Just when the much awaited rose powder and the lipstick were brought close to my face, Priya’s mother intervened and said, “No need for make-up, she is only a crow.”
It was my school annual day and I was all of six years old, geared to be the black bird in the rhyme "Sing a song of sixpence". Priya was the maid whose nose I as a blackbird was meant to peck off. Any surprise that her mother laid revenge on me? With that one statement she dashed to ground weeks of fantasising of arriving home after the programme in an open cycle rickshaw and my cousins scampering out of the house to admire my rosy visage while the crow mask lay limp at my feet.
The make-up pangs eventually faded, but the statement “she is only a crow” simply stuck in my subconscious and I all but grew black wings on my dark body. I thereafter developed a special kinship for my winged sisters.
If grandmom placed rice on the sill for the crows, I stealthily topped it with curd to cool my friends plying the hot sky. If I was sent to the terrace to be a scarecrow, I woo-woo-wooed the crows to eat their fill of vadams, instead of shoo-shoo-shooing them off.
“Don’t be scared, I am only a crow,” I encouraged. If grandma offered vadais on
a plate, I would say, “wait” and run around the house to arrive just outside the kitchen
window and caw until grandma placed the vadai directly in my mouth through the grill. “Silly”, she would admonish even as I ran away flapping my hands, looking for a branch to perch and eat my treat in peace without intrusion from Fox.
In my later years I was told that my first 19 years of life were spent under the malefic gaze of Shani (Saturn). It pleased me that I had been under the observance of a deity discerning and dapper enough to choose a crow for his vehicle. Whoever saw my horoscope tch-tch-tched in sympathy saying my first 20 years of life would have been full of painful lessons. Maybe yes, maybe not.
The realisation that “I am only a crow” was cosmically meant to be painful but by loony logic it, instead, became a liberating factor for me in a society that perpetually favours fair, lissome and coy lasses. Whereas, as a crow, I was free to be bright, inquisitive and loud. At best I would be shooed away. So what?
The crows were back again in my late 20s with Lord Saturn on their back. This time they hovered around for seven-and-a-half years to deliver their remaining lessons. Their time of departure coincided with the release of my second novel Kabir the weaver poet. Guess my publisher Tulika’s logo? Heh-heh- a crow!!! "For it being an unassailable part of the sights and sounds of India, our logo is the common crow, a bright, busy, intelligent bird, with a great sense of family,” read the publisher's note on thier logo. Can anyone describe Jaya Madhavan better? (note the word “intelligent” — ha!)
My favourite colour is black and my favourite pastime crowing. I never send away a crow hungry from my kitchen sill. When I find half alive hit-and-run crows on the road, I rush them to Blue Cross or hold them till they die. I have parked a Rs 3.5 lakh toilet called Alto for them on the road. Above all, like the crows I too have gathered around me a formidable flock (of readers and friends) who love me even though ‘I am only a crow”. And do you know what a group of crows are called? Not just a horde, hover, mob, muster, parcel and parliament but also a “murder of crows”!!!
Music Season - Dec 2011
6 years ago