The joyous laughter of cheerful children were echoing as they were running and playing happily outside while she was singing a song in her childish voice which she heard from somewhere and cleaning the dirty utensils from her small hands totally losing herself in her chore. Still, sometimes she also wanted to play. But how could she when she had so much of the work? Memshaab would scold her if she didn’t do the work properly and beat her as well.
She was so scared from Memshaab’s anger, so she could not go out to play. But, still sometimes when no one was looking she used to quickly got up from her place. And silently tip- toed to the window and looked outside to the beaming faces of giggling children.
And used to smile wondering how fun it would be for them, Wouldn’t it? But as soon as she heard footsteps of someone’s coming she quickly went back to her place in fear. And used to lower her gaze so that no one could know she was looking through the window pane before they came into the kitchen.
8 Years was her age. It seemed like she was a child, well she was, but she didn’t have any childhood for real. Her whole day went doing work for Memshaab. Sometimes, when she used to make some mistakes she had to have a tight slap on her cheeks but that was totally fine.
Because her mother was ill and she had a brother as well who was of 2 years and her father, well he left them on their own for another woman. Her mother was illiterate and also very sick so she couldn’t do the work.
Therefore the whole household responsibility was on that small 8 year old life named Masoom. And it was not something new for Masoom. She was doing it from the age of 6. Once when she was 6 she was unable to hold the hot cup from her small hands and spilled it all over on her. She still had those burnt marks.
But now at least she could do the work properly. The path to Mehmsaab’ s house from her house had a school in between. She didn’t like to take that path. Didn’t know why she felt sad using that path? So, she used to avoid that path and took long path instead. Still, her fate bumped her to the children clad in uniform of that school but she used to ignore and just kept her focus on her work.
But her life took a turn one day. It was like a normal day the same things were happening. She was busy in her work. When Bade shaab came and rang the bell. Bade shaab was
Memshaab’s husband. “Masoom, go open the door.” Memshaab ordered. Masoom cleaned her hands and went to the door standing on her toes for reaching the door knob opening the door. Bade shaab smiled, he had something in his hands. It was a big cage and the cage had two beautiful parrots in it. Masoom’s little eyes got widened in wonder.
Her dried lips had a cute smile. “Masoom, call your Memshaab.” Bade shaab ordered. Masoom ran to her Memshaab and she came outside. Memshaab, had her hands on her cheeks in excitement, “Wow, what is this? They are wonderful.” She said with pure bliss.
Bade shaab smiled proudly and said, “These parrots aren’t some ordinary parrots. These are very expensive. Each is of 4000 rupees. But I bring them for your love of birds. Now, take care of them properly.” Memshaab grinned broadly and said, “Oh! Thank you so much, my dear hubby. I will take care of them properly and won’t let them fly.” Then she looked at Masoom and said, “Masoom help me take them to the kitchen. I will hang them there.
So, everyone can see our expensive parrots. And also any cat won’t come there. So, there are better there.” Masoom nodded and helped her taking the parrots there. The parrot cage was hanged near the window. And now, Masoom had two new friends. She even gave them names. Male one was named Khwaab and female one was named Khwaaish.
She was in love with those parrots. Everyday, even at home she used to talk about them. She used to think like she got new friends. She used to talk with the two of them. “Amma said parrots can talk, Khwaab and Khwaish. One day you two will talk with me too.” She said smiling from below while peeling the vegetables but suddenly she saw Khwaab and Khwaish getting uncomfortable. They were banging at the cage violently, flapping their wings. She quickly got up and questioned, “What happened Khwaab and Khwaish? Why are you behaving like this?” But the birds were busy violently shaking the cage in the direction of window.
When Masoom's eye got to the side of window. And she noticed a big flock of birds flying across the sky. “Oh! Now, I understand you two wanna get out too. Don’t you? She said and the birds flapped their wings towards her like they could understand her and were saying yes. She smiled and said, “Let me help you.”
She brought a chair and stood on it. But she was still short. So she brought a stool, placed it on that chair and start climbing on it. Now, she was on the top. Her eyes shined for the birds. She smiled at them and said,
“Don’t worry, Khwaab and Khwaish. I am there.” But as soon as she moved her hands towards the cage door. Memshaab came in the kitchen and yelled, “Masoom, what are you doing?” Masoom's leg shuddered in fear taking her balance off and making her fall. Her legs and hands were brutally peeled off and her chin was wounded as well. She was bleeding all over and wincing in pain.
Trying to blowing her wounds with the air of her lips but they were hurting badly. Tears were mixed with her bloods but before she could do anything. Memshaab came towards the little girl and slapped her tightly holding her up from her elbow. She looked into the crying girl's eyes with sheer anger and shouted , “What were you trying to do? You know how much those parrots cost? If you ever touch my parrots again I will break all bones in your body. Understand.”
Shaking the soul out of her body. Then she left her there. And went to look at her parrots. “Don’t worry my dearies. That filthy girl’s hands will never try to touch you again.” She said to the parrots. And then looked at the little child in disgust and went off. Masoom had all five fingers on her face imprinted. She wrapped her in herself shivering and crying without a stop.
