lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tere ghar ke saamne

Readers, Fellow-bloggers and Lurkers: lend me your eyes. (Don't panic, you will get them back.) I have been away to spend another few days in a nursing home. The comments on recent posts, when I read them today, made me feel flattered, proud and humble. Thank you all for the good wishes. Please don't take exception that I am not replying individually, that is a bit much right now. I will get back to doing that, of course, never fear.

Sivaram wanted lighthearted poetry and sitting on a hospital bed is not conducive to creativity. So I came up with this translation. I sent it as a text message to friends and got a couple of laughs, so I think it may pass muster.

Tiffin Twins
A Tam can live on idli-vada for aeons,
To jilebi-singara a Bong will sing paeans;
A Gult only needs pesarattu-upma to make his day,
What combo does an Eskimo rejoice in, pray?
"A surge in your career and a call from a lover will surprise you," " My sister read out the weekly predictions made for masses by a tarot card reader. "Blah blah blah…so on and so forth. Aha! A relationship might end but expect a sudden surge in your love life."

"Not at our time of life," I muttered quoting Nanny Ogg, which was wasted on her.

"Here, yours is interesting, " she went on. "You may face problems with your legs. Avoid surgery; take some rest!"

"A week too late," I said trying to find a comfortable position on the bed. Her attention was diverted by a crow that landed on the windowsill. "Crow, crow, tell me true; hop and skip if kinfolk are due." She recited the old formula. I snorted. Of course, we will get kinfolk visiting- the Delhi sister will come for the weekend; the Hyderabad sister will come next week. We didn't need a crow to forecast that.

"Hey, they are making a nest in that jackfruit tree," she reported. "There is another crow with a nice long twig in its beak. Aargh, wedge it from the other side, you idiot bird!"

By the time the crows had two twigs wedged in place, she decided that her fortune telling crow was the female. It sat and looked peevish when the twigs fell off, instead of swooping like the other to retrieve them. I objected. It could be the male, guarding the nesting site, while the female picked up fallen twigs.

"Nah, it looks like a female."

I said it wasn't easy to tell. But the calls of crows are familiar to me. People think that crows only have the harsh 'caw' for their call. But they are great conversationalists, and have a variety of calls. I once heard a crow soliloquise on my windowsill, in a semi-guttural call interspersed with the baby calls without the 'feed me' note of urgency. To me it sounded like Hamlet's dilemma revisited.

There was conversation from the nest-builders too. My sister thought they were arguing about the suitability of the site. It was a confluence of three branches, one stout limb and the other two slightly below it. If the crows had the sense to wedge the twigs from the thinner branches to the thicker, they'd have had an easy time of it, my sister decided. But the conversation of the crows could have been about the neighbourhood, distances they'd have to go to forage, if a jackfruit tree was a good tree to nest in. I never lived in a place that had jackfruit trees, so I had no idea if it was common for crows to nest in them.

The area was good, though. Old World Residential, so there were trees in the backyards, there was no traffic or high-powered streetlights to distort their time-sense. There was no worry about the branch getting lopped off by the KMC, which routinely happens to trees on main thoroughfares. Not good for the chicks growing up.

After the fifth attempt to wedge a third twig, my sister turned away from the window. "It is too frustrating to watch," she said. I hobbled over to the chair and watched the nest building for a while. I decided that my sister was right about the fortune telling crow being a female. It used a lot of baby calls without the urgent note, and her posture suggested she expected to be taken care of. Those baby calls without the cheeps of 'feed me' urgency still made her side of the conversation full of imperatives and impatience.

The fourth twig did it; they'd wedged three, and seemed to have a good base, a bit on the large side, but workable. But when the other crow tried to add the fourth, three twigs fell off. This must be their first attempt at building a nest, I thought.

The perhaps female spoke. The call sounded like an ultimatum. I want a nest, and I want it here. The perhaps male spoke. It was placating and calming. Then, with a longish call, the crow flew down to retrieve the twigs.

That call sounded like, ek ghar banaaoongaa, to me. A promise.

"Be ready for added responsibilities brought on by someone else's deeds. Though overworked, you will complete the project successfully. You may change residence. You will be apprehensive about finances. The one you loved will no longer give you joy. Be determined to get what you want," my sister read aloud.

"I wonder if that female is a Leo," she said.



Anonymous Kamini said...

Polar bear steak and whale blubber?
Sorry to read that you're in the nursing home - hope you have a speedy recovery and are feeling much better now.

9:43 am  
Blogger Sivaram said...

Eskimo actually means 'eater of raw-fish'. The people of Arctic circle do not like to be called so. They call themselves Inuits - meaning Humans.

Welcome back !

1:12 pm  
Blogger complexvanilla said...

The fortune-telling bird was just looking while the other bird was hard at work osh yet was voicing it's expectations and criticisms load and clear? Well, there hardly seems to be any room for confusion about the gender of the bird in question!! :D

11:53 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Kamini- Doesn't sound very appetising, does it? I am back home now, yes, and planning to bore my readers to tears with more scholarly essays on esoteric things, I tell you.

Sivaram- 'Eater of raw fish' sounds like invective, doesn't it? I am glad to be back, I tell you.

Complexvanilla- I am willing to be convinced either way, but on a slightly more scientific basis. :-)

11:49 am  
Blogger Kshama said...

Why Leo????

Glad you are back. Waiting for more essays. I hope i understand the esoteric ones

6:23 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

It is hereby confirmed. Even while I delicately "haw!" at The Sister for not reading Pratchett ("Not at our time of life", haha. Witches Abroad, Lali? Der Flabberghast?), I'm pleased to announce that from available data, Missus Em and siblings thereof have inherited the capacity of effortless entertainment and humour in equal, if diverse, measure.

This merits an encroaching on family time at Chez Em, but I'm distinctly unfond of crows ever since one made a sweep for my nose while I was still an impressionable youngster.

11:35 pm  
Blogger Sivaram said...

And a Marathi on Batata-wada,
A Sardar on paratha-aachar,

A mallu on ??

A lame attempt, but it is my way of saying thanks for obliging to versify under adverse circumstances.

1:12 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Kshama- Well, Leo was what the prediction was about. Let me see if I can keep the scholarship to the minumum (since I don't have much, anyway), and fun more to the fore.

Rimi- Ah, Princess! Crows do not sweep, they have wing-sweeps, which are negligible compared to, say an albatross or a golden eagle, but they do, do swoop.

But seriously, come over any time you feel like, you are always welcome, you know that.

Sivaram- Hmm, that has some possibilities, you know? I will need to research on combos of other ethnic groups, but we can make a nice national integration poem of it, or advertising jingle that we are still united for something... the possibilities are endless. :-)

4:59 am  
Anonymous Ash said...

Mere samnewale khidki mein would have been a better title for the post, Lali. Couldn't bring yourself to use a Kishore song, eh?

10:28 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ash- Hmph. My heart belongs to Rafi.

9:30 am  

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