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Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Flute

The Flute
by Rachna Gilmore
illustrations by Pulak Biswas

"Long ago and far away," we enter a village that has a gushing river, on the banks of which our baby girl, Chandra, is born. For a brief childhood spell, she basks in the music of her mother's flute, growing up without a care in the world.

Then her world is turned upside down all of a sudden. A flood sweeps away both her parents, who push her up to safety, handing her the flute, before they pass away. Reluctantly taken in by her aunt and uncle who treat her harshly with nary a kind word, piling brutal workload on her to "earn her keep," Chandra carries on, deriving solace from playing her mother's flute when she can manage it, away from her disapproving uncle and aunt.

But then, much like the twists and turns of fate in fairy tales, her uncle and aunt pluck the flute from her in a fit of anger and toss it into the river. But, Chandra carries on with the chores, bearing the abuses with quiet resignation, through the bitter winter and the searing summer, starving, yet surviving.

And then, one day, as she sits by the river bank, hunger gnawing, she hears a hopeful, almost cheerful music, just like her mother used to make. And out of the river appears a plantain leaf laden with simple yet sumptuous meal. Day after day, she is fed by the mysterious provider. Until her uncle and aunt find out and accuse her of unimaginable things.

Finally, when the monsoon arrives after a long parched summer, it was a relief at first. But then, it rains and rains causing the river to rise. In an abominable act of cruelty, her aunt and uncle push Chandra down as they go higher up to safety, letting her get washed away in the flood.

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