Wednesday, 1 August 2012

An immortal bliss


The passive dawn heard the muffled footsteps of two blanket-clad men approach a thin pale shepherd on the outskirts of the village.

“She shouldn’t survive,” said the first man, as he bore his dark eyes on the sleepy face that now laid in the arms of the shepherd.

With that, the two men left with a casual gait. The shepherd saw the moroseness in the child’s eyes as she saw them leave. Then, she shifted her attention to her holder… to nothing but his eyes. He felt a shadow of guilt lurch somewhere in his heart.

“Azad kaka?” the girl chirped.

“Yes, Guddi… your father says we’ll go for a small hike… Here, sit on my shoulders. It’s better that way,” he said, speeding his words and his footsteps. He felt relieved to be away from her gaze but a strange fear gripped his beating heart.


The early morning sun had never been this cruel as it felt today. The cacti-ridden hillside gave him no relief. Azad knew he wouldn’t get water for the next three hours. There was only one well on this stretch of The Aravallis. And he’d never satiate his thirst from the death well that bore the tears and blood of the countless girls who were abandoned by the families of his village. 

The little beads of sweat, formed on his forehead, tickled down his beard. He wiped the sweat on his sleeve and paced faster.

“Do you know you have a boomerang on your head?” Guddi said.


“Yes, its shape… did something hit you here?” She ran her small finger on the mark.

“Don’t remember.”

After a few silent seconds, Guddi spoke with a heavy tone. “My sparrows would be waiting for me.”


“Home. I feed sparrows every morning with bajra and water. They are such nice birds. Colorful… and they sit in pairs and sound so funny. Sometimes it sounds like they are calling my name.” Getting no response from Azad, she continued, “Have you ever seen them eat?”

“No,” he said, surprised at her exuberance.

“They walk funnily specially when they are full. They eat, then drink then eat and drink some more and then sit for a bit making pairs and talk to each other and then they fly away… so far.” Her voice became morose. “Can I ever become a sparrow?”

Azad simply shook his head.

She studied the passing trees in deep contemplation. “I wonder how small baby sparrows would be when they are born.”

Azad couldn’t contain his laughter. “Quite small,” he began, “but not as small as you think.”

“How small do I think they are?”

“A sea-shell’s size? I used to think the same when I was your age,” he spoke, perked up.

Their laughter echoed softly in the rocks.


Guddi’s weight became heavier with each step Azad took towards the death well. He had come here many a time in the past but never had the journey been this torturing. He was tired, scared, guilty, angry… but more than anything else, he was in pain – physically and mentally. He couldn’t bring himself to believe that the girl he had so loved since her birth would soon be no more. The gentle hands that had cradled her would become a murderer’s weapon.

Kishan, Azad’s close friend and Guddi’s father, had left the village four years back; he wanted to earn more money and, thus, fled to the town. None in the village knew that Kishan had been kept unaware of Guddi’s existence. They felt a wave of change; most of the villagers thought it was for the better. There had been far less killings of the female babies in the last four years.

Now that Kishan was home, his fury had taken everyone in the family by their throats. The village panchayat, too, had decided in his favor, “Now that Kishan does not want the girl, she shall not live.”

As a punishment of keeping it hidden from his own friend, Azad was given the task of drowning ‘the unwanted girl.’

“Had you killed her on her birth, it’d have been less painful, Azad. I hope you enjoy doing this now,” Kishan had mocked in the panchayat.

Azad sniffed. But he knew he had lied to his friend; he had taken a decision on his behalf when practically he had no right to do so.

He hardened his jaw; he had a task to execute. The girl was to be killed.


As they reached the death well, Azad winced at the wasteland this part of the rocks had become over the years. It seemed like the village practice had not only taken the lives of the girls but had obliterated each sign of nature, too.

His mojari felt uncomfortable. He put Guddi on the well’s sidewall and felt his sore feet. Maybe God was the perpetrator of his blistered feet; maybe He didn’t want another girl smothered to death.

“Kaka, let’s go home… Ma will apply her haldi mix on your feet. You’ll be alright.” She hesitated for a moment, “But how will I lift you, Kaka? We’ll both fall down.”

Azad smiled weakly.

He closed his eyes. The dark flashes of an eight year old Azad blinked before him. His mother was crying and a new born baby girl was being taken away from her to be thrown in the death well.

He felt infirm. Curbing Guddi in his arms, he said, “My sister is in there, you know.”

“Down? What is she doing there?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” Azad said as he looked deep in the confines of the brick-laden hell.

“Wouldn’t it be difficult to breathe down there?”

“It would have been more difficult to breathe outside.” Azad felt his anger drip from every pour of his body.

The realization of the truth suddenly dawned on her. “Kaka, is this the death well?” She asked, scared.

