Monday, 10 December 2012

The Crow Chase

I’m finally back with a post after about a year. Creative writing is something I am starting to lose touch with. Over the past year, I haven't got much time to think about the content for my next post and worse yet, I almost completely forgot that I have a blog to write. Internship, campus placements, extra curricular activities and exams have all taken their toll on me and I am left with very less time to spare for this. I derived the inspiration for this post while I was looking out through the window during my Visual Programming examination and I couldn't help but spend about twenty minutes watching two pigeons perching just outside the window next to me. As the window as a bit tinted, I guessed that the pigeons couldn't see me on the other side of it. I was wondering how I could do nothing but just sit and watch the two birds even for a whole day.

I have always had a special likeness for animals and aves right from my childhood, just because of my Dad. About fifteen years ago, when we used to live in Delhi, I was forced to wake up before 6 a.m. daily as I had to leave early for school. As soon as I would wake up, I would walk up to the door in my room that led to to the balcony and open it to find about a hundred sparrows perching there. None of them would fly away when I open the door as they weren't simply perching there, but waiting. Waiting for my dad to feed them with grains of rice. From one side of the balcony you could see the sunshade of the house underneath mine. My dad would put some pieces of bread on the sunshade and a few grains of rice right in our balcony itself. The crows would feed on the bread pieces while the pigeons and the sparrows would eat the rice grains. I would sometimes think of my dad as though he was following some sort of ritual by feeding the birds exactly at six in the morning. But what I figured out was that it was the birds who were following the ritual - even if my dad was late by ten or fifteen minutes, they would start chirping loudly, loud enough to make an impact in our minds that the birds were hungry.

It was about twelve years ago that we moved to Chennai, and my dad continued the same activity of feeding the birds every morning without fail. Around nine years ago, in 2003, we bought a flat in Anna Nagar and moved there. My dad found this house most comfortable for feeding the birds as there was a projection in our terrace and it had to portions, neatly separated by a divider. So my dad used this place to feed the crows and pigeons separately. I was surprised to see that there were no sparrows at all in Chennai whereas one could find sparrows everywhere in Delhi. My dad told me that the sparrow population was slowly declining by the time he left Delhi (I came to Chennai 2 years earlier). My dad made an observation at this time and realized that the crows loved to eat such stuff that would easily fit their claws and that could be torn or broken using their beaks. He was exactly right. He then switched over to feeding the crows with pieces of biscuits nearly broken into small pieces. I could see the crows enjoy the food rather than eating pieces of bread. He told me one ore thing - that one could still see sparrows in Chennai, but only at places like trees that are beside provision shops, ration shops, etc. This still holds good, you can still see sparrows in Chennai, but only at these locations. I wonder if anyone else would have observed these. The birds are so dear to my dad and he is equally dear to the birds that they would allow my dad to touch them. I have seen my dad cuddling them and the birds really seemed to love that. Now I am not kidding in this case, the birds would fear me and wouldn't let me go near them, even if I had some grains of rice in my hand. Now I understood that they could really distinguish among people! My dad also has a small earthen plate that he uses to pour water for the birds, and the birds really seem enjoy drinking the water and play on it as well. Very rarely, when my dad would not feel well, he wouldn't feed the birds on that day. This would make him very sad and complain throughout the day that he wasn't able to feed them.

Recently, my dad told me one interesting observation that he had made. I felt that I would have never observed that, had he not told that to me. It was a very simple stuff, he told me that one would hardly see pigeons perching on trees. Again, he was darn right, I haven't seen any pigeon perching on a tree after I heard that from my dad. Birds love trees, but pigeons don't seem like trees as much as the other birds do. They have their nests on buildings, preferably on high sunshades, inaccessible to humans or on exhaust holes, etc. You can try this one too, just try to spot a pigeon that perches on trees!

We recently spotted a male cuckoo on the huge tree that is right in front of my house. I took a while for us to figure out what bird it was as we had never seen it before. No, it does not look like the cuckoo we have in our mind, it looks really different, a bit bigger than a crow. So it gave us a hard time to conclude about what bird it was. One very distinct feature of this bird was the kind of sound it made - it was so disturbing and very weird to our ears. But we saw something that we had never seen before - the male cuckoo would make that sound that would alert the crows. This made the crow know that the cuckoo was around an it was hungry. The crow would then look around for food and then bring it to the cuckoo. And that wasn't all, it would put the food from its beak into the cuckoo's beak and the cuckoo would happily munch away its food. Also, if a crow had got some food for itself, the cuckoo would notice that and make its distinct sound. The crow would then share some of its food with the cuckoo. Man, what a harmony among the birds!

When you give too much of something to someone, they tend to become greedy and ask for more. I think this holds good universally, for animals and humans alike. My dad still continues his age old activity of feeding the birds every morning. If a crow were hungry during any time of the day, it would come to the balcony of my house, sit on the balcony and caw, as it would know that my dad lives here and would feed them. Yes, it happens very regularly, and crows seem to have a great IQ and you can distinctly identify it's caw when it is trying to draw your attention. Now this was taken to the next level, there was this really hungry crow that would become really furious when it was hungry. My dad would feed the crows every morning as usual and leave for office at 8 a.m. This crow (Which I think would lose out in a competition with other crows for the biscuits fed by my dad, or had a really huge appetite like me) had earmarked my dad. When my dad would leave for office, the specific crow would attack my dad! I call this incident The Crow Chase. Well, in this case, it was the crow who chased my dad. Yes, the crow would chase him till the end of our street, and would make desperate attempts to attack him with its beak. So for a few days, my dad would carefully look around before setting out for work and try to cover his head with his hand to save himself. Sometimes, he would take a different route just because he would have spotted the crow waiting for him! All of us in my family would have a great time in teasing my dad with this incident. But hey, I still somehow miss those days at Delhi and my dad's love towards the birds seems to have clung on to me too. I really miss the chirping of sparrows and the fresh morning air. But that is how it is going to be, let us hope that human expansion does save some birds for the future. I would request all those who read this article to at least have a bowl or a plate filled with water for the birds to drink every day, as many of them die due to scarcity of water during the summer. Well, at my house, it is madness. There are more biscuits bought for the crows than for me. Duh.

Edit (20/02/2013): I watched this video shared by someone on twitter and thought that this would really go with the theme of this post. So please do watch this after reading:


sru said...

Nice one :)
It will be a Crow Talk from now on at Rajaji Bhavan if my Mom comes to know that Uncle likes crows. LOL
She pampers the crow more than me in the morning!!!

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