Saba looked sulkily at the scattered toys on the floor. She was bored. It was no fun playing with the stuffed teddy bear or the train that went round and round or the big Barbie doll everyday. Her toys could not talk to her nor listen to her words.
“They are not proper friends,” she thought angrily.
She left her bedroom and went in search of a playmate. Her parents were both doctors and would not be home before dinner. She saw Rani in the living room, glued to the television screen.
“Rani, please play with me,” she asked her housemaid.
Rani shooed the little girl away. “ I am watching a very exciting drama. Go and play with your toys,” she said, without taking her eyes off the TV.
Saba went to her grandmother’s room. She was resting on the bed with a tasbeeh in her hand.
“Dadi ji, will you play hide and seek with me?” asked Saba.
Her grandmother smiled fondly. “Dear girl, just hearing the words hide and seek give me pain in my joints and knees. Are you bored? Why don’t you lie down for a while?”
But Saba did not want to rest. She wanted to play. So she slipped to her older brother’s room next. Taimur was playing a computer game and frowned at his sister.
“Go away. Don’t disturb me,” he said a little rudely. He was about to reach the next level and did not like the interruption.
Saba hurriedly went out of his room. Her eyes filled with tears. “Who shall I play with?” she wondered.
She went out in the garden and sat on the swing. It was a very pleasant afternoon with a slight breeze that made the clouds race each other in the sky. Saba swung to and fro for a while. Her eyes soon rested on a chubby, green caterpillar crawling on a leaf-stalk.
“How interesting,” Saba thought and slipped off the swing to watch it more closely.
The hairy caterpillar crawled staidly till it disappeared in the thick foliage. Saba then spied two red and black ladybirds. They looked very lovely against the green leaves.
As Saba followed their journey across the flower bed, she saw some very pretty butterflies, fluttering above the flowers. There was a small white one and a big black and brown one but Saba liked the pink one best.
“Hello butterflies,” she called to them.”Would you like to be my friends?”
Saba then ran after her ‘friends’ moving her arms up and down like the butterflies’ wings. Suddenly, the whole garden seemed alive to her. She saw a big green frog hopping from one place to another and hopped after it, imitating its croak. A whole colony of ants went in a straight line across the garden till they disappeared in an ant hill.
“Just like marching soldiers,” she thought.
Then she saw some brown sparrows sitting on the tree branches, the garden lamp and the boundary wall.
On an impulse, she went inside and brought back the bread from the kitchen. She broke the whole loaf in little pieces and scattered it in the garden. Quietly, she sat down on her swing. Almost immediately, dozens of sparrows, crows, pigeons and even a woodpecker swooped down on the food. They would fly down, hop towards the bread in cautious manner and taking a piece in their beak, fly away at once. They called out to each other and the air was full of chirps and caws.
Saba felt as if the whole garden was teeming with her friends. The birds grew bolder and even came to collect the pieces near her feet.
“Oh you missed that piece,” Saba called out to the little sparrows. It seemed as if they understood her as they diligently cleared the grass.
Saba had a great time. That night her parents were amazed to see their daughter chirpy and happy. She was usually so sulky and difficult. Saba told them about her garden playmates and they both enjoyed her story.
“We’ll buy some earthen pottery for your playmates, Saba and a sack full of grains” said her mother.” Then you can give them food and water everyday.”
So everyday, Saba fed her friends who waited for her in the garden, calling to her to come outside and play with them. They greeted her with chirrups and twitters and flew around her.
Saba was completely happy now.