Feeling the pain from her bleeding body parts. Then she got up still shivering like a leaf in autumn. And tried to wipe her blood from a dirty cloth and water. When the bleeding stop. She started working again. Now, she was more focused on her work than usual. She wouldn’t even bat an eye to Khwaab and Khwaish didn’t matter how much violently they shook their cage or how much violently they flap their wings when they saw a flock of birds. She just lowered her gaze showing she wasn’t paying any attention.
Though she felt as restless as the birds in the cage. They were her friends. They wanted freedom. But she knew if she tried to do anything then Memshaab won’t show any more mercy to her. And she would be ruthlessly beaten. It was a very big dilemma for her. But her fear chose to ignore the parrots though she was feeling guilty for it from inside.
Again, the days become the same just with extra horrible for Masoom who was experiencing so many emotions. One day no one was home. And Masoom had finished her work so she was sitting on the chair. Her head was lying on table. She was the told to take care of the house in Memshaab’s absence. The day was usual again with the usual cheerful sounds of children playing. But, now those sounds didn’t thrill Masoom anymore. She only used to think about the agony of two parrots. And the incident happened on the day she tried to free the parrots. Fear crawled into her chest whenever she thought about that Incident. Suddenly, her attention caught by Khwaab and Khwaish who once again became restless seeing the flock of birds flying outside. This time they were way more violent.
But little Masoom turned her gaze on the other side. And said, “I know you want to go outside. But I am sorry I cannot set you free. Otherwise, Memshaab will beat me so much. So, forgive me.” And she bend her head on the table and shut her eyes tightly.
But she could not ignore the chaos the birds were making. She covered her ears with her hands to block the noise made by the birds. She didn’t want to get hurt again. But again she slowly turned her gaze upwards to look at the birds. And what she saw put her into horror. The birds wings were bleeding now. But they still wanted to get out and fly in the sky so badly that they didn’t stop. Now, she was more anxious she had to quickly find the solution and a thought stroke her mind. “What if I say that the cat ate the birds. Then Memshaab won’t doubt me.” She thought to herself. And she didn’t think much and didn’t let another thought invade her mind and start getting the same chair and stool to get the birds free out of the cage.
The table was so heavy so she could not use it. She opened the window first. Set the chair and the stool upon it. And started climbing towards the top. The birds became less violent seeing her. “Don’t worry, Khwaab and Khwaish. You want to fly in the sky. You will fly ok.” She said with smile and assurance and without thinking once again she opened the cage door and set the birds free in the sky. The birds happily came out and fly high, much high in the sky. And little Masoom saw her friends going away from her while she was happily saying bye to them waving her hands in the sky.
And smiling cheerfully. It was not that she never smiled before but it was first time when her smile was as beautiful as the children of her age. And the children she used to see playing outside. The birds were now vanished in sky and she was still smiling hanging on the window. She was feeling blissed. But her bliss also vanished as soon as she heard the voice of Memshaab yelling her name in the anger that could match thundering clouds in the sky.
Poor Masoom started shivering in the fear. Her heart was beating so loudly that it would come out of her chest. She was drawn into herself, walking backward as Memshaab was coming towards her. She wanted to tell Memshaab her planned lie. But she wasn’t able to utter anything. Her eyes were already raining. She was stammering and sobbing and couldn’t even tell a single word properly.
But now, it was too late. Memshaab came towards her and slapped the girl so tightly that her head banged to the near table. “What did I tell you about the birds? You filthy little girl, What did I tell? You cheap girls don’t understand so easily. Today, I will teach you a good lesson.” She growled at the little girl in anger. And slapped her twice.
She pushed her onto the floor and went to the bedroom to fetch Bade shaab's leather belt. The girl was still lying down there in fear. She came and started lashing on her. And the little girl screamed in immense pain saying sorry for the mistake she did. She was continuously begging Memshaab to stop lashing her, telling her she would not do it again. But Memshaab was deaf in her anger. “You will do it again if you get the chance but after today you won’t get a chance to repeat the same mistake again, You cheap garbage.”
Memshaab growled at her once again. The little girl was bleeding now from the lashing. Her wounds which were about to heal opened once again. Masoom wasn’t even able to scream in pain now from the pain. Saliva was coming out of her cheeks. And her whole clothes were little torn. Her eyes started getting close too. Darkness surrounded her. But Memshaab was still lashing at her. Now, all the possible movements from Masoom were stopped. Her eyes were closed. She was as still as the water in the scenery drawn by a little kid. Memshaab's anger had also come down now.
But she was sweating heavily from beating Masoom. She sat at the chair for catching her breath as she was panting heavily. While Masoom was still laying on the floor. Memshaab pour herself a glass of water. And started drinking it and asked Masoom to get up now. But Masoom didn’t respond. She yelled her name again but still there was no response. She thought that Masoom was fainted so she poured the water she was drinking on her to wake her up. But she was still a lying statue. So, Memshaab tried to move her from the help of her foot. But as she moved her body she found that the small Masoom was no more there, The small Masoom’ s soul was also free from her body like the birds from the cage.
She gave her life to the freedom of the birds. She paid the price of freedom from her life. But should she be called a freedom fighter? If she could be called a freedom fighter she would be youngest.
Writer's Note:- Inspired by a true event that happened in 2018