The Deer, Love and Freedom
Zeenath Jahan

Someone once gave us a beautiful little deer. I suppose it was getting burdensome to take care of an animal you couldnít pet or play with. An animal that really didnít like you may be difficult to love and an animal that is constantly trying to get away from you may result in even more work!

We kept the deer in our garden. We tied the wild, gentle deer to a strong, long rope attached to a strong peg. The deer had beautiful brown eyes that were warm and trusting, as though trust was a natural part of itís being, and yet it was so fearful. Why? Why was fearful of trusting, wanting and not wanting at the same time? What had happened to it? Who had hurt the deer badly enough for it to forget the natural, instinctive trust it was born with? Although the deer lived with us for some time, it never trusted us enough to allow us to stroke it and show it our love.†The moment we tried to get close its eyes would roll, showing terrified whites and it would dart around, pulling at the rope, trying to get away from the danger we seemed to pose to it.

I sat there in the garden staring at it and no matter how much I loved it, I couldnít gain its trust. Maybe some terrible event in its life had taught it to lose the habit of trust somewhere along the way?

The people who gave the deer to us fed it regularly but generally ignored it. They were neither cruel to it, nor did they go out of their way to be kind to it. I donít know how it was captured from its home; I donít know which forest it called Ďhomeí. I donít know if it remembered the shady, woody groves where it had been born. I donít know if it mourned the loss of those it had left behind. All I know is that it lived in my garden, tied to a long rope and ran from us when we tried to get close.

If you held out a piece of fruit,†or a succulent branch for it to nibble on, it would hesitatingly come up to you, itís breath fluffing fearfully on your palm. You had to remain very, very still, for the slightest movement made it run, the whites of its beautiful soft eyes crazed with fear; desirous yet afraid of what it desired. What did the deer fear? Did it fear losing the freedom it had already lost? Was a lifetime being tied to a long rope in some garden still sweet?

Strangely, when our dog approached it, sniffing curiously at the new animal in the garden, the deer pawed the ground, lowering its head, ready for battle. This was an enemy that it knew how to fight! Sadly, it was the human beast that had broken its spirit and so it recognized humans as dangerous.

Day in and day out I tried to win the deerís love and trust. It never failed to impress upon me that it hated the sight of humans. Finally, the fear in itís eyes became more than I could bear. It made me feel loathsome and cruel. Putting myself in the deerís place I could see why it feared me, maybe even hated me? How could I keep something so beautiful, so gentle when it didnít want to be with me?

I did not know how and where to set it free; maybe I didnít really try to find its natural habitat; coward that I am, I gave the deer away to some friends to be tied to a long, strong rope attached to a strong peg in another garden. The deer was destined to be a living ornament for humans who enjoyed having living ornaments in their gardens which is why other humans stole into the peaceful forests and stole the deer.

I told the story to a friend and he said that the magic of Love would have eventually worked if I had tried hard enough. All I had to do was to love the deer enough. He believed I would have gained its trust with my love, in time. I disagreed.

There are some things we cannot change no matter how hard we try. The deer had seen too many bad things in life and it had learned a very bitter lesson it would not, could not forget. Besides, the deer could only have accepted my love if it was free to reject it; ĎLoveí could only have helped me gain its trust if it was free in its forest. A prisoner is always suspicious of overtures by itsí jailorí, and unfortunately I was one of its jailors.†True love cannot be given or taken by force and love and trust can only be exchanged between equals.

If I had met the deer when we were both on an equal footing (in the woods perhaps?), then, there may have been a chance of gaining its trust through love; for then, there would have been a choice too. How many choices do you have, tied to a long rope? More than anything else in the world, it wanted its Freedom and I couldnít give it what it wanted most. How could the deer, that had seen so much betrayal, trust in my love when I couldnít give it what it wanted? All I could do under the circumstances was to set myself free from the pain of my own helplessness. ĎBeautyí is beloved by all, but Love is not really served by all, and Trust is frequently betrayed. Selfishly we chase our own dreams, our own needs and desires, not stopping to think of the dreams or needs or desires of another. We want to love and be loved, but only on our own terms. Where Love is all about giving, our rapacity can only think of taking.

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