Reading Time: 2 minutes

Siffar knew she had lived beyond her years. Those whom she knew, loved, and hated had moved on. Where to? This wasn’t her burden. She was already bent over beneath the weight of time and the tiresome length of her years. One hundred two wasn’t a small number. But she had lost count after ninety.

The wrinkles crowded her face, burying her once sharp features. She couldn’t remember her youthful looks but hadn’t forgotten the sighs and longing stares her beauty had evoked. A chuckle could still escape her pruned lips, but the tears were quick to silence it.

She lay on a cot that creaked and wobbled. Her spot in the corridor was fixed. The sunrays and shade greeted her as the day proceeded. It wasn’t her choice where she was placed. The younger ones decided that for her. Age brought despair and exterminated any choice. There really was no room for contentment. It was a silent wait for her breaths to end.

But Siffar kept herself busy. Though her arms and legs had little strength, her eyes could still see a great distance. And her ears never missed a sound or whisper. However, this simply added to her torment. What good were these senses if she couldn’t act upon them? So to soothe herself and entertain others, she sang like a songbird.

The words and tunes often blurred in her head but her tongue was quick to rectify any missteps. Though her voice had thickened, it could still convey the sweetness of melody. No one ever stopped or interrupted her. Her performances were silently acknowledged. Food and water gave her the strength to resume her tender renderings.

The clinking of coins and the dramatic murmurs made her sing a notch louder. Nothing ever came free in this world. It was a sad but fierce reality. Siffar had been a daughter, wife, mother, lover, and friend. But now she was nothing more than a relic.


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43 Comments on “The Songbird Relic – Flash Fiction Story

  1. What an honest picture of the plight of old people. The longevity is an empty word if the quality of life cannot be improved. What’s the point–being neglected while all the friends and acquaintances gone. Surviving really means very little when thriving is denied. It is harder for women since the income is lower and the life is longer. Still, life is worth a fight…

    • Thank you for such a lovely comment, Haoyan. Definitely quantity can never beat quality. But what to do when one is still lingering on? It’s sad when existence is equivalent to helplessness. This applies to both the young and old, but age adds to the misery.

  2. Such a poignant description. I could see the wrinkles and feel the pain, lack of choice amd inability of movement brings with age. As usual a wonderful read!!

    • Thank you so much, Deepak. I often wonder that many of us feel so helpless and stuck at different points in our lives that when old age is also to be dealt with, the suffering can only multiply. I appreciate your encouragement and support. 🙂

  3. What a sad story. We all want to reach a great old age – but we don’t really think about the practicalities, the way the days will look like, feel like, from the inside out, when the body has become fragile and unwilling, to the point that we’re dependent on others. Love the way you portray Siffar. I can hear her sing.

    • I think one should only live till an age where one can take care of themselves. But that’s not really in one’s hand, is it? Let’s just pray that the days to come aren’t harsh to bear. I can hear Siffar sing too. Thank you so much, Britta. 🙂

  4. A bitter-sweet balance here… the sadness of what Siffar has lost, especially her loved ones, and the loveliness of her singing. Wonderful that her voice stayed sweet — and that she chose to share it with others.

    • That’s such a lovely comment, Dave. Looking at the positive in the negative. That’s what gets one through the bad times. Thank you so much. 🙂

  5. Such an honest and true portrayal of old age in our country especially for the destitute. Have seen many people like this old lady. Abandoned and helpless but still spirited, enough Thanks, Terveen.

  6. I fight so hard to stay alive but you tell the story so well of my mother-in-law, still alive at 93 but not the alive I am fighting for.

  7. There is much sadness in this story, Terveen; yet, I also get a glimpse of joy. Joy of a life once lived. Wonderfully created, and delivered. ☺️

  8. 102! That feels like two lives lived in a single birth. It must be a nightmare, especially if you are on your own, isn’t it? Some of the words you have chosen convey the picture with great effect. Good tale Terveen.

    • You’re so right, Vignesh. It’s actually two lifetimes in one. And when there’s little to look forward to, it’s really a curse. Thanks so much! 🙂

  9. We humans are a fickle lot. We’re always on the lookout for things to expand our lifespan but now there’s a growing desire to live to be 75 and not a day older because the simple truth is living too long is a loss that renders us faltering, declining, or even disabled, which is a state worse than death.

    Imagine Siffar’s plight, the enfeebled busker, robbed of her creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world, which transforms how people experience, relate to, and, most important, remember her. Who among us want to be remembered as frail, ineffectual, even pathetic?

    I doff my hat to you and your talent, my dear lady.

    • People are valued for their contributions. That’s an undeniable truth! You are what you give, and if that’s nothing, then it’s pretty clear what your value equates to. Life should be an experience and not a deadweight. But if that’s what fate has in store for you, then WHAT TO DO? Pray that it ends without tears, remorse, hopelessness, and guilt. Thanks so much, Rhyan. You always make thoughts look so pretty. 🙂

  10. It’s certainly hard for Siffar. My grandmother died at the age of hundred and five. To be honest, she didn’t like how my mum carried her about and fed her like a baby. She wasn’t sick till her death but she was too old to eat. That makes me stop desiring any age above 95. Old age is a blessing especially when is graceful but it’s hard for the old when it gets too old.
    Your writing is always good, Terveen. Keep writing.

    • Thank you so much, Florence. The thought behind your words is a beautiful one. Ageing should always be graceful. Pray for good and strong days ahead. I can understand your mother’s and grandmother’s dilemma. It’s tough for both. I appreciate that you shared this. Take care. 🙂

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