Somewhere at the edge of paddy fields in Kurushetra, Haryana lived a sparrow family. Papa and mama sparrows had built a delightfully cosy nest for their four little chicks. The chicks though were always complaining about something or the other.
“I hate worms! Can I have something else for dinner tonight?” whined one.
“I want more space – can I step out and play in the field?” asked another.
Mama was exasperated. “Do as you wish!” she chirped angrily and closed her eyes for a nap; Papa however, was more patient.
“Come on, kids. It’s story-time! Eat up your wormy noodles while I tell you a folktale from this renowned land,” he said.
Excited about a story, the chicks started eating their dinner while they listened with keenness to the tale.
Papa began: “A long, a very long time ago, there lived a sparrow family in the same land that we now live on. At that time however, there were no paddy fields but open grasslands.
Amidst the tall grass, a family of sparrows lived in a tidy, little nest. Like us, they were a loving and caring family. All was fine until one fine morning. The birds and the animals living on the grassland heard the sound of a bugle some distance away.
“Friends! Hurry and flee this land! Elephants, horses and men are on their way to do battle here. If do not take flight, the army will crush you to death,” warned a crow that had seen what was coming.
While the other birds and animals left their homes for safer places, Ma and Papa sparrow would not leave their nest. They had little ones like you who could not fly; so how could they go leaving behind their babies?
“Lord Krishna will take care of us,” said the mother as the family huddled close together.
The sound of the bugles grew louder; the neighing of horses, trumpeting of elephants and the shouts of men grew nearer. The birds in the nest trembled in fear. The two warring armies were close at hand. Suddenly, a big bell that hung around an elephant’s neck broke free. It came flying across to where the tiny nest stood. Then, as if by miracle it fell over the nest and covered it snugly. Though it was almost pitch dark inside, the sparrows felt safe. No harm was going to befall them.
After eighteen long days and nights, the war ended. There was a deathly silence in the grasslands. Papa and Ma pushed the bell away. There was sunshine, warmth and peace once more on their homeland.”
After papa finished the story, the four chicks looked thoughtful as they nibbled on their lunch of wormy noodles. Perhaps, they would be good till the next meal came by.
Published as part of a series titled ‘Folktales of the World (Retold) ’ in Deccan Herald, Student Edition, dt. July 6, 2013