It was Kiran’s tenth visit. He wanted a definite answer from Meenu.
He asked, “Meenu, how long will we go on like this? You are inside the cage. I am outside. In between there is the iron mesh. We can talk for hours. At the most we can only kiss through the holes of the net. How long like this?”
It was by mere luck that Kiran, native of the bamboo valley on the blue mountain, met Meenu on his way back home from the Agricultural University Campus in the city. He was at first surprised at seeing a mountain maid trapped in a house on the outskirts of the city. She was young and beautiful. He fell in love with her at the first sight. Ever since then he used to visit her twice in a week in the evening while on his way back home. He knew he could not live without her. He had seen several girls in the bamboo valley but none like Meenu, healthy and radiant, alluring and affectionate.
Meenu too loved Kiran. She believed him to be the godsend gift for her prayers. He was the first one of her tribe whom she had met face to face during her five years stay in that house. She had seen many handsome boys like Kiran on the television. She had winked at her chosen ones. She had whistled for them. But none came out of the idiot box. No one ever responded to her chirps. No one ever noticed her. Only Kiran like a comet from nowhere came to her. He stole her heart. He became her heartthrob and heart-ach as well. She wanted to give herself to him. She had wished to live with him.
The iron mesh around her prevented them from being one body and one soul. She believed that God created her for him, but men separated them.
‘How long will we go on dreaming?’ Meenu too used to muse about their predicament.
Kiran again proposed,
“My dear Meenu, why don’t you come along with me to the valley of bamboo-grove? We will have our green house. We will have our children. We will ever be a happy home.”
Meenu was more than willing to follow him, but she had her apprehensions.
Meenu politely enquired, “My dear, is that valley of yours a safe place to live in? How safe and secure would be our children? I hear the cities are engulfing the valleys of the blue mountain. The city dwellers are scrupulously encroaching on and occupying the green sanctuaries. Flora and fauna are being destroyed. The trees are cut down by the timber gods in the city. Bamboos are carried away in trucks for making pulp for paper by the Government. Medicinal plants are uprooted for cultivation of tea, coffee, rubber and spices. The aboriginals are being dislodged. Their daughters are raped and sent to the brothels in the cities. Their sons are taken by the brokers with ‘carrot and stick’ for road construction works. The rare animal species are caught and exported. All these cruelties on nature are done in the name of development and progress. Is there any place left that is not wired by the multinationals and their stooges? Everyday I hear and see in the television the news about deforestation by the humans. Security there would mean constant struggle for the survival. Isn’t it? Look, my sweet heart, here all is well, safe and secure. Grandma and Madam take good care of me. They love me as if I were their daughter and the only grand child. They have provided me without my asking with everything – food, dress, medicine all free, above all, this beautiful place to live in. Have a good look at it. Here there are greenery, garden, swings, swimming pool and a palatial house. In the house there are several rooms and a private chamber with a king size bed made of wool and cotton, but I don’t have my sweet heart to sleep with. Except that I lack nothing in this life”
Kiran knew what Meenu had told were true. He was aware of the human violations on the holy Mother Nature. Blue Mountain was gradually becoming a concrete jungle. He very often has seen the valley on fire and black smoke. He has heard many a time gunshots. Nevertheless he said,
“Meenu, I see you have got everything to your heart’s content, the best of all facilities and amenities of life available today. I agree. But you are not free. You can’t go out, fly away wherever you want to. You are in a prison. You are a prisoner of human whims, whereas I am absolutely free, I can roam anywhere, sky is my limit. I am sorry, Meenu”
Meenu wondered at his words. She smiled at him heartily. She then spread her green wings and kissed him warmly. She whispered to his ears,
