I’ve discussed the neighbourhood I grew up at quite a few times. For example here and here. Today I’ve brought another story from it. In our neighborhood there used to live a crow. Although the neighborhood was filled with thousands of resident crows, this one crow was special. He was special because in an unknown accident it had lost one of his legs.
Seeing this crow flying around with one limping leg had given rise to many legends and myths in the neighborhood. The children who played in the street openly talked about these legends. According to some, the crow lost his leg while rescuing his female from the clutches of a hungry ‘cheel’ (a kind of an eagle which is very common in Karachi), some said he lost his leg after falling from his nest while asleep, some said he lost his leg while trying to walk ‘huNs ki chaal’ (an Urdu idiom- if a crow tries to walk like a crane, he loses his own walk) etc.
I was also part of this legend mongering crowd which believed in so many stories about this crow. Whoever in the street used to spot this crow, they used to shout aloud for the benefit of others:
woh dekho, langRa kawwa !!
(Look, one-legged crow is here)
This made every one in the street stop their work and look for the crow. Drivers used to hang their necks out of car windows to look for it, street cricket batsmen used to tell approaching bowlers:
“ek minute yaar, woh..kawwa..oopar?” (just a minute friend, that crow, look up)
etc. Within days, this crow, backed by all kinds of legends and myths, grew so much in popularity that he became a household name in the locality.
We saw the crow‘s limping flight for few months but the rot had set in. After few months the crow lost his popularity. Thereafter, he just became part of the area landscape and nobody paid much attention to his flight. Apparently, the crow didn’t like this fall from fame hood. So one sunny evening, the crow came down on an un-suspecting passer-by and pecked the passer by’s head with his beak and flew away to the nearby tree. The passer-by started screaming, pointing towards the tree and people started gathering around him in sympathy. Very soon somebody in the infringing crowd said what everybody was thinking. That somebody said:
“langra kawwa pagal ho gaya hai”
(the one-legged crow has become crazy).
From that day onwards the popularity graph of the crow climbed up steeply. Overnight he was declared as ‘one-legged-half-brained’ crow. His status changed from a celebrity hero to that of a devil-may-care villain. The new status also gave rise to new legends and myths about how and why the crow lost his mind. Some said that it is because the crow society made one-legged crow an outcast so he lost his mind, some said it is because humans didn’t look after him and some again said that it is because he fell out of his nest while asleep.
The crow on the other hand was becoming more and more carnivorous by the day. Now he started pecking anyone who passed under the street-tree he used to live on. There were a couple of people who were his famous victim. One was a boy who worked in a neighborhood. The crow had some ‘zaati parkhaash’ (personal animosity) against this boy. As soon as the boy entered the street, the crow would start screaming ‘kaaeN kaaeN’ and followed the boy home while diving and pecking on his head repeatedly like an air-force jet diving to make a kill. In the end this boy had to become bald and wear dark-glasses in order to fool the crow into believing that he was somebody else. This trick worked and the crow stopped harassing this boy.
Another famous victim was an old lady of our neighborhood. She used to come out in the evening for a walk and this crow made the mistake of pecking her head once. To this she became so infuriated that she started scolding aloud in the middle of the road:
kam-bakht, jhaaroo peetay, kal-moonhe, ek dafa haath aa gaya to tera soup pi jaaon gi?
(You unfortunate, broom-hitted, face-looser, if I catch you once, I?ll drink the soup made from you)
Apparently the crow really got scared of such grammatically correct Urdu scolding and I don’t remember if he crossed her path again.
After a while the situation became so worse that the cabinet meeting of street boys was called again. I also had the honors of attending it. In the meeting there were two groups. One was a humane group which asked for mercy for the crow while other insisted on mercy for the people by giving crow a mercy-killing. Luckily the mercy for the crow group was in majority. It was then decided that the crow be caught, taken to some other neighborhood and let free. Some suggested that we should let it free in next neighborhood because their cricket team beat ours all the time but good sense prevailed and we transferred the crow to an unpopulated place. I am not sure how the crow was caught and transferred because I was not part of the ‘action committee’ which was formed to carry out this humane operation. This happened in 1982. Twenty Five years and a lot of water under the bridges have passed since then. I don’t know how long a crow lives. Our readers can enlighten us. Hopefully he is still alive and kickin’.