I had been walking through the alleyways of Kabul's infamous bird market, lost in my own train of thought and mesmerized by the birds when suddenly I ran into something and looked down to see a little boy's big brown eyes looking at me furiously.

"You scared Tooti!"He shouted angrily at me, as a little green parrot squawked and flew off his shoulder onto one of the ledges by the shop window. "Who's Tooti?" I asked, peering around to see if there was another child I might have accidentally trampled. "Tooti is my parrot," he responded, rolling his eyes as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.

I looked at the green parrot who was looking back at me, seeming to mirror his friend's frustration, prancing back and forth angrily. "What does that name mean, Tooti?" I asked curiously, hoping for the chance to expand my limited Farsi vocabulary.

The boy looked at me incredulously, as though he couldn't believe I was asking such a silly question. "Tooti means parrot." I looked back over to him, mirroring his incredulous expression. "You named your parrot, parrot?" I asked, trying to hold my laughter in.

"My dad wouldn't let me call him a human name, he said it's an animal, give it an animal name. So I named him Tooti" he responded defiantly. Tooti suddenly squawked and flew back onto the boy's shoulder. "Khaareji, Khaareji" it squawked happily.

The boy laughed, looking at me and back at his parrot. "He called you a foreigner, because that's what you are", he said, grinning at me mockingly. I couldn't hold it in, I burst out laughing, and the boy joined me, while Tooti squawked happily on his shoulder. Our laughter echoed, blending in with the sounds of the alley.

Suddenly, we heard a voice coming from inside the shop. "Bilal biyaa eenja!", the booming voice called. "I must go, my baba is calling me!" Said the boy, readjusting the teapot on his hand. "It was nice to meet you and Tooti," I responded, smiling.

I waited until he had gone inside the shop, and I continued my way down the alley, realizing that the birds of Afghanistan seemed to be just as clever and charming as its people....


Story and illustration by @rasmorawaj ©

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