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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Readers Write Index


Freedom has No Price

by Madani Mohiuddin Ahmad
KSU, Riyadh, KSA

May 24, 2007

Readers Write


Bright Sunday morning of November. The golden sun rays reflected from his forehead while his short bright silver hair still up and brilliantine, was matching with his milky dhoti-kurta. As usual, a gamchcha (a traditional towel) on his right shoulder approached the PWD Bridge where a falconer was waiting for his customer to sell dozens of birds. Some of them sang really well which tempted him to and perhaps that was the reason he came out of his living room.

‘You should be in the blue sky and the sky has no limit’ and he asked the falconer to release all the caged birds.

‘Hamaar layee-ka log kaa khaii, maa-lik, (What shall my children eat, sir),' said the falconer.

He paused thoughtfully. He never meant that falconer would eat the birds. Else, what shall he eat if not the birds? The gravity of the paradox was a serious social problem. People die of starvation.

‘Yes, what will your children eat if you free the birds’, he said turning his head.

His eyes were still fixed with the chirping wild yellowish sparrows. Some of them were half asleep or probably half dead whose timid eyes weren’t glowing that much. He did mind the comforts of the birds. He got his eyes fixed with them for a considerable time. They said a lot and got the impression that they won’t be in the cage any more. As such, the chorus got a higher pitch...

Busy station road was less crowded. There wasn’t any encroachment on the other side of the road. The abandoned football ground and a huge jamun tree just down the railway station could be easily seen by the passersby and the arrival – departure of the trains was a fun for the children especially when the eastern bound trains would give a look of half circle while crossing the bridge over Jharahi river of Mairwa Dhaam.The release of black smoke from the steam engine would cover the surroundings with a thick black line up the railway track. That was a regular fascination for the local children. Rickshaw pullers were seen but very few of them passed lazy either smoking local made bidis or ringing the bells of the rickshaw fitted with handle bars. Small dhabas were serving breakfast to those who were used to and preferred litti-ghoogni on disposable banana leaves - made plates dressed with tea in clay pot.

Genalal, Ramdaras and Radheyshayam, the immediate neighbors approached the PWD Bridge on the station road where the negotiation was on. They were peeping through the netted wires of the cage on the restless chirping birds. Genalal and Ramdaras murmured but could be guessed that they were talking about the size and weight of the birds. But confused Radheyshayam was not being able to conceptualize the idea about the ongoing negotiation. Still, his eyes narrated something. His scary eyes didn’t stop dreaming which was not realized by others.

Certainly, he might be thinking of the birds’ unprecedented lives, I thought… his cocksureness of being a vegetarian was his strongest belief.

Eventually, his lips moved but inaudibly and decided to leave the PWD Bridge to deal with a few customers who were impatiently waiting for him at his lime shop.

Here, the deal was on:

‘Ok rupees fifty…’

‘Pachaas rupiya se kaa hoii maharaj… (what shall rupees fifty do…)?’

‘Aazadi ke kono dam hola…? (Freedom can’t be priced)’.

Matter settled after an offer of some more money, but how much - the onlookers could not guess. He offered the money secretly with a closed hand to the falconer though susceptible of uncertainty on the deal; his raised eye-brow was saying something, Perhaps his commitment…!

He got hold of the cage and raised it up for a closure look on the birds. Compassionate and glittering eyes talked a lot with them where utmost fragrance of wild happiness was obvious to them..

‘O! Your destination… your destinations… go …go!’

That enchantment of freedom was heard like hymns by the onlookers. But the cacophony and buzzing were irresistible to them.

‘He is really too old’, someone whispered.

‘Din-wan nagi-chaa gail-baa (his death is nearing)’, said other while going away.

Awe stuck falconer glared at him sarcastically. He wanted to utter something… he folded his sharp small knife and prepared himself to leave, saying: ‘Achcha chala-taani Baboo. Phero aaeb (Now, I take my leave, Sir. I will come again)’

‘Salaam!!’ He responded with.

The serenity on his face was clear. He was confident of something. That something, perhaps, was inexpressible to me. The smile on his lips could be seen. Nevertheless, I found him extremely happy as if a patient has recently been discharged from the hospital from a long illness. He didn’t like other’s happiness being snatched for petty reasons particularly a pet’s one. Living beings are not the tools of happiness in the hands of might. He would say this.

‘How can a bulbul sing in a cage?’ He paused…

‘Those days… those days…’ He regained his confidence and walked down to get his room located just under the peepal tree. That lush green tree used to house hundreds and thousands of birds on its wide stretched of big and small branches, perching and twirling, they would glare at him while seated on the old fashioned wooden arm chair. That chorus by the birds was his daily medicine that he used to take every morning and evening.

‘To get our independence, we did sacrifice a lot. And any sacrifice is not priceless.’

‘You are not going to school today?’ he asked graciously.

‘Abba! My teacher has asked me to buy the English text book… else he won’t allow me to sit in the classes, I said weakly.

‘O! Yes! But how...? Those friends of mine have flown away with the money!

(A Tribute to my father; breathed his last on 24 May 2004 in Patna).

शक्ति जो चेतन थी, अब जड़ हो गयी है। बचपन में जो कुंजी मेरे पास थी, उम्र बढ़ते बढ़ते वह कहीं खो गयी है। - दिनकर


Good one and well written touching incident! - Nawin Kumar, Charlotte, NC - May 25, 2007

Thanks for posting this true story. This is the true story for everyone, in our hearts we know this is true, but are afraid of speaking out innocent words in a seemingly much practical world.

I remember a similar incident when I was walking to go the high school when I saw a fisherman pulling his net out of the pond. There was just one fish that came, and happened to land some steps in front of me, dancing with pain. While the fisherman was preparing for the next round, I couldn't tolerate it - and threw it back in the water. Seeing this, the fisherman got angry with me, specially because he thought it was inauspicious - he may not be able to net much fish that day. That was his first catch of the day and even that was gone. After facing his anger I was not certain if I did the right thing, however I felt happy that I had the guts to follow the heart.

Personally, I am opting chains rather than freedom, for the sake of kids. My wife has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) syndrome, and will not accept it - and hence will not get treated. She has become the master of our home, or else none of us will obey her orders for extra-cleanliness. Any topic ultimately drills down to the fact that something is not clean enough. Few days back she and kids went to India on vacation, and I am enjoying every minute of this new-found but short lived freedom. Irrespective of freedom being priceless, I am opting for the kids rather than my personal freedom. I guess any sane and responsible person would do the same. - Vishwas Prem - May 27, 2007

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years. -Mark Twain

In other words, the more a man knows his father, the more he'd appreciate. - Kumod Jha - May 27, 2007

Is it a story or an biography? I could understand only one thing, all great men have great father. Even if they are not, they are made great by the power of pen.

The author is quite busy portraying his father as freedom-loving, kind and nature-lover. But, the story draws grey picture of the person who is ignorant or careless about his son's book but using his money in freeing the birds which would have been caught again and sold.

Another question arises here, are the author's family members strictly vegetarian, I am sure, they are not, then how they were able to cut the throat of live chicken, fry it and gulp big pieces. Couldn't they see the sorrow and pain in the eyes of the dying chicken.

I am not trying to turn down the sentiments raised by the author about freedom, but "KATHNI KARNI KA FARQ" is the most dangerous social evil of our society. We write pages of good and high-thinking ideas but go down with the old traditional way of doing when it comes to bring the same thoughts in their life.

At last, the story (or biography) could come good in context of Literature but not in terms of basic human right, freedom. - Ravish Kumar, Hyderabad - May 31, 2007

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