Women and kids dreaded the city. They called it The Golden Cage from Where None Returned. Once the kids grew into teens, their wailing mothers refused to send their strapping sons to the city that had claimed their forgetful fathers.
But poverty finally made the graying mothers relent and release their sons. Many years after, a couple of these sunken-eyed men returned to die in the village.
The deserted wives, miserable and poor, worked hard in nearby fields or homes for poor wages.
It was a miserable place.
The land was already taken. There were no roads or hospital. A school functioned where two teachers shared many classes. On many days, even they did not turn up.
It seemed everybody had forgotten the village. The conditions were bad. Villagers said the animals were better off.
In such an impoverished and gloomy place, people often got changed into birds that could fly off in the sky or into animals that could easily roam anywhere.
Laxmi becoming a bird further added to the stock of such tales.
Grandma had openly declared: Laxmi had turned into a Yellow Warbler—flitting here, there, and then, vanishing in the blink of an eye!
Yes, a Yellow Warbler, confirmed Echo, Granny’s best friend, simply repeating what was said by Granny.
By late evening, the consensus was that little Laxmi indeed got changed into a feathered creature that flew rapidly across the semi-urban sprawl nestling under the shadow of the high-rises of the nearby booming town.
Sunil Sharma is a Mumbai-based college principal, critic, essayist, and translator. He is the editor of the online journal Episteme (http://www.episteme.net.in/) and has published three collections of poetry, a short fiction anthology, and one novel. Some of his stories are assigned reading for Post-colonial Studies coursework at Clayton University in Georgia. Sunil was the recipient of the inaugural Destiny Poets’ Poet of the Year award (2012). His poems were recently published in the United Nations project Happiness, The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry.