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     Volume 12 |Issue 05| February 01, 2013 |


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Mea Culpa

Syed Maqsud Jamil

Maulana Rumi's 'Masnavi' has a story tell. A renowned Sultan had a parrot in a golden cage. The Sultan was going for a hunting expedition. He asked the parrot what message he would convey to its brethren. The parrot told the Sultan to convey the message that it is well looked after in a golden cage. The Sultan reached a forest and found flocks of parrot in the trees. He conveyed the message to its brethren. But to his astonishment on hearing his message all the parrots dropped dead from the trees. On reaching home the Sultan described the incident to his parrot. More surprises were in store for the Sultan. Immediately on receiving the news the parrot dropped dead from its perch. The Sultan's men brought out the parrot and threw it away in the courtyard. The greatest of all surprise came when the parrot sprang up and flew away to the blue sky. Freedom is the natural habitat of living creatures. And the other things the human beings and living creatures share in common are hunger, survival and sex (procreation for living creatures).

Human beings--most gifted among God's creatures, feed and feast on other living creatures of their liking, even some among them find body parts of some wild animals worth using for therapeutic and aphrodisiac value. They have the age- old fancy of keeping birds in cages and confinement to add elegance to the house.

Let me come back to Maulana Rumi's parrots. Kaptan Bazar near Wari is the market which sells parrots, quails, mynas and an assortment of species, chirping love birds with lovely hues of blue and green, rabbits, turkeys, guinea pigs and small puppies etc. kept in cages. I even found a kite in a cage. It was in a bedraggled condition. I understood that kites have become an endangered species. Even leftovers of meats in bazaars do not draw the kites. The parrots and birds make a brisk business.

All these birds love freedom. Fortune tellers in the city have been using parrots in picking up an envelope with the prediction. I asked one of the fortune tellers if the parrots fly away when they come out. He informed me that he does not take the risk, their wings are clipped. I know a family who had a parrot and it was not kept in a cage. It perched on a hanging roll, and often it used to come down and move around the box type apartment; however the windows remained closed most of the time. The only intelligible word it used to mimic was 'Mithu'. It appeared that Mithu has taken the family as its own. But one day it slipped through the open window and flew away.

Here is my side of the story. Nearly a year back, our domestic worker brought a parrot that looked scruffy, perhaps because of neglect. Somebody from the nearby apartment complex had handed it over to her with the belief that open space in our house would be suitable for its care and attention. She came home very happy on becoming a 'malkin' (mistress). Soon a cage was brought and the parrot was put into it and placed in the veranda. The parrot made a screeching sound. The domestic worker was the first to express her annoyance with the jarring sound. My daughter joined in this disapproval. So, it was transferred to the staircase landing to the roof. That became a vantage position for it to greet whoever was walking up or down the stairs. My wife observed perhaps the single parrot needed company. Another parrot was brought from Kaptan Bazar and the two were put on the roof to put the jarring sound at a distance.

A stray cat was on the prowl. The day came when it succeeded in getting through the door opening of the cage. The newcomer was gone, feasted on by the cat, the domestic worker found her parrot with its tail gone and cowering under the shade of guava plant in a concrete tub. It had survived but its confinement became even more rigorous. A lock was put on the door opening.

Winter came. The cage with the parrot was covered with a piece from a gunny bag and it remains on the roof during the day and sometimes even after darkness has settled. Alone and confined in devouring darkness. Even opportunities of glimpses of human souls are confined to feeding time. When night descends it is brought inside and is placed under a table near the roof door.

I failed the other time with the dog. It is purgatory revisited. I pleaded meekly that one who sees the beauty of freedom in the flight of a flock of parrots after the sunset this purgatory is like bearing the cross. It will end when Mithu succumbs in dark loneliness. The tale of Mithu is my mea culpa (latin for ‘my fault’ or ‘my mistake’). This is the story of many Mithus, God's little creatures, sacrifices of mankind's love of pleasure. On rare occasions when I visit Mithu it squeaks weakly and then looks the other way round. I found it is trying to increase the gap between the thin ductile bars in the lattice of the cage with its beak. In some places it has succeeded. The inmates of the house tried to teach Mithu the word 'Khalu' (That's me). The efforts have not produced any result, so they are angry with the 'stubborn' creature.

In fact human beings have many things to atone for. The litany of their wrongful treatment of lesser creatures is getting painful because of the apathy and the love of uncaring pleasure in it.


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