How not to kill a crow
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 children. I 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
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