Shubhangi Bhadbhade (Originally in Marathi)
Translated by Vidyadhar Fadnvis

Volume 1, Issue 2, pp. 37-39

“Give me that flower,” he demanded pointing to a pink mazurka rose.

It was a winter afternoon! The ideal time to be snoozing under warm covers!

But then, there was a loud knock on the gate. I was expecting it to be followed by the ringing of the bell, but it did not. Instead, the banging noise got louder. Reluctantly, I discarded the warm covers, opened the door, and came onto the porch of my bungalow.

The scene outside was quite annoying. A group of kids were crowded at the compound gate; some of them were leaning on the gate and peeping inside, while others had climbed the gate for a better view of the garden. I had developed a beautiful garden with several beds of roses on the lush green lawns. Today I found a swarm of butterflies of varied shapes and colours perched atop the roses and flitting from flower to flower. This kaleidoscope of butterflies had become the source of fascination for the kids at the gate.

To drive them out, I raised my voice telling them to stop the noise, as this was a time for an afternoon nap for an elderly person, such as me. I also threatened to unleash my dog, if they did not push off quickly.

The threat of the dog seemed to have worked for some boys, but one of the kids did not budge from the gate. He was a boy about eight, wearing torn and dirty clothes. He had visibly sharp features and bright eyes. Without paying any heed to my threat, as if he knew I had no dog, he climbed down the steel gate and walked towards me fearlessly.

Give me that flower,” he demanded pointing to a pink mazurka rose.

I was taken aback by his audacity. Did the kid think that aggression is the best policy to be used with an old lady?

I tried to counter his hostility with a docile question as to why he wanted that flower.

I like butterflies. I will plant this flower in my hut, butterflies will grow on the flower.”

The retired teacher in me could not restrain from explaining the life cycle of a butterfly; that they need a big garden like mine so that eggs are laid on the leaves of trees, larva come out of the eggs to feed on the leaves, and then a butterfly is born from the cocoon.

You are lying,” he said, unconvinced by my studious answer.

Why should I lie?”

Because you don’t want to give me the flower.”

I lost my patience. “Suppose I don’t. So what?”

I will pluck your roses. We will spoil your garden,” said the defiant kid. But I admired his guts.

A scene of total devastation of my garden rose before me. My lush green lawn was raked, the beds of roses destroyed, and my favourite creepers of shatavari and madhumalati uprooted. I remembered the story of Yaksha’s devastated garden.

Yaksha's garden was in full bloom. Wherever eye could reach, one could only see glorious flowers dancing in the breeze. How proud Yaksha was of his garden! Such a beautiful garden existed nowhere else, neither in heaven nor on earth. But one day, Yaksha made a blunder. He drove out the children playing in his garden, lest they spoil his beautiful garden. The children were miserable. They left, disappointed and in tears. But since then the garden started dying. The trees withered, the leaves yellowed and the flowers shrunk.

Yaksha realized his mistake. God had created this world of beauty to be shared. His children should have the first claim on the flowers, he reflected. He then called the children back to play in his garden. Soon, the garden bloomed, the flowers danced and the birds sang with the children.

I felt that if I drove away the children rudely, not only would the kids be disappointed but my garden may also incur their wrath. So I called the kid aside, gave him a few candies and said to him, “I know you are a good boy. Why don’t you share the candies with your friends, tell them that I am not well and they should leave now. I shall give them roses some other day.”

The kid nodded. Either the sweets had done the trick, or he had taken pity on me. Whatever the reason, he left with a lingering look at the butterflies dancing in the garden.



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Another day, I saw him playing with the same gang of unruly boys with tattered and dirty clothes. He seemed to be their leader. The boys had long sticks in their hands and were hitting the butterflies flitting on the wild yellow flowers. The boys seemed to have become expert marksmen. Every time they hit a butterfly, all of them jumped with joy.

When they saw me, they halted their game. I came close to see that they were carrying butterflies tied to strings.

I cried in anguish, “What the hell is going on?” However, the question was superfluous as I could see the mounting death toll. They seemed to be unconcerned with the massacre.

Why are you tying them? They are half dead.”

Fun!” they blurted.

You find fun in hitting the butterflies? Suppose somebody hits you like that?”

Hit me,” he dared.“My father hits me every day, yesterday he hit me with a belt.” He showed me the red angry welts on his legs.

The mother in me felt great pity for the poor boy. I could picture the scene the small boy crying and running from corner to corner in the hut, his drunken father mercilessly beating him with the belt.

I bent down and caressed his welts. “Do they hurt too much?”

