Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Peacock

“Mamma, can I have a peacock for my birthday?” asked Palak.

Her mother laughed, a tinkling laugh that sounded like water being poured into a glass. “Ever since the child saw peacocks at the zoo last month, she has been obsessed about them,” she said to Sheela Aunty.

Palak wondered what “obsessed” meant. But she was focused. “Can I, Mamma?” she asked again.

“We’ll see, dear,” said her mother. “Now go inside and play with your toys. Sheela Aunty and I are busy.”

“Children forget so soon, don’t they?” her mother continued once she had left the room. “I am sure by August she will have forgotten all about peacocks and will be very happy to play with a Barbie or ride a tricycle.”

But Palak did not forget.

A week before her birthday, she asked her mother, “Where will we keep the peacock, Mamma? Will it stay in my room? Maybe we can let it out in the balcony at night?”

“What peacock, beta?” asked her mother.

“The peacock I am getting for my birthday, Mamma,” said Palak, her eyes filling with tears. “You haven’t forgotten, have you?”

“Of course not, my love. It can stay in your room. It won’t take up too much space.”

On her birthday, Palak woke up at the first chirping of the birds outside her window. She ran into her parents’ bedroom.

“Good morning, Mamma,” she called loudly. “Good morning, Daddy.”

Her parents grunted, shuddered, and finally sat up.

“Happy birthday, princess,” said her father, and gave her a hug.

“Happy birthday, my love,” said her mother, and kissed her cheek. “Come, let me show you your presents.”

Her mother held her hand and walked her out to the living room. The dining table was full of brightly wrapped packages. Palak stopped and looked at them.

Her mother drew the curtains and let the morning light in.

“You sit here and unpack your presents, dear,” she said. She went back to her bedroom where Palak’s father was getting out of bed, yawning.

“She looks stunned at all the gifts,” she told him. “She looks so happy.”

But when she went back to the living room, Palak hadn’t opened any of the packages. She was standing as her mother had left her, looking at the gifts on the table.

“What’s the matter, dear?” her mother asked. “Don’t you want to open your presents?”

“Where’s my peacock, Mamma?”

“Here it is, my darling.” She picked up a red box and handed it to her. “Now you play with your gifts and I shall go and make us some breakfast.”

Palak tore away the wrapping paper with trembling hands. She opened the box to reveal a clay peacock with its feathers spread behind it like a fan, brightly painted.

Daddy came into the living room to find all the packages except one still neatly packed, and one opened cardboard box and some red paper on the table. He looked for Palak and found her in the balcony.

"Look, Daddy,” she said when he came out to join her. She pointed towards the ground. “My peacock tried to fly.”


Pallavi Sharma said...

Ok. I must say... this quitting and job and doing what you like to do is working wonders! It's such a sweet story with a sort-of-bitter end. I'm loving it :)

Pallavi Sharma said...

Quitting your job, I meant. Duh!

Unmana said...

Thank you. I'm really enjoying it, I must say!

dipali said...

Poor kid:(
And her poor parents too.
Lovely story, Unmana: kee[ 'em coming:)

amit varma said...

Got here via your Facebook page. This is really very nice! Keep at it!

Nitu Saksena said...

Lovely story!!

Gauri Sharma said...

I love the ending. You stopped the story at at the right moment and bang ! it says it all :) no need to elaborate it :) good !