The tale of the crow who dared

I have a poster in my room that reads – ‘Life is like a box of chocolates; Darth Vader just chose the dark side.’ It’s rather amusing a thought, isn’t it? But I am no longer amused by it. It’s perhaps because I’ve exhausted my views on the subject – the poster’s been stuck on the door for way too long. Or it’s probably because of what happened to me recently, that shook me so hard, I cannot be but artless about it.

They say sometimes you’re given such a metamorphic experience it changes you. I believe that this may not always be the case. Your experience needn’t be so earth-shatteringly influential it makes you turn over a new leaf or anything. But I’m positive that what I went through did change me to some minute degree. I was deeply discomposed, and I was taught to get over it. Because that’s what you ought to do.

During the lockdown, I made many new friends. Some of my closest allies, however, became the crows. The big, fluffy black ones, and also the smaller grey fellows. Every morning, either my mother or I would go up to the terrace, fill water for the birds and the squirrels in mud cups, and scatter rice for them. And subsequently, there would be a loud symphony from above; the parrots would have flown in from their pink flowering tree, the squirrels would have come running up the pipe to compete for the rice, and there would be a mellifluous trill. Among the birds, I would say that the most unruly, rowdy fellows are the pitch-black crows – the ones with the fleecy plumage. They’re also ironically some of the cutest birds you’d encounter.

We have a window facing a big tree in our dining room, and from there, I would watch the chaos these birds would wreak. Precisely a year ago, a nest had been built, belonging to two crows. Here, I must pause to laud the engineering skills of these birds. How beautifully and laboriously they built their home. After a tiring wait, two little pink fellows hatched out of the eggs in that nest. I would watch them every single day as they’d eat the food that the parent crows would get for them. Then, they would ask for more. I was surprised how the small featherless guys became strong, silky crows. The time they flew away was when I realized how attached I’d gotten to them. I missed them and prayed they’d come to visit sometime.

The nest was disassembled by the other birds – they took the sticks away to build their own nests, but my prayers were answered more thoroughly than I had hoped.

One year later, exactly, nestled in a spot close to where the previous nest had been, another home was built by another pair of crows. This time, I became even more latched onto the three little babies who’d hatched in that nest. I would watch with absolute delight the antics of these tiny birds. They grew older and older, and every day I would watch the two bigger crows bring them food. Tirelessly, they would feed each one of them out of the food in their beaks. I would also break biscuits and place them on the window sill, and the adult crow would come by, break the biscuit into smaller pieces, drop it in a pool of water, and then take the moistened pieces back to feed the little guys.

I named the three musketeers – don’t you judge me – ‘Cheescake’, ‘Muffin’, and ‘Cupcake’ (I had proclaimed my love for desserts; now you see? I am ever so loyal to dessert). A month or so passed. Everything and everyone grows old, don’t they? When the time had come for these three to depart the warmth of their nest, I was thrilled. But I was also a little sad that they’d no longer be there every morning as I looked out the window. They would flap their wings and hop onto the branches, and slowly, they flew from the tree. I watched them sit on the terraces of the adjoining apartments, and I would call out sometimes, hoping they’d come to get the biscuit I was holding out for them.

Then, it happened. On the evening of 18th August 2021, as I sat finishing some assignment at home, my brother came running up to me, saying he needed me to help him. I asked for what, and he said that a crow was injured. To abstain from having done something when you really should have, and regret it later – that’s something humans will keep doing. To err is human, and we just keep on erring. My brother didn’t seem particularly upset right then, so I waved him off. I usually never do this, and I should not have this time either, but I was too engrossed in my work to pay him much attention. And so, he ran back to play.

Late that evening, as I finished a badminton match, my brother dragged me by the arm and said he had something to show me. He walked me all the way across to the opposite sidewalk and bent down beneath a small tree, behind a bright black car. For a minute, shadowed by the car, I didn’t know what he was pointing at; and then I saw it, equally black and shiny, the feathers of a crow. My face contorted, and on inching closer, I was presented with a devastating sight – a dead crow.

I dropped to the ground beside it – there was nothing I could do now. The poor thing had died. Its head was bent back achingly, but it no longer felt the pain. I felt a rush of hot blood on my face. The image is sharp as a pin-prick in my head, and it has been impregnated there since. I bent closer, and it was then I received a more dreadful, painful realization. The crow’s skin near its beak was still maturing; it was slightly pink, just like my three little musketeers. My heart nearly stopped at the thought, but somehow, it became pronounced. These crows had been around the same tree for all these days, and they were just learning the art of flying. This crow was one of my little friends. Tears poured down my face.

I had always wanted to touch the soft fur of these birds. Bending over the little crow, I stroked his smooth feathers. I sat there for a long time, and as I did, images passed through my head. The mother and the father bringing in the sticks they had collected, the patient mother bird, as she sat atop the eggs and warmed them for days at end, the happiness I had experienced on seeing three little pink heads. The bright pink mouths, wide open, waiting to receive food, the first sign of black on their heads, the little fellows, ready to fly. I cried and cried. How many days had it taken for them to grow, and how just one hit had shattered this small bird.

As I walked away from the crow, I felt a pronounced anguish wash over me. People were passing away every day, and we took so much notice of that. But this crow would be left to die, and either they’d sweep him away, or the cats would rip him apart. The thought was horrifyingly bitter. I was deeply moved, deeply distressed, and shaken by the death of this crow. I cannot explain truly in words the loss I felt that evening.

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The crows will live on forever.

I had wanted to bury the crow myself, right under the tree on which he had come into the world. I was not allowed to. But I hope he was given a fitting funeral, and I hope he was sent away well. He deserves it, for he persevered, just like his forefathers, to fly out of his comfort zone, the nest, out into the world. I am now crying as I write this because I am not yet fully over it. Actually, I am not over it at all. But I think that this is a lesson not only for me but for everyone who was with me that day, and for everyone who reads this as well. We learn two very important things from such a circumstance.

One, that we must never think twice about doing the right thing. We might be preoccupied, by all means, but what’re the most that can come out of that? I would never again put something as trivial as homework before helping someone or something. I never do that, but sometimes, we are taken over with a sense of absolute lethargy. There’s a beautiful saying that can explain this better than I ever can – ‘Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing.’

Two, that nothing is above us, nothing is below us. We’re all born into this world, and we’re given different roles. There can never be a world full of bugs, or a world full of fish, or a world full of humans. The balance would never be struck.

It will take me a very long time to wholly realize such things, but I must, and so must everyone else. It was a pitiful and tragic happening – the crow needn’t have died. Someone could have saved it. But, as my parents told me later that night as I wept to glory, what should have happened, happened. What I must do was not to fret over it, but to ensure that it never happened again.


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