He said, “I did not cry, but my mother was weeping throughout the night.”

The eternal scene continued mother crying in anguish, desperately trying to hold back the father to shield the boy.

A tear rolled down my cheek. The kid suddenly became pensive.

When you hit a butterfly, she also cries in pain,” I spoke in a weepy voice. The child could relate the pain of his welts with the pain of the butterfly tied to a string. “The butterfly cannot go home; so her mother waits and weeps.”

The butterfly has a mother?”

Yes! The butterfly loves her mother like you love your mother.”

The boy became solemn. He threw the stick from his hand and ran away to his friends.

I felt very sorry for the helpless boy. What could I do to stop his daily dose of beating? Has he become cruel because his world is sad? Does he kill butterflies because his father hits him every day?


Then again, I saw him one day with his friends. They had taken out a herd of cows for grazing. The cows were bellowing, breaking the guided path occasionally. The boys were bringing them back to the group. When he saw me, he stopped.

I do not hit butterflies now,” he came running towards me and told me, like a schoolboy who has done his homework diligently.

Oh. Good!”

We don’t catch butterflies any more. They can go back to their mothers after play.” He waited for a while expecting some words of appreciation from my side.

I put my hand over his head, mussed his hair, and told him that he was a good boy and that I liked him.

I also like your garden,” he said and ran away with a smile to tend to his cows.

“Be careful. There is a pond ahead, and the land is slippery,” I called from behind.

Be careful. There is a pond ahead, and the land is slippery,” I called from behind.

While returning home, I thought about the power of love. How implicitly children relate to mother's love and the tremendous potential it has to change human nature.


Two days later, there was news that an eight-year boy had drowned in a pond. With a sense of dread I checked, only to find that he was the same boy. He had gone with his friends to play around the pond and slipped into it. Due to heavy rains the previous day, the pond was full of mud and water, and the boy could not be saved.

I was sad for many days. The grief weighed like a millstone on my heart, which time could not lighten. What was our relation? I wondered! Both of us liked flowers. I had thought him stubborn but he turned out to be so pliant. I had thought him cruel, but he could relate to the love of a butterfly for her mother. He had made me proud!

He was the only child of a labouring couple. They were living in a decrepit hut, not very far from our bungalow. Once I went past their hut but could not gather the courage to enter. I was sure I would be unable to confront the colossal grief of a mother who had lost her only son.

What happens to children who die? Do they go straight to heaven? Will this child be happy there? A place where he is spared the belt of his drunkard father; or will he miss his kind mother terribly?



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One night, I dreamt that the boy was running through a field of tall yellow grass waving to the tune of a boisterous wind. There were flowers everywhere, with butterflies nestling amongst them. On seeing the kid, the butterflies rose as a swarm as if they were waiting to greet him. Some butterflies perched on his shoulders and some in his hair. The boy was very happy with the butterflies, his face looked so blissful. The yellow grass in the backdrop of a wide open sky was like an intense, happy Van Gogh painting.

Days passed. The grief diminished.

One day, returning home, entering the gate of my bungalow, I was struck by a beautiful scene. The rain had stopped and the evening sun had cast its golden glow on the green grass in my garden. There was a rainbow in the sky connecting the heaven of dreams to the earth of desires. My garden had bloomed and I saw an iridescent, infinitesimal butterfly perched atop my favourite yellow rose. I looked at the butterfly — so happy to be there, and then she rose up in a delicate swirl, and perched on my shoulder. Before I could touch her, she caressed my face lovingly and alighted on the green grass in a fluid motion.

I knew it was him. He had liked my garden, he was fond of roses, and so he was happily playing here.

I should have offered him the flower he had asked that day. That remained an everlasting regret!

About the Author:


Vidyadhar Fadnvis, though an engineer by profession and till recently holding a managerial post in Tata Motors, is a known translator from Pune and has translated Firaq, Jigar, and Majaz in Marathi. His recent venture is to write a novel about the travails of a RAW agent in the 1971 War.


Shubhangi Bhadbhade, an award winning writer from Nagpur is a novelist, short-story writer, playwright, editor, and regular columnist for Marathi newspapers. A versatile littérateur, she has authored 75 books, of which a large number has been translated into Hindi, English, Gujarati, Bengali, Udiya, Telugu, and Kannada. As a playwright, she has made a name for herself not only across India but in Dubai as well. She has published 21 biographical novels, 20 social novels, 10 collections of short stories, 11 two-act plays, and 10 books for children, besides having a number of essays and travelogues to her credit. Her oeuvre is a subject of research at the universities of Nagpur, Jabalpur, Pune, and others.


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