The Caged Bird, a short story
Life Story / Sad Story / Short Story

The Caged Bird, a short story

The Caged Bird, a short story
The Caged Bird, a short story

The Caged Bird, a short story

The black pupils on the orange iris, quite frightened and desperate, fight in search of freedom. Sometimes it tries to tear the iron bars with its crooked beak in utter desperation, some time screams in extreme bafflement, perhaps to grasp the current situation in which it is forced to live, differentiating it from the previous.

Kamal has brought it yesterday.

“Poor pitiful creature, ah ha. My little parakeet, my captive sojourner”. She caresses its neck as she puts the ‘chana’ bowl inside. “You are my chic, you are my nestling.” She makes a sound of sympathy as she feels sorry for it or somewhat pleased, secretly. She at least can move, can unburden her bereaved heart somewhere in the attic or in the dense thick sugarcane field in absence of Kamal. But it cannot. The half-round cage is its only world now.

    Earlier she used to visit the fields, letting her knee-length dark hair free, upon her solid back and delving bosom. The morning breeze caressing the ripe crops used to touch her and whispered as she giggled. The fresh, slightly dame air used to permeate the fresh fragrance of Gulancho (a flower with white petals conjugated into the dot of yellow at the center) in her wavy tresses. That was the story of bygone days.

“Why do you let your hair open outside? You shameless minx.”

“I like the zephyr, blowing on my face”, she used to murmur shyly.

“I will show you how to like it.” The gnawed answer and clattering teeth made the new bride shiver until that evening Kamal cut her hair with his honed sickle ignoring her heart-wrenching cry and pleading.

   Kamal is her husband, 10 years older. He is robust and virile in front of her dainty posture. He never makes love to her, just punishes her with the excuse of any mistake, trivial or serious. Maybe this is his own way of gratification. Tihar also could not love him, though she tried when she came into this house as a new bride with a big round nose ring and red saree. She had exercised all her inherent womanly skills to develop so-called ‘feelings’ within his monstrous heart. But the solid sulky furrow and loveless core dissolved all her attempts in futility. She just coiled in front of that stone-framed face where not a single line is tender in emotion. Now she lives in this house under Kamal’s vigilance and wish, cooks food, cleans households, helps him in the field, takes care of two kids and remains dutiful in bed. All her maiden dreams for a husband, kids, and own home mocks her now. She feels suffocated within the four walls of her life – The Cage.

   Nitesh, Kamal’s bosom friend used to come sometimes in the evening when Kamal returned from the field. They chatted till the bubble of the kids stopped and they slept on the floor beside the doused fire. Then Nitesh rose to go home. Tihar led him to open the door. Kamal lay still on the floor half-drunken, half-sleepy. She unlatched the door as silently as possible and waited for him to leave. When she came back her cheek got red as she rubbed it sluggishly where Nitesh had kissed before leaving. She furtively peeped at the mercury-stained mirror on the wall and smiled as she arranged the bed for the kids. Her eyes sparkled in a zing, a new note that she could transmit in her own words. Kamal never suspected Nitesh or did not want to. Nitesh was the son of ‘Mahajan’(money-lender) and Kamal had to borrow money from him in time of cultivation. So Nitesh could come into this house any time with any excuse. But his torture on little Tihar grew more violent day after day.

   But when Nitesh could not come for two or three days she got irritated, bitter, and fear-stricken. She could not concentrate on anything. “You bitch, where is your mind”? Kamal hissed in bed as he entered forcedly. Tihar cried out in pain and humiliation and out of her grief for Nitesh’s unknown absence.

   Kamal has gone to work. Tihar gives the bird red chilli and ‘chana’ and tries to teach it something good to say. But it is so stubborn to utter any single voice except an ear-busting cracking sound. Kamal returns from the field quite early and he is in a festive mood. He changes himself into his best attire and asks Tihar for his torch. She does not ask him anything. Already she is in a bad mood for Nitesh and she does not want to be snapped at again.

But Kamal speaks out: “Shut the door properly. I will be late at night.”

Tihar can not control it anymore:

“Why? Where will you go?”

“Nitesh had married. Today is the feast. He invites all his friends. He also calls for you, but I say you must stay home with the kids.”

Kamal goes out leaving a stone statue of Tihar. Kids are sleeping lapping one another. Tihar comes in the Veranda that is demarcated with the sky by the hanging full moon. Everything is so imperturbably calm in this brimming moonlight. The parakeet is dozing on its perch. Tihar coos and it wakes up with a grunting shriek. Silently she unlocks and opens the door. The bird does not move. Tihar steps back from the open cage door and whispers, “Go away you petty bird, go away”. The bird just changes the sitting position on the perch and says “crako crako”.

“Fly you duffer, fly.” Tihar hisses impatiently, “Have you forgotten the test of freedom in one day?”

But the bird just nods its head to Tihar in an upright attitude and starts to prune the feathers.

Desperately Tihar snatches the bird from its cage and puts it on the edge of the courtyard and pokes its tail. At first, it looks suspiciously towards Tihar and then steps ahead gingerly. Tihar’s face glow in joy as the bird spreads its languid wings and gradually takes motion far above the old mango tree.

“Eh, goodbye.” She keeps looking at the bird until yellowish-green back feathers trail away from her sight.

She comes back to her bed and waits for Kamal to return. At first, she shivers at the thought of the consequence of her just finished project but then she feels a profound peace that overtops the fear.

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Hey, I am Munmun, the phoenix fabulist who wants to tell you stories. I love to read stories and I love to weave stories. I feel life is an amalgamation of multiple stories, colourful threads, and threads of pain, pleasure, hope, and hopelessness. We just need to pick those hues and arrange them, knitting them with our own emotions and perception. So let's celebrate the stories of life.


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