The Story Of The Grocer And His Parrot

Mariam Ispahani (
9 May 1995 05:13:09 GMT

The Story Of The Grocer And His Parrot

A grocer found a beautiful parrot for sale in the market, and excited about
his purchase, installed a hook in the ceiling of his little shop, from
which he hung the parrot's cage. He had found the perfect location, right
in the doorway, where the magnificent bird would be easily visible from the
outside. The grocer figured that the parrot, with its colorful plumage and
its gift of speech, would attract many customers. The bird would thus be a
good investment, boosting business for the shop, which had not been doing so
well lately.

Sure enough, just as the grocer had hoped, as soon as the parrot opened its
mouth, curious passerbys who heard him from outside would enter into the
store to listen to the bird's interesting chatter, and would end up buying
something out of courtesy. The shopkeeper named the parrot "Sweet Tongue."

Sweet Tongue was not an ordinary parrot. He seemed not merely to mimic
words but actually to understand their meaning. He could hold conversations
with the grocer and in no time the two became friends.

The business of the grocery flourished, enabling the grocer to move into a
bigger store and expand his inventory. Business was improving so greatly
that he added a few displays of herbal medicine to the store. Eventually,
after the grocer had invested a large sum of money in the shop, he decided
to make a large part of it a complete pharmacy. Hundreds of bottles, large
and small, containing all sorts of oils and ointments, potions and syrups,
went on display.

The appreciative grocer became very fond of his feathered companion and
rewarded the bird by letting him fly freely about the store. One morning,
the grocer unlocked the door to his shop and saw Sweet Tongue flying around,
but all the bottles had been broken and were scattered on the floor. The
parrot had hit the bottles while flying and had knocked them over. A great
investment seemed to have gone down the drain.

The grocer driven by anger, seized Sweet Tongue by the throat and hit him on
the head so many times that the poor bird almost died. Then he threw the
bird into his cage and sat down and cried over the misfortune. Hours later,
the grocer realized that because he had struck the parrot's head, Sweet
Tongue had lost his head feathers. The poor parrot, now totally bald was
confined to his cage again.

In time, the grocer was able to recover the losses to his business.
However, there was one piece of irreparable damage. Sweet Tongue, who now
looked rather ugly, had fallen silent after the incident. The customers who
came merely to enjoy Sweet Tongue's chatter and bright appearance stopped
shopping at the store. The grocer's business, which had flourished before,
began to decline.

The grocer planned various schemes to make the parrot talk again. He tried
tempting him with delicious nuts, but the bird showed no interest. Then he
brought a musician to the store to revive Sweet Tongue's spirit, so that he
would forgive the grocer and speak again, but still he remained mute. In a
last attempt, the grocer brought a female parrot and put her cage in front
of Sweet Tongue's. The grocer told Sweet Tongue that he would set both of
them free to fly about the store if only he would talk. However, the bird
ignored both the grocer and the female parrot.

Finally, the grocer gave up trying. He concluded that the parrot had gone
dumb after the shock to his body, so he left him in peace. Yet, not totally
without hope, the grocer gave alms and prayed. He hoped that perhaps
through his piety the parrot would eventually talk again.

One day, a wandering dervish with a patched cloak and a wooden bowl was
passing by the store. He was totally bald. Suddenly, a nasal voice from
inside the store called out, "Hey, you! How did you end up bald? Did you
break some bottles too?"

The bald dervish turned around to see who had addressed him, and to his
surprise he saw that it was a parrot speaking to him. The grocer, elated by
this sudden stroke of fortune, invited the dervish in and explained the
story of the medicine bottles and how the parrot had become bald and
speechless. The dervish approached the cage and said to Sweet Tongue, "So,
you think the reason I am bald is because of a situation similar to yours?"

"What else could it be?" replied the parrot.

The dervish smiled and said, "My friend, let me give you a word of advice:
no two leaves on a tree are the same! Neither are two people with similar
appearances alike, for one person may reflect on his life's experiences
while the other remains ignorant. There are many, though, who think that
the two are alike. How oblivious they are, for there is no disparity
greater than that between the wise and the ignorant. It is like the
difference between Moses' staff and Aaron's - one has the power of God, the
other that of man; one makes miracles, the other majic. Nothing causes more
trouble than the human habit of judging things by their appearance, because
what might look the same on the surface may not be the same in essence.
Take the example of the honeybee and the bumblebee: they look alike, but
from one comes honey, while from the other comes pain."

The dervish stopped talking and gave the grocer an insightful look, as if
reading his soul. The parrot now sat quietly in his cage, and the grocer
seemed stunned. The dervish then smiled and walked out. Moments later,
when the grocer came to his senses, he realized that such a lesson as he had
been given was not to be taken lightly. He ran outside to thank the
dervish, but the man had disappeared, and no one could recall having seen a
bald dervish in the bazaar that day.

Note: The story above was narrated by Jalaluddin Rumi. I titled the story
and modified it to make it easier. It is from the book, "Tales from the
Land of the Sufis" by Mojdeh Bayat and Mohammad Ali Jamnia.

Mariam Ispahani...(*_*)

Behind each smile are a thousand thoughts
Behind each thought are a million good wishes
Behind each good wish is a sincere heart
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