By Nandita Bose
Where to build the nest? Father and Mother Crow were very worried. They must build it before the monsoon rains came. After much peering and probing Mother found the ideal place on a Kadam tree that kissed the top of Brinda’s roof.
Brinda was a little girl who always left fresh water for the birds on the parapet of her flat. It could not be left on the floor of the roof because of her pet dog Bingo. He would finish their water and grin back saucily at the feathered crow. He hated them because Brinda loved them. Bingo wanted that Brinda should love him and him alone. He did not want to share her love.
Father Crow was worried.
“Why did you choose this place? I don’t like the dog.”
Mother Crow was busy collecting sticks and hardly had time to answer.
“The dogs keep the roof safe from cats and rats; even eagles don’t come near. Then there is another plus point apart from ready water – the food the over-fed dog scatters around.”
“Ah yes! The fat dog Bingo is always eating and eating!”
And so the nest was built on the fork of a branch that nearly touched the roof and yet rested far away from human touch.
Two eggs were laid. Two eggs hatched. Father and Mother were beside themselves with happiness. All the local crows came to look at the birdies. They each brought gifts – the tail of a lizard or the bone of a chicken snatched from the kitchen next door.
Everything was fine and the little birdies began to grow.
Then one day a storm broke. It was a freak storm – not supposed to happen at that time of the year. The branch became loose and with the nest began to dangle close to the floor of the roof.
It was night. The baby crows somehow knew that there was trouble and did not make a noise. Mother and Father Crow could not see in the dark. They too kept quiet. They hoped and prayed that the dog would not go about romping on his nightly prowl. Perhaps the storm would make him stay indoors.
Mother Crow was not happy waiting. What could they do when dawn broke? Nothing!
Father Crow hated to think.
“Leave the birdies,” he advised, “and let us fly away when the Sun rises. You know we can’t do anything. Even by giving our lives we cannot save them.”
Mother Crow did not answer. She knew Father Crow was right but her heart refused to listen. She was a mother. How could she leave behind her babies? She shuddered to think that the dog would breakfast on them.
“Perhaps we should not have built the nest so close to the roof,” she said.
Father Crow was very practical.
“The storm could have thrown the nest on the road,” he said. “You know – once it’s on the ground our crow-law does not allow us to feed the babies.”
“Yes – but see here the branch is not touching the roof; it’s hanging low,” replied Mother promptly.
The argument would have gone on and on when dawn began to break.
Brinda opened her eyes. She woke up with the birds to give them puffed rice and fresh water. Today, feeling a bit tired, she wanted to remain in bed when suddenly loud barks from her dog made her jump up. Barks so early in the morning? Could a rat have dared to enter the roof? Why were the crows giving out alarm signals?
Rushing out she saw the nest swinging on the low branch. Her pet dog Bingo was about to pounce on them while Mother Crow was making diving pecks on their heads and flying off to return again.
Brinda quickly took in the grave situation. She raised her voice warning Bingo and immediately he stopped on his tracks.
Bingo kept low but continued to grumble on a low key, saying to himself, “Let little Miss go away and then …”
But before that, Brinda rushed towards the nest and picked up the branch holding it aloft firmly.
But how long could she hold on? The moment she would let go, the branch and nest would come down and tantalizingly dangle low on the roof. What to do?
If only she could hook on the low branch holding the nest to a higher one! Brinda jumped but she was too small to reach the upper branch although it had an extended limb ideal to act as a hook.
What to do?
Bingo growled! Mother crow was continuing to peck him. It made Brinda jump. Without giving up her hold on the branch cradling the nest she jumped on to the parapet of the roof.
It was a frightening experience. She looked down. The cars below seemed like matchboxes and the people were like ants. Her head began to reel. She started to lose her balance and tilt forward.
It was a critical moment. It was touch and go. Would the human baby and the crow babies all fall down?
Suddenly Bingo realized what was happening. He loved his mistress – loved her passionately with all his doggy heart. He jumped up and made a grab for the hem of Brinda’s skirt. He held on fast while Brinda swiftly hooked the drooping branch over the higher jutting-out limb of the tree.
And so all were happy now – Mother Crow, Father Crow, Bingo and Brinda!