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Look who’s now eating crow

The Union government’s record so far is not an unmitigated set of negatives, after all

Non-vegetarian jokes are risqué; especially these days if they relate to gastronomical activities. But I am sure a crow is not in the same category as the holy cow and, particularly, if it references a figure of speech, in a manner of speaking. The crow is actually a very friendly bird as far as our experience goes. There are always a few of them sitting on a tree in front of our house. Whenever a group of monkeys makes its way towards our house, they start cawing. This, in turn, alerts our lovely dog, who barks them away.

But some people cannot but help eat crow, even though they are not technically non-vegetarians. ‘Eating crow’, incidentally, is a colloquial idiom, used in English-speaking countries. It means humiliation by admitting having been proven wrong after taking a strong position.

One can understand the government of the day being criticised and its intentions and actions being looked at with doubts by the opposition. But the intelligentsia talking about it without any rhyme or reason and later being made to ‘eat crow’, does not stand to reason.

Now, when the NDA government has completed three years, it is being said it has done nothing but dehumanise citizens through demonetisation. But those in the know say demonetisation has helped bring 9.1 million individuals under the tax net, which is actually 25% more than the individuals who filed income tax returns during 2015-16. The search and survey actions in the wake of demonetisation have led to the detection of undisclosed income of Rs. 23,144 crore. But, at the same time, it must be acknowledged that the two income disclosure schemes, during the last one year, “have not yielded much success”.

Of course there are problems. Not everything is hunky-dory; nor has it ever been in the past. But one needs to take a practical and objective view of happenings. The NDA’s energy plan is not a winner, and the NPA situation of public sector banks continues to worsen. But there are green shoots. The macro-economic situation – including trade deficits, foreign exchange reserves and inflation – has reportedly improved. Crisil has stated that “Modi’s steps will benefit growth over medium term”. But the NDA is “yet to deliver on the promise of market reforms”.

Be that as it may, let’s talk a little more on my favourite bird. There is this story of a crow trying to find out as to who is the most beautiful or talented among all the birds. He approaches the melodious nightingale (koyal), who, being black, refers him to the two-coloured parrot. The parrot in turn sends him to the multi-coloured peacock. The answer given by peacock settles the issue. Many of the so-called ‘beautiful’ birds are captured and put in the zoo. There is never a crow to be found in captivity. Is being beautiful and admired in captivity more important than being free?

The crow is actually a much venerated bird in some parts of south India. During the post-death ritual (shraddha), an oblation of cooked rice (pind) is offered to the departed soul. Thereafter, it is mandatory to get a crow to eat the offering, in order to complete the ritual. The person who is able get a crow to do the job (‘the crow-catcher’) is much in demand during funeral ceremonies.

In Uttar-kanda (the last canto) of Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas there is an episode about a crow called Kagabhusundi, who supposedly narrated the entire account of the Ramayana to Garuda (a large mythological eagle-like bird, believed to be the vehicle of Vishnu). At the end of the narration, Garuda asked why (in spite of his excellent credentials) the narrator had remained a crow.

Kagabhusundi smiled and said he was happy to be a crow since in that personification he had attained the devotion of Ram. It is another matter that he was born into the so-called chandala yoni of the crow, because in his previous birth as a Brahmin he earned a curse from a rishi on account of unnecessarily getting into futile arguments; which is not very different from the idiom of ‘eating crow’ of the so-called English-speaking countries.

vkagnihotri25@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 12:02:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/look-whos-now-eating-crow/article18956621.ece

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