Wednesday, January 17, 2007

There's always someone smarter

Did you spot the special feeding of the crows in Bombay yesterday?

Several houses laid out food in the morning, on plates made of banana leaves. This feeding of crows is one small part of Pongal, the Tamil harvest festival.

Not that Bombay's crows need any help with finding food!

They're among the smartest birds I've seen.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw two of them balancing coolly on top of a moving taxi, pecking at the bag of meat loaded on it. It was Bakr-Id that day, and the taxi had the remains of the day's sacrifice of goats. The two guys in the taxi had no clue their food was being eaten on the sly. My driver laughed when I said, look at those crows making fools of those men!

Another common sight in Bombay is crows stealing fish. You'll see them launching stealth attacks on vans and handcarts and taxis, merrily making a meal of the day's fishing catch.

Like I said, crows are smart. The only time that they get hoodwinked is by that other clever Indian bird, the koel.

The koel (the Indian cuckoo) lays its eggs in crows nests. And baby koels keep the deception going by cawing like crows. Devious, man!

Speaking of cuckoos - we learnt this rather philosophical Sanskrit poem at school. It's about the fine art of discernment:

Kakah krishna pikah krishna

Ko bheda pika kaka yoho?
Vasanta samaye praptey
Kakah kakah pikah pikaha

The crow is black, and the cuckoo is black
What difference, then, between crow and cuckoo?
When spring arrives, it's easy to tell**
That the crow is a crow, and the cuckoo a cuckoo.

**alluding of course, to the sweet song of the cuckoo in spring.


Michael Andre said...

Crows can count to seven; they're the smartest bird. Here on Staten Island, New York, crows were recently almost wiped out by West Nile Virus. That virus hitchhiked to New York on a airliner from Egypt. Crows were peculiarly susceptible.

Pallavi Limaye said...

Nice blog..and thanks for this song..was searching about this song which I used to sing in my you have the full song or any idea where i can get it?

Deepa Krishnan said...

It was a Sanskrit poem at school. The syllabus has changed, though, so I guess the poem is lost.

Anonymous said...

great blog,did you know Deepa that the term cuckold comes from the cuckoo bird,just thought it was interesting

shailesh said...

great and very meaningful poem.its points to those people who always thinks that they are the only one who are smart out there,but they don't know that there is always someone out more smarter better equiped or more knowledgble than them.