Sunday, December 1, 2013


Let me tell you a little story about the mother hen and me. Calm down, its not that kind of story. This story happened some time back at the onset of the rainy season.

It was a dark and stormy night, as Snoopy would have had it. As per the usual nightly routine I made my way to the stables to give the horses and the fishes their supper (yes, catfish feed mostly at night and horses like to munch during the night when they get bored). The rain fell steadily as I rushed to get over the routine soonest possible. Just as I was finishing I noticed something blocking the drain which ran along the length of the stables. A blocked drain would cause a spillover which will only create a mess of the already soggy grounds. Expecting a bunch of leaves or something similar I approached the cause of the blockage and what greeted me was a total surprise. Squatting quietly in the drain was a hen half soaked in water. Without any protest (most probably numbed with cold) she allowed me to pick her up. 

As I held her I felt something wriggling beneath her. I lifted her higher and a little chick fell from beneath her wings, perfectly dry and warm. How the mother hen could have kept her warm in the flooded drain was beyond my comprehension. Without any hesitation I placed the chick in the incubator with other newborns and left the mother to go back to her usual perch. She must have been relieved. You see, she belonged to a group of recalcitrant chickens who refused to be housed with the other chickens in the hen-house. They would roost wherever they wish, mostly on top of the stables. Everything would be fine if they do not have young ones to take care of. With her usual perch on top of the stable it would not be possible to bring the chick back up for the night, hence the night spent at ground level.

This little episode got me thoughtful for along while. Why did she choose the drain instead of somewhere more convenient, say at the base of one of the big durian trees, in between the buttress roots. The answer drew on me. On open ground she and baby would have been visible to the dogs. Whilst the dogs have been taught that the chickens are off limits, one of them, Socks, sometimes finds the temptation to much for her tender heart to bear. Socks is a Collie with the most endearing of eyes and the sweetest of smiles which belie a fiendish attitude. I swear she must have been part fox. As a pup, she has been seen going after chickens and when caught in the act, she would give that "who me??..." denying look with her mouth full of feathers. As an adult, she is the only dog who would busily following us around when we are rounding the chickens for sale, seemingly offering assistance, whilst suspiciously licking her dripping mouth.

So the choice of the drain as a refuge was a smart move by the mother hen. That way she would not be visible to Socks. So who says chickens are dumb. One point for intelligence. But she did not account for the flooding drain. So shall we take away that one point.

But what touched me most was the sense of love, devotion and sacrifice demonstrated by the simple mother hen. It was most moving to see her half frozen in the drain, risking life and limb to keep her chick safe and dry. On that score I would think that she would put some, if not many humans to shame. Strange that a creature with limited intelligence and lacking in the spiritual self, as we humans like to believe can demonstrate such devotion to duty and love. What I saw was humbling and it opened another window to the endless wonders and mysteries of God's creation.

I am reminded of a saying of the Prophet (May peace be upon him). He said, " Knowledge/Wisdom is the lost camel of the believer. He picks it up where he finds it and from whichever vessel it ensues.". In this case I learned a new meaning of love, care and devotion from the most unlikely vessel, a mother hen. My late grandfather used to tell me to respect my teachers, even if they happened to be a little boy, for they are purveyors of knowledge and wisdom. I guess now I have to give chickens more respect than for their delicious meat.

The choice of camel as a symbol of lost property by the Prophet (pbuh), is quite interesting. The Prophet (pbuh) was an Arab and he was speaking to a Arab audience. To the Arab peoples, then and now, the camel is something very dear and valuable to their hearts, hence lost property = lost camel. To the Arabs the camel is among the most beautiful of creatures and many poems are recited over campfires extolling the virtues and beauty of so-and-so camel. Of course to non-Arabs like me and many others like me, this is something we would have to work very hard to understand, what more appreciate. I mean, horses, cats, dogs, even tigers, lions and arowana fish, yes, I can see the beauty in them. But camels? But never mind, to each of us his own.

The Arabs' love for camels is demonstrated yet again in another amuzing, yet gentle incident. The Prophet (pbuh) was describing paradise to a group of companions. In the middle of the discourse, a bedouin, interrupted and asked the Prophet (pbuh) if there are camels in paradise. The Prophet (pbuh) replied, "yes" and continued with his discussion,. Not believing his ears, the bedouin asked the Prophet (pbuh) again, and was given the same answer. A bit later as if to really make sure, the bedouin asked again, and the Prophet (pbuh) laughed and told him that there are camels the likes of which he has and will never see on earth. Satisfied, the Bedouin  left for his tent, probably reinforced in his determination to work for paradise where there are beautiful camels.

What is amuzing about the incident, is the demonstration of the wide spectrum of human interests, which ranges from the simple camel to the sublime ideals and principles of metaphysics. And God being the all merciful and gentle provides for all.

Goodnight and salam to all from Pak Din.