How not to kill a crow

Published: May 19, 2012

When you are in a war that you can’t win, make peace with the enemy. PHOTO: EXPRESS

It was a pleasant, sunny day in Karachi and I was going about my usual everyday routine – which included thinking and fantasising about going to Amreeka. I was also expecting a few relatives to visit my place with their childrenI generally enjoy people at my place. Wait, let me rephrase that. I generally enjoy people, whose children are well behaved, at my place.

The relatives finally arrived and the children started playing in the backyard. It was a pleasant late afternoon and the sun was still shining, the elders sitting in the lawn enjoying chai (tea). This is when the historic incident occurred that forever changed how I looked at crows.

Here I must tell you that there are two old, majestic coconut trees in the far end of my garden. It so happened that a mama crow had recently housed its young ones on one of these trees. Although I had heard that crows are very protective of their young, I never paid much attention to the tale. However, what happened that day made a believer out of me — for good.

The whole fiasco started when one of the children playing in the backyard discovered this nest. Excited, he quickly grabbed a long bamboo stick and started to poke at the poor young baby crows. If you think the adult crows make a lot of noise, then you haven’t heard their young. Disturbed out of their peaceful reverie, the crow’s babies started to wail and scream like ten ambulances and police cars rolled into one. In short, all hell broke loose.

Upon hearing this crazy noise, the culprit visitor kid responsible for the commotion got even more interested and instead of stopping his unruly act, continued his harassment with added relish.

I was the first adult to rush to the scene of the crime. I snatched the stick away from the problem child and shooed him away.

End of the story? Quite to the contrary.

After my relatives left in the evening, I had dinner and hit the sack, relegating the crow incident to the far recesses of my mind where the uninteresting stories of my life linger for a day or two before vanishing for good.

The next morning I was not prepared for what awaited me.

It was the weekend, and as I stepped out of the house to go to the market, I was ambushed—literally. It was the sudden screeching and crowing that alerted my sixth sense. I casually looked up and was amazed to see a whole battalion of sinister, macho looking crows perched on the electricity lines right outside the house. You must have seen crows sitting in a queue all the time. But I bet you haven’t seen all of them sitting with a singular purpose in their intense, hateful glare.

It took me a second to realise three things; one, that they were all looking at me. Two, they all knew who I was. And three, they weren’t looking at me with love.

Then, just like in the old World War II movies, a lone crow came straight at me, zooming in the target like a dive bomber.

I ran across the road and mingled with the crowd. This seemed to deter Mr Lone Ranger, or Mrs Lone Ranger more like - as I later discovered that it was the mama crow. Even though I was temporarily relieved and assumed that the threat had passed, I still had this nagging feeling at the back of my mind while buying groceries.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and tried to put the pieces together distractedly. Little could I guess that the mama crow, whose kid was harassed on my premises by the visiting human kid, was now thirsty for revenge. Since the real culprit was not to be seen and I was the first person on the scene that the crows now recognised, I was  the target. Not to mention the fact that I owned the coconut tree.

However, this was only the start of my problem with the crows. The adamant creatures were hell bent to take revenge and had no plans of cutting me any slack. As days passed by, it became increasingly difficult for me to step out of the house; first I had to face the glares from the entire clan of crows on the electricity line, this was then followed by the mama crow attacking me in earnest. A lot of times I had to duck right in the nick of time to avoid physical contact or run helter-skelter into the house to outrun the screeching bird.

I do have to admit, however, that mama crow’s network was highly sophisticated and was on the alert even when she herself was taking care of other business – probably settling the score with other people in the neighbourhood. It had taken me a few days to realise that the queue of crows outside my house wasn’t just there just to add scenic beauty to otherwise drab electricity wires; they were quick to notify the mama crow whenever I stepped out of the house.

I  am not aware of their mode of communication, but it sure sounds better than a lot of phone networks I have tried. As a result of this notification system, I would only be a few feet out of the house that the bomber-pilot-mama would hammer in for the kill.

Needless to say, I was getting extremely irritated. This whole fiasco was hurting my tough-guy image. Plus, I was getting fed up of ducking all the time.

I needed a solution, a permanent one, and fast. I talked to a friend about it.

“Kill the damn thing,” he said.

I got a huge rubber band and installed it on the window facing the location where the mama crow usually sat. I tried to unleash a few home-made pellets from my self-devised sling-shot, but it was futile. Mama crow was too quick for the rubber band weapon of crow destruction.

An air gun would be more effective, I thought to myself.

By this time, the crow-harassing-our-son story was making waves along the relative-friend-grapevine-gossip circuit. One day, as I was seriously considering getting an air gun, I got a call from a distant relative. He sympathised heartily with my dilemma and gave me some advice that was to change the course of events.

His advice was to make peace with the crow in question. Peace? What is this? The Kashmir issue?

“How do you propose I do that?” I asked

Invite the crow committee for a jirga (meeting of tribal elders) in the living room?

It wasn’t my intention to sound sarcastic, but hey, can you blame me under the circumstances,?

The relative was not offended, probably understanding my state of mind, and continued to display patience in the face of open sarcasm;

You have to befriend the crow by offering her freshly roasted kebabs

I was simply shocked at this earnestly offered advice. Freshly roasted kebabs for a crow that is bent upon making a hole in my head?

