Clarity


I am in a cab that is stuck in heavy traffic. All around me, drivers are tapping their steering wheels impatiently, while some others are busy on their phones.

My phone’s battery is at a meagre 5%, and with no messages to check or people to call, my gaze wanders to the buildings on either side of the pavement. I crane my neck to see the trees lining the road. The blue sky appears bleached under the glaring sun. The leaves on the trees filter the sun’s light in various patterns, each pattern unique.

Amongst all these trees with leaves is also a wise old tree that is bereft of leaves. A sudden movement on this tree’s branches catches my eye. I realize that it is a bird, a crow.

Picture courtesy – Illustrated by Ann & Ani (image copyrighted)

The crow keeps moving up and down one particular branch. Up, down, pause, up, down, pause…the crow keeps repeating this for sometime.

I wonder what the crow is thinking. Is he worrying about his loved ones? Is he confused about choices that he has to make? Is he testing the tree for its suitability for him to build a nest and start a family?

The crow continues pacing. After a few minutes, he stops, his head clear. He has made up his mind. Soon, he flies away.

This is quite similar to how we humans behave too, especially when we are confused, and have to make choices or have to take firm decisions in our lives.

Sometimes, we require ‘alone time’ in our minds to sift through our thoughts, think through the consequences, process them, and then come to a decision.

Sometimes, we pace up and down our living rooms, or embark on solitary walks, thinking and evaluating.

And always, when we look within, the right answer comes to us, at the right time. It was always there, it just needed us to choose it.

And then comes clarity, and a sense of lightness.

Just like the crow that flew away into the sky. Free now, that the decision had been made.

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.

Grandma’s Tales


When we were growing up, one year and two-year old children were usually fed by their grandmoms.

No prams, no high chairs. The grandma would carry the child on her hip.  In the other hand she would carry a stainless steel bowl, filled to the brim with mashed rice, dal (lentils), a dash of clarified butter and a portion of vegetable.

The grandma would walk about the courtyard of her house, with a chubby little baby on her hip, pointing out the blue sky, the swaying trees, the green leaves and the small ants going about their day.

image

     Courtesy – http://www.illustrationsof.com

The ubiquitous crow never failed to entertain. Cawing in its raucous voice, the crow provided ample opportunity for the grandma to feed the child, whose mouth would be open in wonder at all these small marvels and miracles of nature.

The postman, the people walking on the street, the honking of an autorickshaw – these were the other sources of entertainment.

It was a sight to behold. Sometimes, the grandma would spin a tale about a good crow who was obedient, and a naughty crow who was not obedient, and would then tell the child that he or she was like the good crow. Another mouthful of food would be cleverly fed.

Mission accomplished, the grandma would clean up the child and carry her indoors.

Countless grandmoms in countless courtyards spending quality time with their grandchildren. A truly special bond indeed!

Twilight Walk – A Short Story


Fiona had to run across M.G.Road, and walk about 300 m to drop off a set of documents to another office, and get back to her workplace to wind down for the day.

She grabbed her handbag, took the folder containing the documents, and left the building.

The Sun had already set and most office-goers were heading home, some in a rush, some strolling, others busy on their phones.

Hundreds of crows were cawing raucously in the twilight, catching up on the day’s gossip. Fiona smiled to herself, as she imagined what the crows would say to each other.

Traffic was heavy on MG Road and it took her sometime to cross. She quickened her pace. She walked down 1st Cross, took the second left, went into the office, dropped off the folder and headed back.

She badly wanted to have a cold drink. The humidity was stifling. As she walked back, there was a stretch of road where the street lights were not working. As she looked up to see the lamp post, she was grabbed from the back and forced against a wall.

A masked face pointed a knife at her neck and asked for her handbag. Fear paralysed her, as the handbag was snatched, and she felt darkness engulf her. She felt herself going limp as her legs gave way. She felt that these were her last moments. After that nothing.

When she came to, she felt water drops on her face. She could hear many voices, indignant, worried and lots of murmuring.

She opened her eyes and looked into ten or twelve pairs of eyes. They helped her to her feet and asked her what had happened.

She was too tired to talk and told them that she was okay and that she could manage. One of the women offered to drive her back. Fiona declined and said she could easily walk back.

Another man said he would walk her down to the office, just to ensure she reached safely. She agreed.

She thanked everyone for their concern and started walking towards the office.
The man made polite conversation. He looked like a banker or sales guy, well dressed, and she noticed he wore branded glasses. Smart, she thought.

The office building was fast emptying, as they reached the lift. He smiled.

She smiled and said, “I can manage from here, thank you so very much.”

He said, “No trouble at all. I will see you up.”

She did not want to be rude, and they got into the lift.

The door closed. And then he caught hold of her neck and pushed her against the lift wall.

“You silly woman, there was nothing in your handbag, except trivia, no money, no smartphone, nothing”, he said.

Her eyes widened in terror.

“I will not go back empty handed”, he said.

He snatched the thin gold chain she wore around her neck, yanked it off, pressed the lift for the next floor and disappeared into the night.

She then remembered that her wallet was in her laptop bag along with her phone. She rubbed her neck, which now had an angry red line.

What a day it had been! Phew!