One of my fondest childhood memories is that of me and my sisters feeding rice to sparrows and crows in the verandah in our grandparent’s house. It’s an age old practice that our grandparents had encouraged us to indulge in and enjoy. These days sighting sparrows in Chennai has become a rarity and finding time in our extra rush-hour life to feed the crows has been difficult. The problem is also aggravated by the fact that it’s very difficult to find a suitable spot to feed the birds in apartment complexes. Nevertheless in the last couple of years I have got into the habit of feeding crows.
The compound wall of our current flat is just an arm’s distance from our kitchen. As a result we place food for the birds on the compound wall from our kitchen. The convenience factor has made it easier to feed the crows. The sound of the crows around breakfast and lunch times also serve as alarm bells that remind me to feed the crows. I hadn’t given it much thought but of late I have started noticing that even crows have foods preferences. The scavenging crows are the last creatures that I would have expected to have preference in meals but they seem to have preferences. Crows prefer non-veg items; that’s a no brainer. They prefer chapatti over rice; that’s a surprise to me. The spot where we place pieces of chapatti will become empty within a few minutes whereas when we place rice it will take a couple of hours to get finished. Crows seem to hate dosas; they are kind of ok with idlis.
This Saturday morning, something even more interesting happened. My wife was not keeping well and my mother was at my sister’s place. I went to kitchen to drink water and on hearing the sound of crows I reached out to the loaf of bread lying on the kitchen table. I pulled a couple of slices of bread and tore them into smaller pieces and placed them at the usual spot on the compound wall where we keep food for the crows. Then I went to wash my hands at the kitchen sink and simultaneously peeked through the window to see what was happening.
Four crows descended on the compound and were shouting loudly. However none of them touched the bread. One of the crows even looked very closely at the bread pieces similar to the way a lab technician would look through a microscope. Even after a couple of hours the bread pieces were still lying on the compound wall.
As I was having my lunch I could not help but wonder about the optimism of those crows. Crows are mostly scavengers eating on left overs, living a kind of rootless existence (in the eyes of a human) with not much guarantee about the next meal. Yet the experience of their life time had taught them to be so optimistic about their immediate future that they were not willing to sell themselves short. Even a lifetime of scavenging has not dented their optimism.
I wish I had the same optimistic outlook about my own life. At so many instances in life I have sold myself short thinking that it was risky to forego what was in front of me. There have been days at a stretch when I had been pessimistic, cynical and grumpy. I have also known of so many people (with the best of education, jobs, health and family condition) who have had the same feeling and would go an extra mile in propagating their pessimism to others as well. And yet here we have bunch of scavenging crows that were more optimistic than people like us and were refusing to sell themselves short. Optimism is not something that you deduce from your immediate environment or situation but something that you inculcate within yourself. Life and Nature are indeed great teachers.