When we were very young, we used to find a lot of crows in our neighborhood. They used to be pesky pests, filching ghee-utensils, pecking at soap-cakes, and making raucous noises, There were quite a few occasions when we children were hit on our head with its sharp beak or its claws.The crow would then grab and fly away with the goody the child was holding in his hands. There were small crows with dull black coat, there were other bigger ones with a glittering dark coat, and there rarely used to be some with a dull brown coat, which were called ‘Bonta Kakulu’. One of my chums then, named Satyam, used to tell me that the particular species of crows some times carried in the beak a twig which had miraculous powers of resurrecting a corpse and that his dad had acquired one such divine ‘Sanjivini’ twig, but which they lost unfortunately. That explained why they could not resurrect his father when they found him dead in his sleep one early morning. Not all sticks that the crow held had the miraculous power. You can check it by floating the twig in flowing water. If it swam upstream you could be sure that it was indeed Sanjivini, otherwise not.
When a crow sat persistently on branch of a tree in the backyard and called out repeatedly and loudly, we children used to jump with joy, for it portended that, welcome cousins, uncles and aunts or distant grand old relatives looking like Santa Claus were going to visit us.
And when it rained we used to worry as to what would happen to the hapless creatures.And after the storm had passed and a crow was found dead in a puddle, hundreds of its cohorts would cry out loudly and with bent heads. mourn the loss, and that would make us grieve too.
When ever a similar calamity befell in the neighborhood, people would mourn too, and with out much delay carry away the hapless corpse to consign it off to the elements in the cremation ground.. But even there they would stop three times on the way, place the corpse down on the ground each time and the surviving relative who held the privilege, I mean the responsibility, to apply the first lighted fagot to the pyre, is made to draw with an iron nail on the ground a number of crow’s-feet around the bier,and to cry out loudly in the ear to the departed one to return. People say there were occasions, though rare when the liberated soul on its way to the heavens and bliss , relented and returned.
And whenever there was a ceremony to remember a long dead relative, people used to place a small ball of cooked rice soaked in ghee in a small cup fashioned out of a strip of green banana leaf and leave it on the terrace or roof, and wait and watch anxiously for the ancestor to condescend and swoop down in the garb of a crow, bless them and pick up the morsel in his beak and fly off to the heavens.
I used to have a book of captivating drawings of crows, by the eminent cartoonist, R.K.Laxman, showing the fascinating bird in diverse moods.