It seemed like the relative read my thoughts and added solemnly,

If you do this, she will leave you alone

He reminded me of the priest Bugenhagen in the classic movie The Omen as he gave Robert Thorn the daggers to kill his son Damien – in reality the son of the devil.

Since I was now desperate enough to try anything, regardless of how stupid it sounded, I immediately made arrangements for the kebabs.

When the kebabs were done, I came out into the lawn with a dozen or so of the aromatic, hot pieces of meat. The mama crow was perched on a low growing branch in the corner of the garden, leisurely sharpening her shiny beak. I crept as close to her as I could. She had started to glare at me and I could tell that she was about to fly at me with a screech at any given second. However, before she could do so, I flung the kebabs at the black devil.

At first, she was quite still. Suddenly she flew off her perch and instead of coming at me, she dived to the ground and started to eat. Soon, a few more of her cronies joined her to enjoy the feast.

I was amazed. The trick actually worked! I had successfully found the way out of my predicament.

Many years have passed since this crow episode. The most important lesson I learned from this incident was that when you are in a war that you can’t win – whether it is with your manager or your wife –  make peace with the enemy. Put your dignity on the back burner and concentrate on saving yourself.

Although I later went on to realise my dream of going to Amreeka and now carry the title of Amreeka palat (America-returned), this lesson has stayed with me throughout the years.

Sometimes when I am enjoying a cool evening in my lawn, I still think about that crow. But more importantly, I offer a silent prayer for my relative who had given me the advice on how not to kill a crow.

Follow Syed Anser on Twitter @unsergency 

Poetic License is The Express Tribune Blogs’ creative writing section. Please send in your feedback and submissions to [email protected]

Syed Anser Ahmed

Syed Anser Ahmed

A writer, an artist and a songwriter who tweets @unsergency.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Big Rizvi

    Very nice piece, also happy to see a brand new segment on ET.Recommend

  • ashar

    Good piece of high school stuff. But there is a big difference between friendship and total submission.Recommend

  • Imran

    Yes a good one !!Recommend

  • Sahr Hasan

    Interesting Story Indeed!Recommend

  • Samad

    The stupid child (USA) waged the war with crows (TTP) from our cocunut trees, he left and we (Pakistanis) are suffering attacks from both sides. Shouldn’t we offer Kebabs to them too.Recommend

  • Taha

    Excellent must say its a worth reading content.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    I love karachi CROW Bhai……Recommend

  • Misha

    This reminds me of Professor Hoodbhoy’s argument towards beghairati :DRecommend

  • Vigilant

    hahahaha…. :) nice story Recommend

  • Big B,

    Oh my Matar kan why u crys your A bhai is enjoying in cold breez…Recommend

  • Parvez

    The important thing is that you learnt a lesson, something most of us refuse to acknowledge.Recommend

  • Anum

    Excellent piece! Made me think of the time when we were playing in our garden and we were attacked by a battalion of crows. I ran like hell. But they got me twice after that. Once on the head and another time clawed my elbow!! We found out later that it was a consequence of my sister’s experimentation with a sling shot.Recommend

  • mani qadir

    Every year a large network of crows and eagles lay eggs in nest like community in the many trees in my house , and they see every human in the grounds as a threat . I have been attacked by both many times ! Many times my cousins who live with Me and I have been forced to atm ourselves with bats and sticks just to walk out of our doors ! Birds are very protective of their young . Be warnedRecommend

  • Adil Mulki

    Reminds me of Patras Bokhari’s skirmishes with stray dogs in his neighborhood depicted in the essay “Kuttay!”Recommend

  • dante

    Haha interesting. Always be friends with crows. No panga with crows and.cats.Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Angry birds! Recommend

  • Umar

    Sir, very nice post giving a good peaceful lesson of lifeRecommend

  • pointofview

    After reading this I now realize why that damn eagle who housed her nest on the neighbors air conditioner attacked my face every time I stuck my neck out of the window! I used to throw water at them and try and throw their nest off with a stick because they used to make a noise while we slept. Vindictive these birds are!Recommend

  • pakvestor

    Just for your information and all others who think that the crow is a dumb bird, you may want to look at this video on their intelligence http://www.ted.com/talks/joshuakleinontheintelligenceofcrows.htmlRecommend

  • Seriously

    I remember one such incident when i tease a baby crow and the very next day mommy crow takes away my biscuits right in front of my eyes. Recommend

  • http://myjoygames.com/ ben 10 games online

    Tribune.com.pk is the best blog I love it :)Recommend

  • ding dong

    what a great read. Excellent!Recommend

  • Sarah

    Brilliant! Kept me riveted till the end. In fact, I had my very own crow incident as well. Your story took me back to when I was stalked by a crow (because I shooed it away when it was trying to harass an injured eagle in my garden). They can be big bullies and I’m glad someone is talking about this issue! :DRecommend

  • Mazher Mehboob

    Very nice Anser Bhai and well articulated. Recommend

  • Syed Anser Ahmed

    @Big Rizvi:
    Thank you.Recommend

  • Syed Anser Ahmed

    @Mazher Mehboob:Thanks, dear!Recommend

  • Syed Anser Ahmed

    @Sahr Hasan:
    Thanks.Recommend

  • Syed Anser Ahmed

    @Taha:
    Thanks.Recommend

  • Syed Anser Ahmed

    Thank you all for your comments. Appreciate it!Recommend

  • sanaullah khan

    you write a tall story so i cannot understand what u want 2 say,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Recommend