“What death well? And who told you about this?”

Baba was saying last night. He said that he’ll drown me in the death well and that I’ll di… I’ll die?” Her voice choked.

“No! What, no! It’s not the death well… I mean, it’s named as death well but you won’t be drowned in it... I’m here, my child.” Azad embraced the scared baby in a tight loving hug. Several emotions screamed to him for mercy, for humanity.  He could not cheat a four year old’s trust.

He thought about his village. The people down the hill might never forgive him; they might abandon him; his decision might not change anything but letting her die did not seem to be an option anymore.

“Look, my girl, I cannot take you home but we both can stay together. We might not have anyone with us; you might not get to meet your old friends and it might be a little bit different in the beginning but I promise… I shall keep you as my own heart,” he beamed, “Will you come with me?”

Azad held his hand out for her; she took it with a beatific smile.

Guddi’s small hand held Azad’s finger lovingly. They walked down a few steps to sit beneath a tree and revel in the company of the most mellifluous birds and the loveliest breeze that hovered around and played on their smiles. There was nothing more precious Mother Nature had held since a long, long time.

Copyright © 2012 Vaishali Jain
This post is part of the contest A picture can say a thousand words.. on

This story has been awarded the 2nd Runner Up prize at WriteUpCafe. Go check out other awesome entries.


  1. What to say? I mean, I am speechless. Such magical writing. Each of your words was so well done. Powerful, magical, strong. I just loved it. This is one of those posts which made me hope that I had written it. You have done it tremendously well.

    "It would have been more difficult to breathe outside." - this sent a chill down my spine. Every letter, every word, was so well executed. I could go on and on complimenting this piece, 'cause its so perfectly rendered. Hats off to you Vaishali ... It's just too good... One of the best posts I have read in my life !!!

    1. Ah! I wish I could get one review like this each day... would need nothing else. :D Thanks a ton, Amrit, for the shower of praises. I am chuffed and humbled and glad and quite motivated. Glad you liked it! :)

  2. Vaishali....superb..I am reserving my words to be in our group...i shall comment there.....

  3. dear Vaishali
    just like every one here who has commented, I am speechless too.
    Its a little difficult to think what to write down ...but this story was really touching ...indeed touching! :):)
    all the best for the contest dear :):)

    1. Thanks, ashzzes, for the wishes and the appreciation!

      Glad you liked what I wrote! :)

  4. Thank you for this story that brought tears of joy in my eyes that one will be saved and that you have given this one a voice that may radiate through the world. This is the most important art. By letting the shepherd see and change, more will follow. This is a parable with no preaching, precious and beautiful.

    1. Thanks SO much, Susan! Getting appreciated by such a phenomenal writer is a pleasure indeed. You said it right: More will follow.

      Thank you for reading and appreciating. Means a lot! :)

  5. This was such a touching story. You have narrated it fabulously. So much pain, so much anguish and so much agony! And I was feeling every bit of it. Finally my heart felt so relieved and happy to see Azad take the right decision. Beautifully written. Made my eyes moist. All the very best for the competition. :)

    1. I'm glad it touched your heart, Raj, and felt the characters' pain. It was a humble try... thanks for appreciating. Thanks for the wishes, too! Gratitude deep from the heart! :)

  6. A beautiful story Vaishali....vivid, crisp and leaves the reader entranced ! Impeccable narration---a winning post indeed!!:)

    1. WOW! Thanks SO SO much, Panchali! I 'm glad you liked it so. :)

  7. Lovely writing. Really liked the death well and the change of heart.

    1. Thank you for reading and appreciating! Glad you liked it! :)

  8. Liked how you have managed to keep it interesting throughout... Good Luck for the contest!!

  9. The theme is soul-blasting but cliche. And by now I have read so many stories around that image that I am ready to run at its very sight. Yet, your story held me in a vicious grip. And it ended beautifully too. Regardless of the outcome of the contest for which you wrote it, I must congratulate you on your terrific work.

    1. Gosh! I was a tad scared reading the first line. A beautiful feedback. Thank you! I'm glad I could make it interesting enough to grab your attention. :)

  10. your story brings out the best of this marvellous photograph. Its emotionally intense, disturbing, true to the matter and gives hope.
    Bravo. You have got one more reader, that's all I can say.

    1. Ahh! Picture me utterly happy reading this comment of yours, can you? :D Thanks so very much, Sandy! I'm glad to know I've got such a kind reader with the story.

  11. well..each n every compliment here speaks my mind..n i already have a gut feeling dat u'll b d proud writer of a bestseller soon :) hats off to u for dis beautiful piece!!

    1. Ooooh! *tries to jump to cloud nine* :P

      Thanks, babes! Your thoughts mean a lot to me. :)


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