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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Crows for Remembrance

Rosemary for remembrance. Crows for remembrance?
Crows are the messengers between the nether world and our world according to Greek mythology. We too beleive that they are the souls of our departed ancestors. Crows are honored guests both in Pitr' Bali and Bhootha Bali among the five great yagnas.
During my stint in Audit & Inspection, I used to stay at Sea Palace hotel in Colaba, whenever my assignment was in Mumbai. They used to give me a room on the first floor, in the middle facing the Arabian Sea. The room was much larger than the other rooms which was some consolation when you have to stay in hotel rooms for long periods. Sometimes the stay used to be three to four months at a stretch. It was during one of those long stays, I started befriending crows.
I started leaving the crusts of the bread I used to get for breakfast, with a liberal spread of Amul butter on the window sill. I never liked the crusts of the bread anyway, and butter was out of bounds on consideration of lipid profile. The crows started coming, at first hesitantly, but with increasing confidence as days went by. They used to fly in the moment I approached the window in the morning. I do not know how many of the late Kozhipurath/Chettur/Chelanat/Cherangottil guys were there but certainly they did not appear to be getting bread and butter in the Pitr' loka.
People generally do not like crows. It must be something to do with the fact that they are too numerous proving the dictum 'familiarity breeds contempt'. Certainly, they are not the ugliest. Their raucous call could be improved upon but they are capable of making less repelling sounds. If the crows were rare visitors, I am sure people would go into raptures about their glossy black feathers, their intelligence bordering on extreme cunning. Especially, the jungle crow, which is bigger and has black feathers on the back of the neck compared to grey for house cows. They are also much more vary of humans. The jungle crow can be seen mingling with the house crows but even then there is a certain aloofness. The jungle crow is our Bali kaakka.
I have a regular crowd here at Thrissur. About fifteen of them; out of which two are jungle crows. Although it is not very apparent like in the case of Mynahs, crows also move around in pairs. They prefer Chappathi pieces to bread crumbs or Iddli pieces. Except one of the jungle crows which has a preference for Iddlis. The rest of them turn their attention to bread/iddli only if chappathi pieces are not available. The usual time of visit is 6.30a.m. And after 'breakfast' they just vanish. In the beginning they used to make a lot of noise, justifying the phrase 'murder of crows' for a group of them. They do not make much noise now. They have realized that usually there is enough to go around.
Saturn is the ruling planet for Capricornians which is my Zodiac sign. It is also the 'dasha nathan' for 'Anuradha' which is my constellation. Saturn is depicted as a stern authority figure who knows 'the limits of time and matter, and brings structure and meaning to the universe'. He is the Lord of the eighth house, the house of death and of 'pitr lokam'. His 'vahanam' is the crow, the messenger between this world and the world of the departed souls. Indian system of astrology specifies a bird, a tree and an animal for each of the 27 constellations. Crow is the bird for 'anuradha'. If only the people took care of just the bird/tree/animal pertaining to their 'star' I think that will ensure adequate environment protection.
Four or five squirrels and an Indian Tree Pie have also started participating in the morning banquet. The Crows have realized that the iddli pieces tossed under the coconut palm are meant only for the squirrels and do not try to steal them. Initially, I had to shoo them away when they tried to do it but they seem to have understood the rules of the game. The 'tree pie' is an irregular visitor and is not deterred by the crowd of crows. A flock of 'seven sisters' come later and noisily pecks at all the small crumbs.
These are the usual morning customers. A crow pheasant couple spurns all attempts at familiarity and occasionally saunters on the compound wall if no one is near. The nest for the owl made as per specifications down loaded from the internet and installed at the recommended height remains untenanted. Hope one of the barn owls or mottled back owls will take a fancy to it one of these days. The 'koel' sings every morning and thereafter is not seen. A few sparrows make an occasional visit. I saw a humming bird (soochi mukhi) once after a long time. I think they are almost extinct.
I had been to Gaya in 97 or 98 and did 'tharpan' there. The souls of all my departed ancestors till that time, both in my father's and mother's lineage were expected to be propitiated by the rituals I did then. By sheer coincidence, I was at Gaya in December on a day Pandavas did 'tarpan' after the Mahabharatha war for those killed at Kurukshetra. If any of my ancestors were around to get killed in that war, I hope their souls have also found their rightful places in the 'pitr' loka'. If not they are welcome to participate in the morning banquet!