A Birthday Gift


The world has advanced a lot. Technology keeps changing day by day. The standard of life has improved. But among all these, I see a social divide. Rich become richer and not all the poor become rich. They become poorer. And for them, the world is no longer a better place to live. Of news I hear, there are many that keep daunting me in my nightmares, of mothers abandoning babies, getting aborted, and even killing in the fear of the inability of supporting more life on this earth. And this story has occurred to me in one such nightmare.

That morning Sridevi felt a little dull. But there was no way she could stop herself from going to work.

She picked up the cleaning mop and poured a cap full of the cleaning lotion into the bucket of water. She cleaned the whole house with utmost care, checking every nook and corner. It was easy to do all the household works than bearing the deafening, merciless shouts of her Mistress, just for the sake of what she earned at the end of the month and the two souls at home she had to feed and take care of.

It was little Chinnu’s third Birthday. All she wanted to buy was the cute little Barbie doll which little Chinnu happened to find at the toys store at the end of the small town street, while taking her back her from the hospital last week. The whole year she was trying to save each and every paise that she could, to buy her little one a birthday gift. She had saved enough but the hospital bill last week had taken away most of it and there wasn’t enough time to gather and save once more to make her child happy on that special day. The thought grew heavier and heavier every moment and she was worried if she could take it anymore.

This year there was one short in the house. The thought of Kannan made her eyes wet. If not for Kicha and Chinnu, she would have ended her own life, without Kannan around. She had to live on with the bare and meagre income. She was getting accustomed and struggling to make the two ends meet. But that couldn’t stop her thinking of buying the gift, the only thing little Chinnu asked her every time they passed by that small shop at the end of that small town street.

Chinnu had not recovered completely but Sridevi could not take leave from work at any cost because she could not think of making little Chinnu and her elder brother Kicha who was now six, to fast even a day. Cherishing the memories of Kannan around made her continue to live. And in that bright morning light she could not find him shining high above her head in the vast blue sky.

“What the hell are you dreaming there?” shouted Mrs. Kalyani at the top of her voice. She was on her way for the morning walk.

“Sorry, madam, I was ….” Sridevi held her tongue without completing the sentence. That was better; better than giving way to a shower of shouting and cursing. The more she tries to explain, the longer the shouting continued. Since she kept quite, Mrs. Kalyani walked out.

After cleaning up the house, Sridevi rushed outside with the waste bin from the previous day. She has to make it before the municipality workers cleared the mount from the box that was in the next street. The day dream made her a little late.

The trash had become a small mount and she had to hold her nose tight to escape from the stinky smell. A dirty bitch ran away at her sight leaving behind something at which it was trying to feed on. She dumped her basket and turned back and moved a step or two when she felt, she saw something odd among the trash, with which the bitch was meddling upon.

With a small stick she found nearby, she dug up the trash and when she found it, she became blind as if struck by a heavy hammer right on the head and then as if falling into a great chasm with the whole world going into an utter darkness. Her heart pounded as she tried to breath inhaling and exhaling deeply, struggling to stand erect and shut her eyes tight.

The two void cavities that remained in the figure satiating the appetite of the ants who would have found it first, stared at her. The bitch, which was chewing at it when she came down, had taken away a part of the little foot. The soft red skin had almost worn out. The life had flown away from that bundle of tender flesh which had taken away with it all the charm and charisma. The remains barely said it was a human figure.

A cry of terror failed to escape her throat. Sridevi held her basket tightly to keep her balance. For a moment she forgot about the earth underneath her foot, for a moment she forgot the deafening curses of Mrs. Kalyani, for a moment she forgot the little mount of trash in front of her and the stinky smell that spread around from it.

She thought only of that little bundle of flesh which might have seen the light of the sun for less than a couple of days, which would have stared at the bright things around it saw not knowing what they were, and which only knew to produce an innocent smile to any sound it could hear from all around clinging on to the warmth of the body that brought it into this world.

But then she stood there thinking of her own little one and the next moment there was a glitter in her eyes. A glitter, as if resulted from a great triumph, that of finding the right path, that of an awaited accomplishment reaching at an arm’s length. That cry of horror that failed to escape her throat now transformed itself into a cry of joy. “Yes, it is a fortune of flesh” she said to herself.

There was very little time left and she hurried. She moved the trashes away and pulled the carcass out and closing her eyes tucked it into the empty basket in her hand and covered it with waste papers. It was stinking very badly but that was not her concern for the sake of whatever that was going on in her mind. There wasn’t much time left before Mrs. Kalyani returned. Back in the kitchen she hid the basket inside a kitchen shelf and with great effort she held her thumping heart.

Before leaving for the day’s work Mrs. Kalyani handed over her two Hundred Rupee notes. “Get something fresh today. Bruno has not eaten well for last two days.”

She knew that she was waiting just to hear those words. Of all these years, she would have never wanted to hear those words which only meant of going to butcher’s shop only to feed a dog.

The two Hundred Rupee notes was all that she wanted now. It meant more than just the value it had. It meant her daughter’s world. It could buy all the happiness her daughter always wanted and she could imagine the glow in her face. She took the two Hundred Rupee notes as if she was taking the costliest diamonds in the world in her hands.

“As you say madam” Sridevi struggled to hide the surge of emotions that churned inside her like a whirlpool that sucked everything around into the unknown depth as she waited impatiently for Mrs. Kalyani to leave.

As she heard the sound of the car wading away, she rushed to the kitchen and pulled the basket out. “God, forgive me and curse me not for I have no other way.” She knelt down on the ground where she stood folding her palms together. She hurried back to her home, a little hut, a few furlongs away literally running.

“Kicha, open the door.” She called with a low voice.

“Amma, have you brought me the cake?” Little Chinnu came running.

“Yes my sweetie. But now you should go out and play. We won’t open it until it is eve. Let me prepare the dishes and don’t come to the kitchen, agreed?” She kissed the child’s forehead and the children ran out.

Locking the door from inside, she slid the basket under the table. After boiling some water in a vessel she put the little bundle of flesh into it. Trying not to think much, she chopped it into small pieces. She threw the remains into the fire. The choking smell of the burning flesh filled the room making her feel uneasy. She threw few more pieces of logs into the fire. The two Hundred Rupee notes remained safely in the purse.

Back in her Mistress’ home, Bruno, the three year old German shepherd chewed at the newly found taste voraciously and Sridevi looking heaven-ward cried deeply in her heart. She had done it for the sake of her child, whose pleasure was the last thing she ever wanted on this earth.

That day the clock’s hands crawled slowly than ever before. Waiting for the evening made her both miserable and impatient. She tried to visualize the smiling face of her daughter to drive away the grave feeling that began building in her.

When the kitchen was done and the table was set, she started for the town. At the end of that small town street, inside the glass racks of the small toys’ shop, she saw no other toys which were arranged decoratively. Teddy bears and other soft toys had a quizzical look in their eyes. A small statue of a wedding couple kissing each other stood next to a little mermaid with pink cheeks and golden hair sitting on a small rock stretching her long fishy tail. But she saw only the Barbie. The blue eyes of the cute Barbie seemed to shine brighter than she ever dreamed of. The frills of the frock wavered in the breeze. The blonde hair was tied up into a petite ponytail. When she handed over the two Hundred Rupee notes, a joy of conquering the world filled her. It reached deep into her womb. Sridevi thought only of her little Chinnu.

In the eve the candles were shining brilliant. Sridevi arranged the cake on the table. In that little cottage there rose a hymn of joy, of the rejoicing hearts, of three humble hearts. And somewhere high up in the sky one star began to twinkle with a renewed vividness.

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