Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CL. Stories My Grandmother Told Me (2 of 10)

The case of the remorseful snake

This story is not believable, at least to me. But you decide if you want to believe it!

Bida’s dad was a salesman. He took his goods from place to place and sold them. He was not restricted to any type of wares, if the interest was there, he carried the merchandise (or samples), and did his best to sell it and make a profit.

One day, he came home with a fantastic story told to him by one of his customers. His family did not believe him, but out of respect, they did not contradict him. Little did they know that a similar incident would take place under their roof.

In those days, there was no indoor plumbing. A huge clay vessel contained all the water the family needed. One day, in the middle of the night, the family heard a huge cracking sound. They woke up and found the container cracked and the water flooding the whole house.

Back then, in addition to the usual undesirable guests, a home could be inhabited by a snake.

The Chochan family had such a guest! And nothing less than divine intervention saved their life on that night.

This snake had baby snakes. One day it could not find them. It, therefore, went to the water’s vessel, lifted the cover, and spit poison in it. Later, it located the little ones. It then went to the vessel again, coiled itself around it, and using its powerful muscles, cracked it.

The family thanked God for saving them; cleaned the mess; bought a new water jug; and wondered about the actions of that snake.

The story of Bida’s father was now believed. This has happened at least twice: With his customer, and in his own home.

There are obviously a lot of questions here. As a child I accepted this story as is. Later, I questioned whether a snake can think this way! Can it be first vindictive, and then remorseful? Too far-fetched, I think. There are more questions that I won’t raise here. I am sure you have your own questions. If you’re a herpetologist you may have you own professional opinion.

The impertinent parrot

Bida’s landlady, Mounira, had a parrot who was a very good talker. Unfortunately, his language was foul! The problem stemmed from the fact that Mounira’s family was not refined; and this was reflected in the language used in the household. To be fair, they didn’t continually use a gross language. But, unfortunately, the parrot generally (but not exclusively) focused on the most offensive words in the Arabic language; and this is what he choose to memorize and repeat. As well, he was very intelligent; to some extent, he used language that fitted the particular circumstances or persons present. (It has been shown that parrots, if intelligent enough, can engage in a dialogue of sort with humans; it could, for instance, answer a few simple questions).

When Bida went to visit Mounira, the parrot was usually silent. If he said anything, it was usually to compliment my grandmother! According to Mounira, he really liked her. You see, that parrot had his preferences. There were, however, times when an unwelcome visitor came, and that parrot tore into him or her. And my nonna cringed upon hearing such language.

There came a time when Mounira decided to fulfil an important obligation as a good Muslim: travel to Mecca to perform her Hajj.

The house would be empty. Mounira, a widow, had many children, but they had married and left the house a long time ago. Before she left for her pilgrimage, she needed to find a person she could trust to leave her parrot with. And the obvious choice was Bida! She lived in the same building and the parrot liked her!

Even today, after hearing the parrot’s story countless times, I cannot convey to you how shocked Bida was. But there was no choice in the matter. Mounira was her landlady, and the two were good friends. As well, she was going on a holy pilgrimage. Refusing to “birdsit” her parrot would have been unthinkable.

The parrot took an instant dislike to nonno Michael! Presumably his heavily accented Arabic ruffled some feathers! So Michael made himself scarce! But that proved to be the least of my grandmother’s problems.

Bida had a circle of friends who met once a week for lunch and to play Komkam (similar to Gin Rummy). Where they gathered depended on whose turn it was to receive the rest. As luck would have it, it was my nonna’s turn to receive her friends the very week she had the parrot.

The parrot didn’t like any of the ladies. However, there was one he particularly disliked. The woman in question was portly; and that wicked parrot noticed that and harped on her weight problem. Nonna put the parrot in a faraway room; it didn’t help, it made a terrific ruckus. Next, she covered him, it got worse, he unleashed a string of obscenities that totally shocked the visitors. Next, she brought it back after the fat lady hid. Nothing doing; it knew she was around.

How did it end? The visit was aborted. No lunch and no card game on that day!

When Mounira came back, she could no longer be called just by her name. From now on, she was referred to as Hagga Mounira. A privilege you acquire only after you go to the Hejjaz (Mecca), and perform your pilgrimage.

Fine. So what was reported to the Hagga? The parrot? He was no trouble at all! Even if you are a Westerner, I am sure you’ll understand my grandmother’s position: This lady was a good friend and she had just come back from a holy pilgrimage.

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