Alex Proyas’ 1994 movie entitled The Crow, literary exonerates the crow as a figure of deep wisdom and direction. It is a movie in which a crow is given reverence for its darkness and knowing. I always thought it strange that a movie was not only entitled “The Crow”, but also featured a crow that was larger than life and was instrumental in guiding the lead actor. Fast forward to 2012, and I now see that it is not only in the movies that the crow is appreciated, it is also the case with some of the denizens of Mumbai.
I have heard numerous accounts and myths about crows in India. The most famous one revolves around how crows are our ancestors, and should be respected, and if they ever poop on you, then consider it a blessing, a communication from the world beyond. Mumbai is littered with crows and you can hear them squawking a little after sunrise and a whole lot at dusk. If one crow spots some food, it will squawk till kingdom come, sending out the call for other crows to partake in the feast.
I really got a sense of how important crows were to some people in Mumbai when I experienced two instances. The first one occurred when I went to get coffee “to go” at a local restaurant. It was about 7:45 am and I was on my way to see a client and needed my caffeine fix. So I stopped by the restaurant, and while I was waiting for the coffee, I noticed the restaurant owner perform a rather curious ritual. From the restaurant kitchen, he brought out a small tray in which there was one cup of steaming hot tea and one plate of idli (South Indian lentil doughnut). He took the plate, offered it to the religious altar in his restaurant, stepped outside and did what I thought was truly amazing: he took the cup of chai and threw it on the pavement, and took the idli and threw that as well. All the while, the crows had been hanging outside, clearly in anticipation of their breakfast. I asked the restaurant owner why he did that and he explained it was his way of daily honoring the crow and seeking its blessings for the success of the restaurant. I guess this trick is working, as the restaurant has been going strong for at least the last 20 years!
The second experience I have had a number of times. Sometimes when I look out the window, I see my neighbors putting chapattis (Indian bread) or rice cakes on their window sill. Within a few minutes, a crow or two arrive at the scene, partaking in the paltry but nourishing bites. I have noticed that the crows are not revered by any religion in India. Being a secular country, there are several religions and sects that exist in India. I have found that it is mostly the Hindus that have a connection with this species of the animal kingdom.
Every morning I am greeted by my own ritual which involves the crows and my cat, and me as the spectator. It is a usual affair: the cat wakes me up in the morning for her breakfast, she quickly nibbles on the spoonful of goodies, and then makes her way to the window sill where she knowingly attracts the wrath of her animal neighbors, the crows. She watches them for about 15 minutes, and sometimes, I notice a smug look on her face. She is amused by the cacophony of the black birds, knowing that they cannot touch her.
Here she is, comfortably perched on the window sill:
Here is one crow brave enough to sit in close proximity of the cat (please excuse the dirty window):
And a few more pictures of the number of crows that flock to the neighboring tree to give the cat a piece of their mind, and rightfully so!
The Crow……certainly an enigma to me and the cat. Every morning, they swoop into the sky, heralding a new dawn, a new beginning…like little black clouds in the blue sky, they are a perfect metaphor for the story of my life, how things stand today.