Lady Corona’s Crows

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Lady Corona, in spite of the curses she has brought on herself, magnanimously blessed writers like me. After the lockdown, I felt incarcerated for no fault of my own. No more going out of my house under the pretext of researching in libraries, private or government. No more marketing, not even window-shopping. This ‘stay at home’ gave me a lot of time to do my writing. Visitors from near and far, who ‘like to meet the lion in the den’, have stopped, oh, they loved to snatch away an hour or so of my precious time. Hence the merciful Lady Corona granted me all the time in the world to be active in my study.

The only one place from where I could see the outside world is my terrace. Whenever I feel like pleasing my eyes with greenery or having a whiff of fresh air, I unhesitatingly climb up two staircases to reach the heaven on earth. Rain or shine is immaterial and I prefer to use the world’s best gym. Not that I have any lift service in my house. Once on the terrace I fly with the crows, of course with my mask on and maintaining the social distance. I sit on tree-tops; now and then chasing the scurrying squirrels and sing with the tiny birds. How many times I reach the terrace, depends on my mood.

I have a terrace garden exactly above my study. By maintaining it my wife gets flowers and me bee stings. Yet it is an inspiring place and I get raw material for my writing. I am invariably there before sundown. I love to watch the huge round red disc go down in the west to take rest or show its face to the other side of the globe or whatever. Enjoying such a scene was not at all possible for me before the lockdown.

I usually enjoy my snacks and tea before I reach the terrace to have the darshan of the setting sun. Yesterday it so happened that I went up carrying with me a small packet of wheat biscuits and a bottle filled with filtered water. “The earliest light that still rules the world, a symbol of the one and only Divine”, as the grand old lady of Tamil literature Avvaiyar had put it, was almost calling it a day.

The crows began to find their ways to trees for night shelter. Seated on the broad parapet wall facing west, I tore open the mouth of the biscuit packet, pulled out one and began biting into it. Crunch…crunch…crunch. All my thirty-two white terrorists began severely mauling it and the worldly-wise longfellow was enjoying every bit of it.

“Karr…” came a voice from the left. I turned my head to see who it was. It was a young crow. Since my terrace garden gave me an opportunity to read the language of bees and birds, my mind immediately translated the crow’s word as “Sir”. I took a closer look at the crow. It looked to me as if it has not eaten for days. Perhaps this lockdown period locked its ways to find food.

I broke a biscuit into several small bits, placed them all on my right palm and stretched it towards the hungry crow. It eagerly looked at the food but refused to budge from its place. It was maintaining the social distance. Unlike human beings crows are very strict in this regard.

“Karr…ka…ku” the young crow cawed. It meant “Sir…throw…it”. I threw a bit on the floor. It came sweeping down and gobbled it up. It got ready to catch the next bit with its mouth. I threw another. Good catch! Another one. Good catch! Yet another. Good catch! “Karr..rru” it said and took to its wings. It is not difficult to follow its language, is it? Yes. It only said, “Thanks sir”. I saw the young crow disappear and in a few seconds appear again. But it was not the same one. This looked like its mother. I threw a few bits on the floor, for I was not sure if this aged one could be able to do acrobatics in the air like that young one. This one wolfed down whatever was left on the floor and in a trice flew away “Kur…kur…”, meaning “enough…enough”. 

Poor birds with tiny stomachs! What step-motherly attitude did Nature follow when it created birds! When many roasted capons could find their grave in a human stomach at one go, just two houseflies or a little beetle would easily fill up their stomachs.

As I was ruminating, I could also hear the voice of many crows close by my side. Breaking the biscuits into small bits, I threw them all on the floor. A big fight ensued. It was the survival of the fittest. Some had their stomach’s fill and some flew away with their stomachs empty. All I heard was “ka..caw…caw…ka”. Were they thanking me or cursing me or doing both?

Whatever their words mean, I was left only with my bottle of water and the dark.

About the author: P. Raja
P. Raja
P.Raja (October 07, 1952) a son of this divine soil, Pondicherry, India famed for its spiritual heritage, writes in his chosen language, English, and also in his mother tongue, Tamil. More than 5000 of his works – poems, short stories, interviews, articles, book reviews, plays, skits, features and novellas – have seen the light through newspapers and magazines that number to 350 in both India and elsewhere. He has 30 books for adults and 8 books for children in English and 14 books in Tamil. Apart from contributing special articles to Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literature in English (London), Encyclopedia of Tamil Literature in English, and to several other edited volumes, he has also written scripts for Television (Delhi). He broadcasts his short stories and poems from All India Radio, Pondicherry. He was General Council Member of Central Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi (English Advisory Board - 2008-2012) representing the Pondicherry University. He is Editor of TRANSFIRE, a literary quarterly devoted to translations from various languages into English. His website: www.professorraja.comAuthor can be reached at [email protected]

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