel her warm presence.
She got freedom from all her miseries and so did I in a different way. Each one of us gained our freedom with a price to pay.