“Kiran, excuse me if I am little philosophical. After all how much does a man need? Isn’t it six feet of earth? I am ten inch long and weigh four ounces. I have fifty square inches of this house. Is this world not enough for me? It is more than enough for us. In this place we can have a colony of five pairs like us. This world is as big as you might reasonably conceive. Listen to me my dear; Grandma says that she had been in this house since her birth. The madam came a year after my arrival. It is almost four long years since she had been staying in this house. Its doors and windows have nuts and bolts. Are they in prison? Aren’t they free to move in and out of the house at will? Do you know how many times the door of my house has been ajar? How many other time they forgot to lock me in? Only once I dared to go out on my own. It was mid-afternoon. I flew to granny’s room. I perched on top of her cot and looked down. Grandma was lying on the bed holding her hands on her flat chest. She seemed lost in her past. And it could be most satisfying. I even saw an aura on her face. She must indeed be a very religious person. Then I aviated to madam’s bedroom and sat on the tip of the steel cupboard. I found her daydreaming with widely open eyes. Why didn’t she see me? I noticed that her eyes were vet and tears streamed on her cheeks. I do not know she is married. I have never seen her man or children in this house. What had happened to her life? I had no clue. She is still young and beautiful woman. I wondered she had a lover or a husband. I did not want to disturb her serenity. I zoomed into the living room and landed on the idiot box. It was as dead as a man. Slowly I crossed the threshold and held on to the railings of the verandah. I peeped into the world of freedom where the sky was the only limit as you had said. I made a swift glance around and that was enough. I was terrified. I saw the red eyes of the crows sitting on the compound wall. I also saw the eagles floating on the white clouds beneath blue sky. Those were looking for their food. I might be a very good dish for them. Below, my god !, there was the big white kitty and her kittens lying in wait for me to pounce on me and tear me into thousand pieces. I trembled with fear. I soon realized that my venturing out was not unto freedom but to my death. Immediately I recoursed to the safety and security of my Arch. I then understood even the sky has its limits and everything therein. Hear me, this Arch of Noah is all mine. It is filled with my spirit and my heart. I wander at my will. My dear, welcome to my abode and fill out my empty heart”
The revelations of Meenu were anew to Kiran. In a flash he saw his past. He felt that his experiences in the land of freedom were absurd and reckless. It was a meaningless running to reach where one stood. What happened to his parents? One day they disappeared never to be seen again. He had no idea where they have gone and why. During the wanton life of youth he had made love to several maidens of Bamboo valley; and he had r***d many teens at will. What were their prospects in their life? He did not know of their whereabouts. He had never cared for them. He blamed himself for being irresponsive and irresponsible. He had seen several of his friends suddenly dropping from the sky by bullets of stone and steel. What was their fate? Only God knew. He felt ashamed of his selfishness. Did he ever know of the ancient Indian Dikkath that the meat of the parrots was a very good medicine for human ailments? He was shocked to hilt when he had heard of it from an old parrot. He realized his life in the valley of freedom was a non-stop struggle for the survival. He also felt his life was hollow. He saw the other side of the midnight freedom of his natives.
Meenu suddenly shuddered and looked around.
She whispered to Kiran,
“Sweet heart, some one is closely watching us. I noticed a shadow behind the curtain of the front door. I had a feeling that we were under surveillance for the past three weeks. I believe it must be the Madam. If you do not feel free here, I pray, for God’s sake, go away. I don’t want to see you in a perilous situation.”
Kiran was not listening to her. He was in greater dilemma. He was divided within. His heart with her inside, mind outside. He was torn in between either into the cage or unto the crazy valley outside. For a while Kiran looked straight into the eyes of Meenu. He observed black rings around her eyes. He asked,
“Why are your eye banks becoming blackish rather than reddish? I can see the black line. What’s wrong with you? Are you sick? Tell me”
Meenu closed her eyes half and disclosed, “Kiran, even if I tell you I am afraid you will understand. I am sort of sick. The aches of my loin are being burnt up on my face. My femininity is dying out there. You know, God created us male and female and ordered us to be one being in body and soul, but man creates barriers in between us. I am sure I will die a virgin. That might be my fate”
At that time the Madam appeared from behind the curtain. Her eyes were too tearful. Her heart seemed heavy with the burden of unwanted and unexpected loneliness. Her heaving breasts looked craving for freedom in silence.
Kiran suddenly flew towards the brink of the window
A blushing Meenu promptly withdrew herself unto her manzil.
The madam while crossing the living room into the kitchen dislodged the door of the cage with her trembling left hand as if she were opening her heart wide.
A few heavy moments trickled away in pin drop silence.
Meenu slowly came out and peeped through the wide opening. She saw Kiran safely seated on the sill and looking at her intently.
Next moment Meenu felt warm kisses and deep embrace of Kiran.
Menu and Kiran raced to the bridal chamber and sank into the king size bed. They did not hear the heaving of their Madam from the kitchen.
Out side, the setting sun was painting the west with flying colors.