It is the black crow…

“It is the black crow… it touched me again today”… my mom told me when we had to pull curtains for a few days in our small mandir (worship place) at home… I was a little boy so young that I do not even recollect
my age group… but I cannot forget her story… for it happened quite often (now I know it was a monthly affair – did not realise the frequency at that time)… and one time I got so angry that I started searching for that crow who pecked my mom that led us to
change our routine life… I started showing her all the crows… “No, this are not those crows… it’s a special crow which does not come every day, but once in a while it comes and peck’s only women and makes us sore and dirty… so we need to cleanse ourself
and rest for some days which leads to all this”… she said, fully conscious that I was getting angry and would have started some kind of violence against the poor crows…

When I became a teenager, I remember my dad telling me what my mom was going through… and that every woman goes through the menstrual cycle… but till then the crow story had fulfilled my curiosity sufficiently…
and now I feel amused and I smile every time I recollect the story… It is one of the small, little, special memory I have of my mother and how she managed us…

I did not know how to categorize this story until I started reading “Folktales from India” by A. K. Ramanujan… and the moment I started reading it… I knew I was in love with folktales… They are tiny little
classics and gems of humanness…

A folktale is characterized by imagination and use of day to day things and events which are mixed and conjured up to convey a very different message to the reader… sometimes straightforward, sometimes cryptic…
they are highly localized and many make sense only in a specific context which is relative to time and place…

But I think they are classics… For even though I am prone and often rightly accused by many people of using too much logic in my thought process… I think these imaginative and illogical stories must have served
their purpose of guiding gullible people at the right time… and the reason I think they are great is that many can be used even now in a different era and context for conveying a very wise message to the highly informed humans of today… in multiple different

Take an example from AKs book… And I am reproducing verbatim (cannot be plagiarism – another beauty of this tales – no one can claim ownership):

If it isn’t you, it must be your father…

Once a lamb was drinking water in a mountain stream. A tiger came to drink the water a few yards above him, saw the lamb, and said, “Why are you muddying my stream?”

The lamb said, “How can I muddy your water? I’m down here and you are up there”.

“But you did it yesterday,” said the Tiger.

“I wasn’t even here yesterday!”

“Then it must have been your mother.”

“My mother has been dead for a while. They took her away.”

“Then it must have been your father.”

“My father? I don’t even know who he is,” said the desperate lamb, getting ready to run.

“I don’t care. It must be your grandfather or great-grandfather who has been muddying my stream. So I’m going to eat you,” said the tiger. And he pounced on the lamb, tore him to pieces and made a meal of him.

The above folklore can be used in today’s context in so many situations… helpless situations of orphans, attitude of dictators, employees could use it to make sarcastic comments on management, on bullies, for
politics… and many more things… to explain so many mindsets and situations… and the fantastic thing is that this must have been made up by some village person to probably address a specific situation once upon a time!

And the last thing I have to share my fascination with this kind of tales is… that it need not be something that was created centuries or generations ago… my mom created the “It is the black crow” story for
me… and if I continue to pass it on to my children (which I intend to do, if they ever were to ask me about the event at a very young age in their life)… then it will become a folktale for my great grandkids…

Folklore keeps getting produced and passed on… for it is a by-product of the human imagination that is used to solve situations which logic cannot… and we will keep having such situations… and we will keep
making such stories… and that is one of the things that will make us and keeps us human…

– Written on 21 September 2016


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