The Indian Crow


The sun is not visible today, but it’s heat can still be felt. I stand on my balcony, looking at the traffic at the junction.

My attention is diverted by a streak of bright yellow that is flitting between the branches of a tree. I realize that it is a beautiful oriole, busily going about his day. I keep watching the oriole for a while. My attention is then drawn to the pigeons – sitting on ledges, swooping down, taking a breather. There are so many of them.

Then I begin to wonder. There is not a crow in sight. In fact, I haven’t seen one in the neighbourhood in a long, long time.

I keep seeing mynas, sparrows, parrots and hornbills, but never a crow.

And suddenly I feel nostalgic. Nostalgic for my childhood, where the crow formed an integral part of our lives.

Image courtesy – Wikipedia

Where the crow featured as the hero in many of the stories told to us by our grandmom and aunts – intelligent in some stories, foolish in some stories, thirsty and intelligent in some others. But the crow’s presence in our lives could never be ignored.

Babies were fooled into swallowing uninterestimg vegetables and yummy rasam rice, when a crow swooped into their yards. Babies were mesmerised by this bird, whose caws in the gentle afternoon breeze sounded like lullabies.

When we were growing up, most Indian women would put out some cooked rice for the crows, on their window ledges or terraces, before serving food to the family.

The crows were so used to this that they would show up at the prescribed window ledge or terrace at the appointed hour. And, if for some reason there was a delay in the arrival of their food, the crows would caw loudly, causing the woman of the house to hurry up!

My aunt had names for the crows that visited her window ledge, and would talk to them everyday, and affectionately chide them if they cawed too loudly.

Such was the role that crows played in our childhood. The crow was truly one of our childhood heroes.

Lipsticks and little girls


It was a sweltering day, many years ago, when we had the naming ceremony for my baby girl, who was only 3 weeks old.  My mom’s home was teeming with aunts, uncles, cousins and little nieces and nephews, all of whom had come to bless and welcome our little bundle of joy.

I received hundreds of tips on being a mother, and hundred ‘must-know’ things about child rearing, and a dozen versions of who my baby resembled in the family. It was a normal, Indian family celebration.

I was a little tired by the afternoon, and when my mom caught my eye and realized that I was tired, she signalled for me to go in and take a quick nap. I slipped away, unnoticed.

I went and lay down, my eyes closing involuntarily. While still asleep, I heard something. I opened my eyes and realized that one of my nieces was in the room, before the dresser mirror.

I could see her reflection in the mirror, as she made faces at herself, and then tried on one of the lipsticks. Gently opening the tube, she used her finger to apply a dark maroon lipstick on her lips. I could imagine how good and beautiful she felt. After sometime, she quietely slipped out of the room.

Image courtesy – Shutterstock

I laughed, fully awake by then. I remembered how, as a little girl, my favourite game was to play ‘teacher’. The role demanded that I have long hair, and that I wear lipstick.

The hair problem was easily resolved. I found a piece of black cloth from my mom’s sewing kit and tied it around my hair, allowing the black cloth hair to fall over my shoulders to  the front. My students ‘had’ to see my long hair.

The lipstick posed a problem. My mom did not use lipstick, neither did my aunt. But my teachers at school wore lipstick, so I needed to wear lipstick to look authentic. Then I hit upon the idea of using the red liquid that Indian women use to wear bindis (the dots on the forehead). This was available in abundance, so during the afternoons when my gran, aunt and mom napped, I applied generous amounts of red on my lips and taught and educated many children every afternoon.

Lipsticks and makeup were forgotten till high school and university, when my mom gifted me my own lipstick for my birthday. I still remember its shade, copper brown. I still wonder how my mom knew what would look good on me! I used that tube till there was nothing left. 

After that first tube, lipsticks became a part of my life, and over the years I have tried many shades, and have settled on a few that suit me well.

A few years ago, when my son had his school concert, the little girls in his class were all dressed up like pretty dolls and fairies. However, a few girls had their lips in a weird kind of pout. On asking their moms, I found out that the girls had worn lipstick for the first time, and that they did not want for it to go away. I remember how much I laughed that day.

Now, my daughter grimaces when I talk about makeup or lipstick or accessories. She is ‘at home’ in her jeans and tees.

I smile as I look into the future, when my daughter will want to try on lipsticks and makeup. She just doesn’t know it yet!

Sweet Aunts & Dashing Uncles


These last few years, our family has shrunk.

Sweet aunts and dashing uncles are suddenly no more. The ones who took us out to the movies, who gave us innumerable treats, who watched us growing up, who threw us in the air and swung us around, who bought us lollipops and indulged us, when our parents refused.

Aunts and uncles, key nodes in the network of our family, who unfailingly wrote to us on our birthdays, who told us stories during meal times, who baby sat us when our parents had to go out.

Aunts and uncles, who could not believe that their diaper-wearing nieces and nephews had graduated from University. They wondered at the fast passage of time.

They laughed in happiness and wept tears of joy when we called to say we were getting married. They took time off from their lives to help with our weddings, teasing us about our spouses-to-be and wishing & blessing us to lead happy lives.

After marriage, we nieces and nephews moved on to set up our own lives, and to build our own homes. Years flew by, and suddenly when we gathered for a family wedding, we saw how these beautiful aunts and dashing uncles had aged. They needed walking sticks, they needed help with small things, they peered at you through their glasses and hugged you with their frail arms.

Where did those days go? We, are  ‘aunts and uncles’ now. We, are ‘that’ generation now, hopefully bonding and creating such memories for our nieces and nephews.

There are very few left from my Dad’s generation. We,  first & second cousins, suddenly feel rudderless. Our family was so big and vibrant. Now, one whole generation is almost gone.

We vow to keep in touch and meet more often to strengthen our bonds of love, the seeds of which were sown by beautiful aunts and dashing uncles.