The latent power

Her appeal was so strident that we stopped the vehicle and asked her to set it free.

It was a busy traffic junction. As I watched the impatient drivers of vehicles of all description honking and jostling for the labyrinthine spaces which would allow them to zoom off when the lights turned green, my eyes spotted an old woman with a painful limp, escorted by a 5-year-old girl, hesitatingly crossing the road.

My heart skipped a beat when I realised the hazard if the light turned green. To my horror it did, when the duo was in the midst of crossing.

Then the miracle happened—the honking suddenly stopped and everyone waited patiently, as if spell-bound by an irresistible force till the duo had safely crossed over to the other side. After that, the vehicles shot off noisily as though snapped out of a magic spell. The invisible power of compassion had instantly synchronised the hearts of all present at the scene.

Amazingly, this divine phenomenon knows no age bar as is evident from another experience of mine:  A few years ago, I visited Ooty along with my family members. My then six-year-old granddaughter was so fascinated by a little bird, a red robin at the children’s park that she succeeded in persuading us to buy  it for her.

When we set off on our return journey early next morning, she kept the cage possessively with her and, as our van glided down the ghats along the sharp U-bends, she continued playing with the bird, singing and feeding it. Soon, the glorious daybreak drenched the entire land scape and the nascent sun rays sparkled through the swaying leaves of the giant eucalyptus trees, waking up the birds with their warmth.

The stillness of the jungle was broken by the chirping of birds all around. Suddenly, we realised that the bird inside our van had become restless and had started shrieking, fluttering its tiny wings as if in torment, obviously triggered by the happy sounds of the free birds outside. We watched in silence as the child too was growing restless seeing her dear birdie in distress.

“The bird is crying. I want to set it free. Stop the car!” she cried suddenly. “But you wanted to buy it so badly and now you have changed your mind?” rebuked her mother. “No, it is unhappy. I must set it free.”


Her appeal was so strident that we stopped the vehicle and asked her to open the cage and set the robin free. “No, not here. Let us go back to Ooty. Its people are there. How will it go back if we leave it here?”

Goodness! We had already descended a winding 10 km down the ghats and now the grim prospect of climbing back was something we couldn’t entertain. “Don’t be stupid. Behave like a good girl and let it free here itself,” commanded the mother.

“Nothing of that sort,” the child sobbed. Alarmed by her unusual defiance and her intense state of disturbance,  we traced the arduous way back as she kept placating the bird in her own way. As we neared Ooty, she cheerfully stepped out and opened the cage to allow the bird to fly away to its freedom, as she gleefully clapped.

Hurling the empty cage down the steep ravine she declared triumphantly –“I don’t want this cage to hold another bird captive ever!”

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