August 22, 2008

The crows are back --- new, improved!

We haven’t had crows in this locality for years. Mainly because most of the old houses (including ours) have given way to apartment complexes. Now, looks like they are back --- new, improved --- having learnt to deal with the new age backyards – the balconies! Just look at them!

So, amidst the urban early-morning sounds, and an occasional cuckoo, we once again hear the old, familiar ‘caw-caw’. Never thought crows would make me happy! It is perhaps because they remind me of my childhood.

As I wrote in an earlier blog post on the sparrow, “subject of many a pittamma-kakkamma (sparrow-crow) story, pittamma was always the good bird, and the poor old kakamma always played the villian, much like Rajesh Khanna and Prem Chopra in the movies of the seventies! But unlike in the movies, looks like our little hero has been knocked out by the villain...that spoon-stealing, chapati-filching rascal—the crow—who’s still around. More on him another time, for he’s an intelligent and interesting character, and deserves a blog posting all to himself!”

When we were children, most backyards used to be full of crows, waiting, watching so they could go and eat up leftovers from plates and bowls kept outside for washing, and once in a way, just fly off with a shining spoon or a small katori.. They always looked hungry and desperate, and we disliked them! We would once in a while run to our backyard shooing them away. And on some days, there used to be lots of crows on the terrace, in the backyard --- and they would go “caw, caw, caw” --- nonstop. That is when our grandmother would say, “We are going to have guests”. “What guests?” we would wonder…our house was always full of people, anyway!

Sometimes it would turn out that the crows cawed desperately because one of them had fallen into the overhead tank when it was opened for cleaning. And then the bird had to be rescued and the tank cleaned once again.

Some years back, on a trip to Ranganathittu, a whole lot of crows chased my daughter who was seven at that time. She had a packet of chips in her hand, which perhaps attracted the greedy birds! She was terrified and ran screaming. We joke about it now, it was pretty scary at that time!

This incident reminds me of the Alfred Hitchcock thriller “The birds”, based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier. In this bizarre film, birds of all kinds including crows, suddenly begin to attack people…they slowly increase in number and become vicious! A superb film.

Ek kavva pyaasa tha
Gadi mein thoda pani tha
Kavva dala kankar
Paani aaya oopar
Kavva piya paani
Khatam hogaya kahani!

So my children would sing, in praise of the clever kavva. I picked up this little terracota ‘pyaasa kavva’ and it has been one of my treasured possessions. Crows have inspired many an artist…we have a children’s book (CBT, I think) with brilliant drawings of the crow. And then the publishing company Tulika has the crow as their logo! Also saw some paintings of Tamil Nadu backyards by Santhana Krishnan, with the familiar crow sitting around looking for food.

I think I have a love-hate relationship with crows, but glad they are back in our locality.

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