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A beautiful freedom, at last

If your young daughter is demanding an unusual gift for her birthday, narrate to her my story.

“I had the misfortune of getting kidnapped at a very young age, and this account is meant to warn all kids everywhere to be careful. Of course, today schools teach about bad touch and good touch, and how to be safe, but most of us never had a chance for ‘hi-fi’ schooling.

“I grew up in a village, my life centered on big banyan trees and open courtyards. Mom used to publicly pronounce that I had the most beautiful lips in the world and that I would never require lipstick; and that I looked gorgeous in my green attire. Agreed, my lips were cherry-red, but such motherly exaggerations made me feel shy.

“And I did sing fairly well, from quite an early age. I was good at parody: I would repeat anything that I heard instantly in an unusual nasal tone, making everyone around break into a laughter. Perhaps my looks and the parody made me the centre of attraction during any outing.

“It was during one such fling that I got into trouble. I was kidnapped. My memory of the details is foggy and it still feels like a bad dream. I was shipped blindfolded in a car, and then in a container truck till I fell asleep. Maybe they had drugged me.

“And then my new life began in this city, in a small apartment. I had all worldly comforts you can think of, but I was never allowed to get out alone. That’s why I called it my prison. But that’s how the trade runs. Every morning I wore my dressed-to-kill look and waited by the window. I had been taught to attract and entertain a customer. A soft whistle, a twitch of the neck, and he was likely to smile.

When eyes met

“When I watched out of my apartment window I could see scores of people walking around. Many people looked at me, some children waved too. But then one sunny day in July, I saw him. In a faded denim and sweatshirt with an unreadable logo, the young boy was staring at me, and when my eyes met his, he smiled and then instantly looked away.

“The smile on his lips, I thought, concealed a deep pain in his eyes. From that very moment, I liked him; I knew he was different. Then on, every afternoon he came to see me. Waiting for him became my passion too. During a particular week when he did not come for four days in a row, I started feeling worried, restless. And then he was back, accompanied by an elderly man. They both talked to my guardians, and looked quite agitated. I craned my neck out of the window to listen to what was transpiring, but I could not make out. I had a hunch that I was being sold.

“The next day the boy reappeared, and for the first time in years I was taken out of my apartment.

“I knew he was going to hurt me. I had heard scores of stories where girls were hurt and tortured. But I was too frail for him. With one strong grip he held my neck.

“‘Come here baby,’ he blabbered. ‘I will show you where you belong to, birdie.’ He physically carried me to his room. In spite of my bird-brain I knew what he wanted of a frail girl. Quickly, he carried me to an open window. And with one strong thrust he shoved me out of the window, metres above the street level. ‘Get out and enjoy.’

“I spread my wings and flew under the blue sky and golden sunshine. The way a green parrot with a red beak should fly.

“If your daughter still wants a pet bird, ask her to look up to the sky. I am right here.”

tinynair@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 12:36:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/A-beautiful-freedom-at-last/article14545971.ece

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