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Black Pal

by Kumaar Pradhan

Human history is full of racial problems. Mahatma Gandhi’s revering sweepers as Harijans or Dr. Babassaheb Ambedkar’s mass conversion to Buddhism and Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to remove deeply rooted discrimination of the blacks are the endeavors of enlightened persons to eradicate racial discrimination.

This melancholy, dismal thought struck me because of a crow. Yes, the boldest, closest, omnipresent bird, the crow: W.C. Bryant’s century-living crow.

That day I was leisurely standing on my balcony. Far away on the railings of the balcony, a crow was perched. I gathered that he had not spotted me. Once or twice he took a couple of short bounces and shifted himself a little farther on the railings, but he didn’t intend to fly away.

A strange idea struck me. I knew that a crow was one-eyed. He moved his neck right or left and panned the neck suitably to watch whatever he wanted to watch. That meant, when he panned his head to the right, he had no idea what was going on to his left, unless it made a noise.

I decided to exploit this natural limitation of the crow. I kept watching when the crow panned his head to his left, which was opposite to me. When he started watching the opposite side, I slipped just an inch towards him. I decided to take it easy. Every time he tilted his neck to the other side, I advanced a little towards him without making any noise. Sometimes I sensed that he was looking at me, but I kept my face straight as if I were not aware of him. He never suspected that the distance between me and him was reducing,

It took nearly half an hour to come very close to him. I was still like an iron statue. I was not making noise, even of breathing. He never felt my presence there. I was then at an arm’s length from him.

The moment he panned and stuck his neck out towards the ground, I took a deep, noiseless breath and no sooner had I put my open palm on his glossy, winged back, than he realized what was in store for him. But that was too late. He was in grip of my palm. I tightened my clasp on him and lifted him. He did not make a noise, but he struggled to get free. He seemed desperate to get free. He soon realized that he was in captivity.

I tried to feed him, but he never ate the fruit I gave him. He did not touch cooked rice nor did he drink water that I held under his beak. I named him Black Pal. I coaxed him; I pampered him by calling him Black Pal, giving it a little musical tone. I did not at all plan to harm Black Pal; neither did I wish to cage him. So, presently, I released him.

The next moment nearly a hundred crows leaped into the sky from nowhere. They had probably been watching Black Pal’s captivity from scores of trees around and started chasing Black Pal in the sky; just as ack-ack planes chase enemy bomber planes. They were frantically crowing in chorus and the whole sky was filled with their frightening crowing sound.

Black Pal was flying ahead, and hundreds of his companions — or now enemies — were flying after him. Their intention seemed sinister. I watched the fierce chase with awe and I realized in no time that they were after Black Pal’s blood.

I felt very sorry for Black Pal. In the half an hour that he was in my firm palm, he had created an affinity, and I started wondering what I had done to him. My hand went to my chest, and I watched the chase with curious suspense. The crows would rest atop houses, terraces, and trees, turn by turn, but Black Pal was flying with ferocious strength without any rest. Taking rest would have meant falling into the trap.

However, there was to be an end to the chase. A crow chasing Black Pal, reached him and pecked him hard with his beak. Black Pal was flying vigorously. Another crow caught up with Black Pal and gave a rough push so that Black Pal floated down. Still, he continued flying, but then a group of four or five cruel crows assailed Black Pal, and in a few minutes Black Pal dropped down on a terrace of a nearby building.

All his enemies swooped down on him. Now they were out of my sight. I couldn’t keep from imagining what was happening to Black Pal. I slipped into my footwear and almost ran to the building. I reached the terrace not caring for the many enquiring and dismayed eyes watching me on my way.

I witnessed the fierce scene. A murder of crows was badly pecking at Black Pal, who was helplessly fluttering on the roof. I could not watch the terrible scene, but leaving Black Pal like that was against my conscience. I shouted loudly and clapped vigorously to whisk away the army of crows. The enemy retreated but stayed watching from different places around me.

I went near Black Pal. I observed that the bird was lying on one side. I realized that Black Pal was no more. Bryant’s century-living crow was dead. The moment I advanced towards his motionless body, a murder of crows started crowing in chorus. Now it was my turn to be frightened. That murderous murder of enraged crows could kill me, too. I ran towards the terrace door and disappeared on the stairs.

I was the cause of the appalling death of Black Pal. I felt guilty. Black Pal was killed just because he had stayed half an hour with me, and to crows the human race is untouchable. It was tormenting. I was ashamed. There was no one to console me.

I began to wonder. We discriminate between superior and inferior, black-skin and white-skin, touchable and untouchable; but we never realize that the entire human race is untouchable.

Copyright © 2014 by Kumaar Pradhan

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