Once upon a time there was a little girl called Bina. She wanted to fly.
She looked up at the birds in the sky and thought they looked so happy. They were carefree. They flew effortlessly from one end of the sky to the other. For a change sometimes they sat on the tree next to Bina's home. Sometimes, particularly in the evening, they talked to one another and shared their stories. But most of the time they flew. Happily they spread their wings and kept flying all over the city.
Bina wanted to fly like them. She wanted to go up very high, right among the clouds, and see the houses down below. She could fly over her home and see how her mom looked when she came out of the front door to go shopping. She wanted to fly over her school three streets down and watch her friends play in the school ground. She wanted to fly over the roads and see how her dad looked when he drove to the office. She wanted to do so many things. But most of all she wanted to fly among the clouds. She wanted to feel free and happy.
She had tried a couple of times to fly. On the way to school one day, when nobody was watching, she had tried to fly off by running fast on the road. But it hadn't helped to take off. Another time she had been in the park and she had jumped from a branch of the tree that she had painstakingly climbed, hoping to give herself a good start. But she had fallen hard on the ground, and did not stay in the air at all though she had waved her arms quite a bit. She was beginning to feel that maybe she could never get to fly. That thought made her a little sad, for she was indeed eager to give company to the beautiful little birds in the sky.
Then the amazing thing happened. One day, very early in the morning, she was sitting at the desk in her little room, reading her favorite story about a princess, when a light chirp made her look up. On the window sill was a tiny little bird, quite unlike any bird she had seen before. It had a beautiful golden color, but on its heart there was a large, round white spot.
The bird looked straight at Bina, but she still did not understand. Only when the bird lightly shook its wings, Bina realized that it was trying to talk to her. She put down her book and started paying attention. The bird stood still for a moment, looking steadily at Bina. It seemed to nod its head. Bina felt she ought to respond in some way. She too nodded her head. The bird noticed her response immediately, and turned round to face her squarely. Then she did a strange thing. She tapped her right foot lightly on the window sill, promptly rose in flight, half turned and flew away.
She was still wondering about it a couple of minutes later when she saw the bird swoop done gracefully and land on the window again. This time the bird faced her from the start. Bina looked at its eyes and knew right away that it was trying to tell her something. What, she wondered.
When the bird nodded like the last time, Bina started watching very carefully. So she noticed that the bird tapped the sill with its right foot not once but three times in quick succession. She rose in the air immediately, again half turned and flew away.
This time Bina was not sad any more. She knew the bird would return. She was also beginning to guess why the bird was doing these strange things.
The bird did indeed return. In just a few minutes it was back on the window sill, looking steadily at Bina. Bina got up and stood next to the window. She wanted the bird to know that she was paying full attention.
The bird again tapped three times quickly and was airborne. But she did not fly away, but just took a very short round and came back to the window. Now Bina understood.
The bird was showing her something. Of course! It was showing her how to fly! That's why it was doing it over and over again, and coming back to the window. How did the bird know that Bina wanted to fly? Maybe it had seen her trying on the way to school or in the park. Or maybe it knew from the way Bina looked at the birds. Birds have been in the world for a long time, and they are wise creatures. You never know what they might know.
The bird was tapping the sill lightly with her right foot, getting into the air and coming back, over and over again. She did it several times, then stopped and looked at Bina for a long time.
Bina wanted to say she appreciated the bird's effort to show her how to fly. But how to say it in a way the bird could understand? She didn't know. She nodded her head to show that she was following it all. But the bird seemed to want some other sign. Bina wondered what to do.
Then it came to her, in a flash. There was a simple way she could show her appreciation. She could do just what the bird did. She stepped back to the center of the room and stood with her two legs slightly apart. She wanted to do just what the bird did. Then, deliberately, she raised her right foot from the floor, and tapped lightly thrice in quick succession.
Good Heavens! She felt an immediate surge of lightness, as if she had suddenly turned into a balloon. She looked down, to discover to her amazement that she was hovering two inches above the floor. She moved her arm ever so lightly, and felt her body lifting a couple more inches. It was unbelievable, but true. She was flying!
She brought both her arms down quickly, and found herself the next moment near the ceiling. It was wonderful. She lowered her head; the body changed its angle. She was beginning to understand how it all worked. She lowered her head further, turned herself almost parallel to the floor, then floated effortlessly toward the window. The bird, watching her student take the first few tentative steps, rose promptly, as if to show her the way, and flew higher into the sky. Bina followed without hesitation into the blue of the sky.
The bird flew steadily upward, and Bina flew after her. She felt the cool breeze on her face and the warm sun on her limbs. It was astonishingly simple and easy. She would barely move her arms, and her speed would increase. She just had to move her head, and her body would alter direction. She loved the smooth, comfortable movements. She took some swift strides and a couple of quick turns. When she looked up again, the golden bird was no longer there. Maybe she went behind one of the larger and darker clouds, or maybe she took a few quick turns of her own while Bina was trying out her movements. She was no longer to be seen.
Bina felt just a tiny bit sad, but not worried. The friendly bird had shown her how to fly, and she felt sure she could now fly without any help. As if to prove it to herself, she took a few turns on either side, then flew at high speed straight ahead. She loved the streaming air, the sense of movement and freedom. She was enjoying being a flying girl.
