What is the true value of life?
This question has puzzled philosophers and scientists alike for centuries. Sometimes, people who are not from either of these two categories (read ‘Average people’) are also put in amazement by this seven-worded interrogative sentence. Mostly, they need a trigger to make them wonder about life. For me, the trigger occurred at around the age of 10.
It was the summer of 1998, and my vacations were on. It was always an awesome feeling to worry about almost nothing. Of course, my area of responsibility was limited to my school tasks. And this was the time when all I thought about was playing and my pocket-money. I have to say that I miss that time a lot. A lot of my friends started keeping pets, mostly birds. I wanted a bird, too, and the only thing I could afford was a baby chick. So I went one day to this roadside seller and had to wait a decent 15 minutes till my turn came. There were always so many children wanting to buy baby chicks and raising them. I had never thought about raising one, I just wanted to own it. I loved the way they chirped. The sound always had a soothing way about it. I wanted to buy a couple of chicks. I asked the seller how much would two cost. “Rs. 3 per chicken”, he said rather rudely. I checked my pockets and found Rs. 5. After trying a few minutes to bargain with the man, I returned home with one yellow (my favorite color, then) chick and two one-rupee coins. Mom was immediately pissed, not because she hated pets, but because she thought I should have bought at least two chicks. “They don’t like being alone. It will die if it does not have a partner”, she said. I was not willing to go and buy another one. Mom let me be.
I started taking care of my new little friend, feeding him, cleaning him, taking him along if I ever went downstairs. It was a very good feeling. I had my own pet, my first one. I never talked to my friends about him, though. I don’t know why, but I felt they would disturb him. I wanted to name him, but I could not come to a conclusion. Perhaps, I thought there was no name cute enough to suit him. He would often follow me when I went out to play, and I would have to keep him in a shoe-box that I had punched holes in for him to stay. I can say he liked it, because there was hardly any sound he made once inside that box.
As he grew, I noticed that he started getting irritated. There were times he would just stand still. I asked Mom what could be the reason. “He needs a partner”, she said. I thought for a while and replied that I was his partner. I was proud. Mom did not respond, squaring her shoulders and leaving me with him. This really got me angry. I started to walk out of the house, the chick in my hand. He suddenly started making a lot of sound. But his chirps, that I once found soothing, were now infuriating me. As I stepped outside, he bit me. I could not believe he did this to me. In a fit of hot-blooded rage, I threw him on the ground and proceeded to move ahead, not looking at him. It was only once I heard rapid fluttering of wings that I turned around. He was struggling to get up, flapping his wings wildly. They were no longer of my favorite color. They were red, soaked in his own blood. I panicked, taking him in my hands and looking at him helplessly. I was so shocked, I could not even manage to cry. And there was a moment when all his movement ceased.
At the age of 10, I murdered my best friend.
To say that I miss it would be wrong. But yes, I regret being angry for that moment. He had done nothing wrong. He did not choose to be painted yellow. He did not ask me to buy him. I held him captive, when he was supposed to be enjoying under the warmth of his mother’s feathers. I called myself his partner moments before I killed him. Though I was only a child at that time, it is a matter of great shame for me. To this day, I have not had another pet.
That day, my pet chick not only caused me to wonder what is life, it also gave me the answer:
“Your life is only worth how much you value the life of others.”
Image courtesy: goldenmillinc.com