The sparrow is quite an ordinary little bird....but if they could talk think of the stories they could tell. This story came out in efiction India Vol 1. Issue 12.
( Link : http://www.fictionmagazines.com/shop/india-2/efiction-india-vol-01-issue-12/)
“A little cock-sparrow sat on a green tree,
And he chirruped, he chirruped, so merry was he;
A naughty boy came with his wee bow and arrow,
Determined to shoot this little cock-sparrow”.
“Amar, wait for me” called Sameer to the retreating back of his friend as he ran down the street ahead of him. Even as he called a tiny movement at the corner of his eye caught his attention. Sameer stopped running and looked down at the pavement. There lay a little sparrow on its side breathing heavily. It fluttered one wing in a feeble attempt to try and get up.
Sameer looked down a bit unsure of what to do. He felt he had to do something; it looked so sad and helpless lying there. It reminded him of his little sister, when she fell down and looked up with sad, tearful eyes. His gaze travelled around looking for some guidance, or help, to no avail. It was a cold winter morning and there was no one around as yet. Gingerly he put out his index finger and poked it. He had never touched a sparrow before. What did it feel like he wondered? Warm, smooth and oh! so thin and fragile. He could feel its tiny bones through its feathers. The sparrow hardly moved, its breadth was getting shallow. Is it going to die? Its eyes were open, small beady black stones that somehow looked terrified of the monster beside it. Did sparrows feel scared or did they just stop breathing?
At that moment he heard Amar’s voice calling out to him “hurry up Sameer the bus has come.”
“Oh! My God, now what do I do. Can I leave it here? He looked around still nobody. He poked at it again. No reaction. He hadn’t dropped it; somebody else would come and pick it up. His sister’s limpid gaze swam before his eyes. Without thinking he grabbed a napkin from his bag and picked up the little bird. It gave a slight quiver and then lay still. He could feel the tiny body against his hand and he was glad he had the napkin. Somehow he didn’t want to feel its body directly on his skin. He ran up to Amar to show him what he had picked up. The bus boy was not at all impressed with the two of them, just impatient to get going.
“C’mon! C’mon, I don’t have the full day to stand around here. Lots of other children to pick up still”.
As he got on the bus, the others crowded around him to try and get a peek at the sparrow.
The bus driver shouted “Baitho! Baitho! accident ho jayega”
Maybe the sparrow wasn’t so bad after all. He felt good with all the attention. Important.
“Hey Chottu! show us what you got there” called out some senior boys from behind.
Sameer didn’t dare argue. He passed the napkin with the bird wrapped in it back to them. He felt glad it was out of his hands, grateful even. They would know what to do with it. Suddenly a commotion broke out behind him. Girls started screaming and some boys began to snicker. One or two actually jumped up and ran to the front of the bus. The driver was livid and began shouting at them again to sit down. Throughout the entire din, Sameer and Amar sat quietly. They were lowly second graders and did not want to call any attention to themselves. Luckily, they had reached school and everybody piled out. Sameer, was about to climb down the steps when one of the seniors called out to him.
“Oh! Oh! don’t run away, come and take your bird”. Sameer reluctantly walked towards them. He didn’t really want the bird back and he definitely didn’t want to go back to a group of 9th Graders on an empty bus. This was such a pain, why had he even picked it up?
He looked down at the napkin being held out to him, it was stained red. Sameer was too petrified to even pull the cloth back. The other boys looked down at him laughing.
“Aren’t you going to open it? Your little friend”.
Bile rose in his throat and his stomach knotted up. With a trembling hand he plucked at the material and looked down at the small body lying there, its head had been twisted and lay dangling to one side. No longer did the small beady eye look terrified.
“Why, oh why had he picked it up?”
“I am only a sparrow amongst a great flock of sparrows.”
“Hi Raj, have you read the Financial Express today?” enquired Sameer as he stepped out of his office building. “What? I can’t believe it boss, here we are on the brink of our IPO and you aren’t even reading the paper. Sab theek hai na?” he asked excitedly. (Is everything okay?)
A disgruntled Sameer put away his mobile a few minutes later. Obviously the absent Raj did not share Sameer’s urgency about matters in hand. He hardly walked a few steps and he pulled it out again and began to punch in another number. He was a man on a mission. As he stood talking, he looked at his reflection in the shop window. Already he was looking a bit rotund his mind observed absent mindedly. He turned sideways and pulled in his stomach, a slight smile on his face. That’s better, not bad for a 42 year old. At that very moment something hit him from above on his shoulder. He jumped back in haste, an irritated scowl on his face. People just throw any rubbish out of their windows these days. He looked down to see what it was and saw a sparrow lying on the ground in front of him. Now he was really annoyed. Did that idiot bird have to fall on me only? Thousands of people walking around and it chooses my shoulder. With a distracted shrug he turned around and resumed his conversation.
