As a child, I’ve always hated crows despite the fact that they come in my favourite colour, black. And unlike my hatred for other things, this particular hatred for crows was not irrational. Somehow, today there is no remains of this hatred anywhere in me because Crows don’t come and go like poeple do, especially when you live in a place like Tirunelveli, where it never feels winter enough for the birds to migrate.
My previous neighbourhood was a crow free zone. Thanks to the people who were obsessed with pleasing the goddess, Mupudathi Amman by playing Rajini’s intro songs on repeat loudly, even at night. The goddess also liked crackers but the crows hated it so they never came to our neighbourhood to shit on bald-headed uncles.
While things went smooth this way, one day, the crows decided to attack me. I was on my way to school, walking with my heavy school bag. From nowhere or perhaps from the neem tree nearby, three crows came at me without hesitation and pecked on my head. Tok Tok tok tok tok. I did something like a somersault and ran mad submitting myself entirely to the demands of my adrenaline rush. From then, every time I see a crow I run.
When we moved to Madurai, the school I went to was where all the crows of Madurai came for lunch. People threw chillies, chicken bones, uncooked beans and several other things at them and they ate happily. This was the worst lunchmare I’ve ever had. It was more worse than being forced to finish the pudalangai (Bottlegourd) kootu at the dining table on Sunday lunches. I skipped going to lunch at school for a week but that didn’t help either because they came to the corridors and cawed at me. I decided to make my peace with the crows. I said to myself “they’re just birds who can’t even migrate.”
I have no memory of crows in my adolescence. My memory from that particular period is reserved for nonjan boys who were mostly lean and used kerchiefs and all the girls who danced with me in most absurd places one can think of.
The first thing I noticed about Bangalore when I moved there for my UG was: it is no city for crows and neem trees. Bangalore is for birds who prefer purple sunsets to tangerine sunsets like Pigeons. Bangalore pigeons know how to make homes under flyovers and in other people’s terrace. They seem evolved enough to live in tree-less spaces.
However, when Kani akka’s vada shop which also sold potato bajjis with ketchup popped outside my hostel, a crow also started visiting the hostel. It would sit on the branch of a butterfruit tree that stood right next to our front gate and watch the squirrels that lived on the tree. It was the most mannered crow I’ve ever met. It’d wait patiently and watch the customers eat and the flew down swiftly and nibble away all the bits people drop when they eat carelessly during a conversation. That crow was the unpaid server that Kani akka had to clean the part of the pathway her makeshift vada shop occupied. “This guy comes wherever I go. I dont know how he manages to find my shop when I shift it to somewhere else. Very decent fellow.” she said one day. “Maybe it is a Tamil kaka” I replied. We both giggled.
When I returned to Bangalore after my summer vacation in 2018, Kani akka and the crow weren’t there. An unanticipated disappointment was what I felt. Who is supposed to feed me potato bajjis with ketchup? If not the crow, who will listen to me singing vaseegara, every time I come out of the shower?
Fast forward to now. I no longer hate crows. In fact, I’m friends with one.
Ma named the crow, Hepsi. We wanted to name her Harriet, after my grandma because we initially thought that it was our grandma. We don’t usually beleive in these weird connections that the Hindu religion has come up with but when the crow came everyday and cawed at us as if she was on duty to come and yell at us every morning we couldn’t believe otherwise. Then we realized that the crow cawed out of hunger.
“I don’t think this is ma. You know, she will starve if she has to but she’ll never come to me asking for food.” amma said. I nodded agreement.
Hepsi likes karvaadu a lot. She also like idlis and lemon rice. She doesn’t trust food that doesn’t wobble when pecked. She is scared of Kadlamittai.
She caws so much leaving us with no choice but to imagine what she is trying to convey. On days we run out of interesting dreams to share while chopping veggies, we try and decipher Hepsi’s monologue.
“Maybe she is tellings us not to eat too much sugar.”
“She is telling you not to eat all the tomatoes you chop for pachidi. Chopped tomatoes are not appetizers”
“She is yelling at Stripes(our kitten) for stealing his Karvaadu”
“She says she likes me more than she likes you”
“She wants poori today”
“She doesn’t like to be photographed”
Somedays, she wouldn’t come. On those days, the Mynahs nextdoor happily eat the idlis and go away without talking to us.