“I will grant the bird anything that is within my power to give,” replied the merchant, “but I cannot grant its freedom, as I am traveling to India and will be gone forty days. Can I bring it something from its homeland.”
The sage whispered to the bird, who began to flap its wings and sing. He told the merchant that she would be healed if, while away, he were to visit a forest where similar birds live and announce that one of her sisters lies captive at his home.
Puzzled by the instruction, but delighted to see his bird well again, the merchant agreed.
Weeks later, overtaken by homesickness and remembering the instruction, the merchant rushed to a nearby forest where birds swarmed in sweet song and announced: “one of your sisters is caged and held captive at my home.” Immediately, one of them fell senseless to the ground. Shaken by its sudden death, the merchant rushed home.
Puzzled to see his bird still overcome by illness, he whispered to her: “I have sad news. When told of your captivity, one of your sisters fell immediately to the ground, dead.”
As he spoke, the bird collapsed. Aghast, the merchant exclaimed: “What misfortune. Now my bird is dead too!” With sorrow he retrieved and placed her on the window sill. At once, she revived, flew out and perched on a branch far from him.
Text: Maulana Jalalu-’d-din Muhammad Rumi, The Masnavi, Book I, Story VII, adapted by Michael