An embarrassing debate [Archives:2006/958/Culture]

June 26 2006

By: Salwa Yehia Al-Eryani
One day I went to buy an aquarium. I like to be surrounded by living creatures in my house, especially fish and plants. I had around 10,000 Yemeni Riyals (YR) in my wallet but I imagined that the medium size aquarium would only cost 3,000YR.

I entered one of the gift shops in Sana'a and found myself face to face with a fantastic gray, with a red beak parrot inside a golden cage. It was quite active and made a lot of sounds. Its eyes were full of challenge and perseverance, values no longer existing in our culture as we are now the people of (OK, just let it go). Life has shaken us far too violently and left nothing inside our collapsing vacant souls except that deep honest belief in Allah. Not forgetting also that there is still a pinch of the ability to feel sorry.

I left that parrot behind me and went upstairs where the aquariums were located. I want no living thing daily picking on and provoking me with its strong powerful looks. I prefer fish. The fish swim smoothly and die quietly. They leave no name, no heavy heritage behind them nor even a memory. They need my care and attention to survive. They make me feel myself valuable and worthy. When I went upstairs I was surprised with the prices. They were 95,000 yr or over 100,000 yr. I changed my mind and decided to take a small size aquarium. Those were around 8,000 yr. I stood there thinking about it. Fish die easily. A little more amount of their food would make them die. They don't realize that they are full. The power is cut a lot these days and they might die out of lack of oxygen. Why on earth shall I buy myself an additional thing to worry about? I have enough worries as it is, and enough is enough. Suddenly, I changed my mind and went downstairs.

Again I saw that gray parrot, it was from Kenya. It was looking at me straight in the eyes. I stood in front of it to watch it. It was moving a wheel like exactly like they are trained in a circus. My three-year-old son liked it a lot. He laughed loudly watching its actions. It entertained him tremendously. I really found it beautiful. I read on the table that the cage was put on, 7,500 yr and I decided to buy it. At least this is a long lasting creature. I took out the money and asked the assistant seller in the shop to kindly put it inside my car. He surprised me that this price was for the table and that the parrot was worth $600. I smiled with envy for its high price. Not all living things in this country can be worth this much.

They caught this parrot from a forest in Africa. They stole its freedom and wilderness. They put it in a cage in a strange environment here in Yemen with no space for it to even spread its wings. They did a lot of harm to this defenseless creature. After all this they still want to sell it and earn even more from it. How cruel. I saw a small chair and I sat to watch how it was behaving. I really admired it.

I was surprised that the parrot seemed to be disturbed because I was watching it. It looked at me from toe to head, then from head to toe. It seemed to be an intelligent bird. Its eyes were very talkative. I read its conversation with out words. I understood it was asking me why I was watching it? It said a lot to me. It asked me if I was such a fool to imagine that I was any better than it or my situation any more civilized than its. It told me that it was inside a cage and so am I although mine had imaginary bars. That parrot was debating with me and I was definitely the loser. It asked me if I thought I was free to live the way I want. I shook my head as to no. It asked me if I am free to say what I want or do what I feel like doing. I shook my head again. It asked me if I too want to go to another land, if there is such land, where I don't feel injustice and indifference. I nodded. Your rights are being stepped on too? It asked. I nodded. You hate hunters and thieves too but can do nothing about them? I nodded. You feel really fed up like me? I nodded. You long for success and fulfilling your ambitions and feel like giving up? I nodded. You long for breathing clean air. I nodded.

I felt it was mocking me, when I imagined it asking me: I feel sorry for you, do you want to trade places? Here I felt insulted by that courageous daring parrot. I decided to open its small door and set it free. And I did. The men in the shop started shouting and running all around trying to stop it from escaping. They didn't know that I was the one who opened its door. They couldn't capture it. I told them leave it stretch its wing because in this environment of ours it wont be free even if it is flying in the sky.