She flew in easy strides toward her home. The first thing she noticed was the small flag that flutters above the school. She looked down at the school and saw the beautiful green playground. Her friends weren't yet there. She recognized the small figure of the gardener attending to the flower garden. She flew over the next three blocks, identifying the homes of her friends, the store where she bought candy, the baker's place, the public library, and finally her own home. How pretty it looked in the bright sun! She could see the floral curtains in the windows, the glistening brass knob on the main door, the little mat on the steps to the entrance. Just then the door opened, and Bina's mom came out with a large bag. She was going to the market indeed.
Well, today Bina was also going some places. She turned and flew upward. She wanted to explore new places. She was going to find out about new things. She moved her arms vigorously and flew higher and faster. She took a few turns as her mood dictated. She flew on. She noticed the happy birds flying in different directions, and though she looked she didn't find her tiny golden friend.
She had flown for a while when she slowed down, and decided she would try something new. She would take a fast plunge.
She lowered her head, straightened her arms and sharply pushed with her two hands, as if she was pushing some stone behind her. She plummeted at a great speed. As she came down very fast, with a buzzing sound in her ears, she saw more and more clearly what was on the ground. She could see houses, trees, streets, and soon even people on the streets. While she was still high above the trees, with a quick movement of her arms she stopped coming down. She stopped because she was fascinated with what she was seeing.
She had begun to notice that the houses and streets did not look at all like the houses and streets she had seen so far in her life. Where she lived with her dad and mom, the houses had many colors. Each house was yellow, white or brick colored. The doors and windows were green, brown, white or red. Some had orange tiles on the roof, bright floral curtains in the windows, painted fences around their houses, and even large umbrellas in the lawn with a rainbow of colors. The houses she now noticed had none of these colors. They all looked gray and colorless. It seemed nobody had ever painted them. They did not have orange tiles, and they certainly did not have green lawns or white windows, let alone fences or curtains. They were drab and tiny, grimy and dirty.
As she looked closely, she saw that the streets were also very different from the streets near her house. They were narrow and broken in many places. Garbage was heaped in many corners. Scraps of paper and other litter were everywhere. Bina looked around, but could not see a garden or park anywhere. Even the street signs were broken; many of the street lamps had no bulbs. She looked at the back of the houses, and found old, tattered clothes hanging from clothes lines, more heaps of garbage, and open sewers clogged with filth. Bina was amazed.
Did people really live in these houses and walk these streets, she wondered. She flew down a little bit more and hid behind the branches of a tree. She could easily hang in the air by moving her arms ever so slightly, and she could see the houses and streets even more clearly now. She spotted the children playing on the streets. They were dirty too, like their houses, and they wore worn, gray clothes. They looked like they were sick people, with hollow eyes and jutting bones. They played in the dust and mud of the streets, and even laughed. Bina knew why they were playing in such squalid streets: they had nowhere else to play. There were no parks, and their houses were too small to play in.
She also noticed the occasional men and women who came out of the miserable houses and walked on the miserable streets. They had a hard and tired look, and seemed to walk without noticing anything. Bina knew why they didn't notice anything: there was nothing pleasant to notice. They walked not for the pleasure of walking, but only to reach some place. She could guess they went some place only if they had to do something there. Even the way they walked, their slow, labored gait, told her they took little pleasure in the life they were living.
Bina was not so much surprised any more. She accepted that this was another world, which she did not know existed. Now she was really sad. She knew that, though she did not about it, this world had always existed. The people who lived there were unhappy, unhealthy people. They lived in small, shapeless houses and walked broken streets. Their children were sick and played amid garbage.
A great wave of sadness swept Bina. She did not like the world she knew, her world, so much any more. It was pretty, but it existed next to a lot of ugliness. Her pretty world had made her happy, but now she knew there were others who were unhappy. She could not bear to stay still and watch any more. She pulled back from behind the branch, and at first slowly, then swiftly rose into the sky.
She wanted to fly, fly fast and far. She climbed near the clouds and felt again the warmth of the sun, the bracing breeze against her face. She flew as fast as she could, sweeping the air around her with small but determined arms. She did not pause for a moment. She felt sad and strong. She rose and turned, she swooped and somersaulted. She felt brave and purposeful. She flew and flew and flew. She flew on, till a blessed tiredness slowly started making itself felt in her agile limbs.
When Bina woke the next morning, sunlight was streaming in through the window, for her dad was just parting the curtains. She remembered in a flash all that had happened the day before, and said excitedly, "Daddy, I must tell you something!" Her dad came closer to the bed with a smile, and though Bina loved him, she suddenly changed her mind and decided not to mention what had happened. She just said, "Daddy, I want to be a doctor. Can I be a doctor?" Her dad, a loving man, softly replied, "Of course, you can be whatever you want to be."
Bina did become a doctor. In fact, she became a very good doctor who took care of many people, several of them poor, unhealthy and unhappy people. She had a beautiful, satisfying life. One day, many years later, as she came home late in the evening after a long and tiring day, she noticed something move on the ground as she opened the gate. Because she was a kind person, she bent down and gently picked up a tiny dying bird. She took the bird carefully into her study, washed the mud from its wings and belly, and tried to help it in its last moments. And then, in the small disk of light from her table lamp, she noticed its strange and beautiful golden color, and on its now very faintly palpitating heart a large, round white spot.