“I miss home” I told him as I leaned on his shoulders.
“The home in Kerala?”
“hmm, it is monsoon season now. There is a small creek in front of the house. During monsoon time, the creek will be overflowing and you can catch minnows using a towel. Most of the times I had to dig a hole on the creek bank and fill it with water and keep the fish I caught in that. Some times my grandmother would let me have an old glass bottle and I fill it with water and keep the fish in. It was my own aquarium. I used to find weeds and twigs and place that in the bottle to make a horlicks bottle aquarium. I used to spend hours watching the fish in the bottle. They were silvery white and some of them had a red spot on their tail. By next morning most of the fish would be floating on top of the water and the cycle is repeated. I was forever hopeful of extending the life span of minnows for more than 24 hours.”
“Did you ever manage?”
“Nah, they all die after a day and then you finally give up trying and blame the minnows. They had the best horlicks bottle aquarium and they didn’t appreciate it. They had no idea what they were missing, right?”
“That was so rude of the minnows. How dare they die when they had the best bottle aquarium, that too with twigs and weed inside!” He too agreed.
I wondered, Does everything die when you take it away from where it belong? Even if you try to replant or replace it? Is that what Rousseau’s paradox is all about? Is it because a part of you is dead that you keep wanting to hold on to your memories and wanting to go home? Even when you know the home is just a mirage?
My heart ached when I thought about Ammachi. I missed her, I could see her sitting on the parapet wall and listening to the sound of the bus, hoping each bus would bring me home.
I knew she would live each day believing entey kunju thirichu varum.(my child will surely come back)
This time,Who would have dried the tapioca for her during the summer? Who would get her all the groceries? Would she have anything to eat?
I felt there is no person more evil than me on planet earth. There is no doubt that I was the worst hypocrite on earth. I wanted to do medicine so I can take care of others, yet I couldn’t even take care of my own grandmother in her old age.
I saw a black crow swooping down and sitting on the roof of one of the houses. Soon it started to caw and within minutes plenty of crows started to arrive. He must have noticed the crows too, because he asked
“Nina Do you know how many crows are there in Bangalore?”
“Are you sure?”
“What if I say there are 2200 crows?”
“Those extra ones, they came to attend their friend’s wedding”
“Darn” He muttered
I turned my head to look at him and I couldn’t resist sticking my tongue at him.
“Aiyyeda! You thought you can trick me? I have read every single Birbal stories, so I know. Better luck next time!” I told him
“Oh really? Then =dDo you know why crows are black?”He asked
“Because they have black feathers!”
“What if I tell you that in the beginning all crows were white”
“Really? Who told you that?”
“And then how did they become black?”
“It is a long story”
“Well, Long time ago, A beautiful daughter was born to the Naga king and his wife. Every evening she would come out of their kingdom and watch the people on earth going back home after the day’s work is done. The people were always happy and she wanted to know what they do during the day time. She wanted to know why they are so happy. But her father refused to let her go out. She was very sad, soon she stopped eating. Naga king was very worried. He relented finally and used his magic and transformed the princess in to a human. He told her
“You can stay on earth as long as you want to, but once you come back, you will be transformed back to a naga Princess. Remember you can never take human form again”
The princess was happy, she was walking in a garden enjoying the smell of flowers and the sun was rising. Now the Sun king also had a son. He always helped his father every morning by waking up all the flowers. So as luck would have, he was at the garden when he saw the naga princess. He never met anyone
more prettier. She also saw the sun prince and she too felt the same, she never met anyone more handsome. They were in love and like all lovers, they decided to get married and live together. They were so happy together.
Soon the earth was dying. Because no one woke up the flowers, the bees were dying, plants were dying, animals were dying and the sun prince realized he needs to go back home and help his father. So he told his wife
“Princess, I am going to my father’s place for a few days,if you need anything send a message through the white bird”
Now in those times, all the crows were white in colour and they could fly really high, all the way up to the sun.
“Then what happened?” I asked
“few days later, the princess realized she was pregnant. She laid three golden eggs. She wanted her husband to know the good news, so she called the white crow and told him
“White bird, fly all the way to the sun and tell the price to come and see the eggs. And remember, don’t stop anywhere on the way”
The crow muttered” as though I would” and started to fly towards the sun.
He met the sun prince and told him the good news. The prince was so happy to hear the news. But he still had some more work to do at his father’s palace. So he took the most expensive rubies from his father’s treassure chest and placed it in a pure sun ray silk pouch and gave it to the crow and said
“White bird, take this gift to my wife and tell her that I would come and see her and my children in a few days time. Remember, don’t stop anywhere on the way”
The crow muttered”as if I would” and flew away holding the gift in his beak. As he was coming down, he saw his friends crowding around something and cawing.
The flight was long and he was hungry. He knew his friends would have found something to eat and that is why they are cawing so much. He dropped the gift in a bush and went to join his friends. Few robbers who were hiding behind the bush also saw the crow dropping something glittery in to the bush. They ran to find out what it was and they were shocked to see the rubies inside the pouch. They took the rubies and placed some rocks in the pouch and tied it back. After eating the crow came and took the pouch from the bush and flew to the Naga princess, She was waiting for him
“What did my husband say?” She asked the crow
“He send this for you” The crow passed the sun ray silk pouch to her.
She was so excited, she opened the pouch quickly and saw the rocks.
“Did you stop anywhere on the way?” Princess asked the crow
“No” Crow lied
Naga princess was angry, so angry that she threw the eggs in to the river and went back to her father’s kingdom.
“What happened to the eggs?” I asked
“They bopped along the river, they got caught in a rock pool and the shell got cracked. Thousands of rubies came out of first the egg., From the second egg came the tiger, from the third egg came out the snakes.”
“You know Nina,My grand father told me that there is a river in Burma that still has rubies”
“then what happened?”
“Well, as promised the sun prince came to see the eggs, he looked everywhere, he couldn’t find the princess and he realized what would have happened. He was so angry with the crow and he stared at the crow and its white feather’s got burned and became black. As the sun prince went back, he burned the feather of every single crow he met. Some got fully burned, some only got burned at the back and some the neck was only slightly burned. That is why you see, some crows are all black, some crows have white feathers on their breast and some crows have grey colour patch around their neck.”
“What happened to the Naga princess?”
“Well, she still try to come out during full moon days, thinking that the light is from her husband”
“And the sun prince?”
“He is still searching for her every morning”
Only lovers know the pain of separation! I could almost feel the Naga Princess’ pain. I could feel her disappointment each full moon day.
“What will you do if anything happens to me?”
I reached out and closed his mouth with my hand
“Don’t. Please don’t talk like that”
It was an omen, wasn’t it? Don’t people talk about death before dying?