The Story Line / Plot Summary
The short story “The blue bead” written by Norah Burke in 1953 is all about a twelve-year-old girl; her heroic deed and a simple, innocent wish.
The story starts with the description of a river and a crocodile and then transitions into the description of a twelve-year-old poor girl Sibia. Though she was too poor to buy gems or even blown glass beads, she loved to admire the various types of beads, Kashmiri clothes, even the shining tin trays that were sold in a Bazaar or market near the railhead of the village. All the females in her village had different necklaces made from colourful glass beads which grew in abundance in the jungle, sewn by their respective family needles. But Sibia’s family needle was snapped in half, so she had to wait until they could afford a new needle again.
One day, Sibia, her mother and other women of the village went into the jungle to collect paper grass, to be sold in the market. All the women were wearing various colourful necklaces whereas Sibia had none. On her way she kept fantasising of having her own coloured beads to sew various necklaces, bracelets to decorate her thin, oil-browned figure.
The river is full of deadly crocodiles so the women make loud noises while crossing the stream because the noises scare the crocodiles away. They steep the Ghats or the banks of the river, collect the paper grass and return back to the village but Sibia lags behind intentionally to check the cave where she had kept her own handmade clay moulded cups and saucers to dry. While wandering around she sees that another woman has come to collect water in her Gurrah (pot). While doing so a crocodile rises suddenly out of the black water and grabs the woman’s leg between his sharp, uneven teeth.
The woman tries to grab onto a rock to save herself but the crocodile is too ferocious for her. Sibia throws her hayfork at the crocodile and it wedges right in its eye. Groaning in agony, the crocodile lets go of the woman. Sibia heaves the woman back onto the bank, away from the stream. She stops the blood by putting sand on the wounds and binds a rag tightly over the wounded area. Then she helps her to the near Gujar encampment from where the men carry her to a hospital.
Sibia goes back into the jungle to get her grass, sickle and fork. The fork was lying near a rock and while picking it up she comes across a pretty blue bead. She plucks it out of water and her joy knew no bounds when she saw that it was already pierced, ready for use. A happy girl, she was returning home. On her way back, she comes across her mother who’s searching for her. She scolds her for being late, as she was afraid that something wrong might have happened to Sibia. In answer, Sibia narrates what actually happened and shows her mother the blue bead. And with that it’s a wrap in the story.
The Blue Bead: A Commentary
Norah Aileen Burke was most famous for her style of description of life in India during the early 20th century. “The Blue Bead” is based on the simple, innocent wish of Sibia who’s the main character of the story.
The story is set up in a typical Indian village of the 20th-century. And the description about the situations is on point; realistic, simple yet effective in grabbing the reader’s attention. The author takes her time to describe the surrounding where the story takes place; starting from the crocodile and river. The description builds an anticipation in the reader’s mind about what’s gonna happen next.
The writing style is quite elegant with a touch of Indian colloquialness. Though there are several characters, utmost importance and most scenes are given to Sibia’s character and to the description of the place. Sibia’s character is quite simple, innocent yet brave; a girl with a small wish to have a new necklace.
The plot is quite simple but has its own powerful message to convey – if you want something badly enough and have patience to wait and work for it then you’re bound to get it.
It also shows the real rueful situations of old Indian village families; how they have to struggle every day for their living, how they find happiness in even tiny little things and celebrate it in grandeur, their simple and innocent wishes, the critical surroundings.
The emotions of Sibia which are portrayed quite beautifully are bound to touch your heart with its pureness. Overall, ‘The Blue Bead’ is a beautiful story which will imprint on you with its simplicity.