Vivek’s father, an ardent bird-watcher, loved crows. Vivek, sadly, did not share the same enthusiasm, but his opinion was about to change.

Vivek did not like crows. He felt they were noisy, mischievous and dull-coloured. He liked sparrows. They were cute and chirpy.

Vivek’s father was an expert bird-watcher and loved crows. He called them “brainy” birds. He had a book on crows with beautiful pencil sketches. Earlier, Vivek and his parents used to lay out food for the birds on a tray tied to their third-floor balcony, but the birds splattered the food so messily that the family had to stop this act of kindness.

“Pa, if crows are all that brainy, why can’t they eat without making a mess,” Vivek complained. Pa laughed and said, “It is their nature, Vivek, and it is up to us to observe and enjoy that as a part of nature.”

Crowing over crows

This summer, the family had planned to join a one-day health camp at a nearby ashram, an hour’s drive from the city. They had to leave really early so as to be there by 6.30 a.m.

The place was buzzing with children and adults when they got there. After the registration process, they were guided to their respective halls.

The children were taught yoga, meditation and simple health tips. Then, breakfast was served. They laughed, played outdoor games and made new friends. Then they went on a nature walk and later, watched a film on birds. The kids learnt that crows are called “scavengers” as they keep the environment clean. The young teacher told them that during the summer, birds search for water to drink. “We can save birds’ lives by placing bowls of water in the open.”

Vivek mentioned this to his parents when they met for lunch. The food was delicious even though it had less oil and spices. After lunch, they walked amidst the trees and Pa pointed out many birds with sweet bird-calls and interesting names like Fork-Tailed Drongo and Bee-Eater. Down by the lake, they saw several waterbirds.

In the evening, as the sun set, Vivek watched flocks of birds fly across the orange sky and listened keenly to the crows cawing as they settled on the trees for the night. After an early dinner, the family drove home.

The next day, Ma bought a large, clay bowl, and Pa fixed it on a broad windowsill. Vivek offered to clean the bowl regularly.

They filled the bowl with water and waited. At first, no crows came. Then one landed, hopped sideways, sat on the edge of the bowl with a cocked head and flew away. Slowly, more crows began coming, singly and then in groups, for a drink. Vivek was surprised to see the birds taking polite turns to sip the water! He noted how they threw back their heads as they thirstily gulped down the water in the summer heat.

Sometimes, Vivek had to refill the water in the evening, as more birds visited — sparrows, pigeons and sometimes mynas. Every noon a particular crow would come and land in the bowl with a big splash, spilling the water all over the windowsill. But Vivek did not grumble. He hid behind the curtain and chuckled as the lively crow enjoyed its bath!

Pa had put up a seed-tray and a shelter for sparrows in the balcony where they could nest safely. “I have learned something important, too,” he told Vivek, “We should observe nature and also serve her.” Living in a flat in the city, Vivek was caring for the birds around him. He now loved crows.