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It is no secret that crows are intelligent. Science has time and time again proved the fact. It is also not a secret that larceny is second nature to them. They steal food, from other crows, birds and animals, and also humans.

Interestingly, when the crows steal from other crows they differentiate between kin and non-kin, reliable sources inform me. With the kin, they sidle up cawing ingratiatingly, and wait politely for the food to be shared (‘Oh, alright! Take some, cousin!). But with non-related crows, the routine is the simpler one of grab-and-run, or to be more precise, snatch-and-fly.

Not being related, humans get the same snatch-and-fly treatment from crows. Ask me, I should know.

As a toddler, I was one day sitting out on the veranda contentedly munching on some snack or other mother had made for me. Along came a wily crow, snatched the snack right off my little hands, and flew away. Shocked out of my wits and scared silly, I did what any decent two-year-old would do on such occasions. I bawled. Incidentally, that moment (of my bawling) was immortalized by father who, not wanting the scene to be lost to posterity, had the presence of mind to go back inside for his camera.

So yeah, indeed I have firsthand information about crows and their thieving nature. In spite I feel crows are an unjustly blamed lot in my homeland.

In every Mallu home with toddlers in them, from morning to night, in fact even at night when they are fast asleep in their nests, you can hear crows being blamed for the disappearance of n number of things. Mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, aunts, older brothers and sisters, in short every adult out there joins the bandwagon when it comes to defaming the crows. ‘Ayyayyayo! Kakka kondu poyi!‘ (Oh no! The crow has taken it!), they can be heard exclaiming to the toddlers in their care, a barefaced lie if ever there was one, because even as they accuse the crow, they are secretly whisking away whatever it is that they want to hide from the hands of their little wards.

You see how it is? They take away things, and blame the blameless crows. It is uncannily similar to how some policemen hoist cases on the innocent. Instead of saying a firm ‘no’ to the tiny tots, taking away the thing that they are not supposed to be playing with and thus setting boundaries early on, the adults, with no compunction whatsoever, cast the innocent crows in the role of villains. Anything, as long as they themselves are thought of as ‘good’!

Not satisfied with apportioning blame, they go on to tell off the crows for the benefit of their darlings. Bad, bad crow, they say. Oh no, don’t cry baby, they pacify the little ones, we won’t talk to the crows, okay? They wave their hands in pretend anger to shoo away the innocent crow(s) sitting on the wall (or tree), head tilted to one side, listening to the unjust accusations with growing amazement. ‘Who, me? You mean ME? Whoa, I didn’t steal a thing, human! This is so unfair!

Much maligned. What did I tell you?

© Shail Mohan 2020