He didn’t notice a group of his office colleagues coming up behind him. They had seen him though and were not too happy about it.
Trisha made a face. “There is that chipku Sameer. He is going to want to join us for lunch and if you all agree, I am not coming.
“Trisha, he is talking on the phone, he won’t even notice us” said Yasmin in a hopeful voice.
“Oh! Just you wait and see” prophesied Trisha darkly. “He never fails to try and get included in every group, just so he can go and report back to the boss. Chamcha No.1” she snorted derisively. (One who sucks up).
Just as they were about to sidle past him they heard a shout behind them. “Aare Madam, thamba! thamba! (Stop! Stop!). It was Shinde their office peon. They looked back annoyed. Sameer had heard Shinde shouting too and had turned around and seen them.
Shinde hurried past them and picked up something from the ground. “Chimni hai Madam. Upar se gir gaya hoga”. (It’s a sparrow, must have fallen from above).
The girls crowded around him trying to look at the little bird he was cradling in his hands. Sameer hurriedly disconnected his phone and came over as well.
Yasmin was cooing sympathetically. “Poor thing, I hope it is not dead.”
“No, see it has hurt its wing” observed Trisha.
Sameer, decided he had to say something as well. “It fell on my shoulder you know, I was standing here and it just fell out of the sky.”
“Shinde, abhi kya karega iske sath?” questioned Trisha, ignoring Sameer completely. (Shinde, what are you going to do?)
Not one to be left out of anything, he interjected “what can happen now Trisha? It is finished, it cannot fly.” He poked at the quivering bird to show what he was talking about.
The girls looked at him with annoyance in their eyes.
“ Madam, isko ghar leke uska parr bandh ke dekhta, pakrega ya nahin. Kabhi fit ho jata hai”, suggested Shinde hopefully. (I will take it home and tie its wing and see if it gets patched up)
Hann Shinde, aap leke jao. C’mon lets go to the office and see if we can get a box to put the sparrow in. (Yes Shinde, please take it)
“No use ladies, no use. That bird is going to die. If Shinde can fix that wing, then we can call him Baba Shinde tomorrow” mocked Sameer.
Yasmin had, had enough she turned around to Sameer. “The bird fell on you, did you even bother to pick it up.”
“How could I?” he blustered “I was busy on the phone; the IPO you know.”
“I know, so you can keep talking on your mobile and we will go to the office to see what we can do about the sparrow.” With that she turned around and walked away. Sameer could see some of the onlookers looking at him smirking at the put down He looked sullenly at their departing backs.
Why, oh why had he not picked up that bird?
As he lay in bed that night, the sparrow incident was still playing on his mind; the staff had been decidedly cold with him. How could anyone make such a big thing about a bird? His son moved beside him and he shifted slightly to accommodate him on the bed. An old forgotten memory stirred, he suddenly remembered picking up a sparrow when he was about his son’s age. What had he done with it, did its wing mend? It was so long ago. He drifted off into a deep sleep.
“You picked me up Sameer, you were supposed to look after me and then what did you do? You gave me over to those murderers. They snapped my head. Did you know I was alive when they did that? Did you know that? Yet, you didn’t stop them, you didn’t tell anybody about it.
You did care. I know that. I was with you when you walked home. When you sat outside your building, crying for me. Why didn’t you say something Sameer? There is no use crying later. Were those tears for your failure or for my pain? It was all about you. As for me, you cared but you just didn’t care enough. Were you frightened that they would snap your neck as well?
You are scared! Scared! Scared! You have always been fearful of people whom you think have power. Cursing your weakness, yet you always back down. Do you know what it is to defend yourself? Not physically but defend what you feel, what you think, what you know is right? Or have you forgotten what it is, to do that for yourself? I saw you in college when they were ragging that new kid. You didn’t like it but you kept quiet. I saw you standing in line at your son’s school; being pushed around there as well. I saw you in the office sucking up to Mehta. Are you terrified he is going to fire you if you disagree with him?
The bird fluttered….maybe that is it….you are petrified of being me, lying there with a broken wing…waiting to see what is going to happen.”
Sameer woke with a start. He remembered now, what had happened to the little sparrow. He sat up and took a drink of water from the glass beside his bed. He lay back down looking up at the ceiling and whispered”I am sorry little bird, for not being your friend but you died, I have had to live with it.”