The crow who would be king


Zahra Nasir June 26, 2010

Zardari kicked up one hell of a racket at 5:30 am this morning. I could happily have shot him. The greasy character really needs to learn that, as far as I am concerned, there is a limit to his incessant demands and he has just about reached it! Malik wasn’t much better although, admittedly, he didn’t pluck up the courage to make his presence known until a more reasonable 6:30 am and, as usual, he hadn’t the guts to arrive alone but had Gilani, Qureshi and a host of lackeys in tow.

Morning on the mountain with delicate political negotiations before breakfast — not a good start to what promised to be a beautiful day. A day I had ambitiously planned as a peaceful, relaxing and mentally recharging of personal batteries kind of day but, like Alice in Wonderland, there were six impossible things to believe before this could happen!

First things first… Zardari. Yes, I did make him wait for one full nerve-wracking hour… nerve-wracking in that his raucous cries of “me, me, me” set my teeth on edge to the point of my brewing coffee minus the coffee grounds whilst muttering,“Okay, okay, you greedy so and so. I hear you. Anything that’s going and you’re first in the queue. Hang on, hang on.”

Zardari, naturally of course, paid no attention as he was far too busy working himself into a fit at the very thought of not getting his way. Malik knows better. He has learnt to kowtow to the rest of his motley crew from whom Qureshi hides in unabashed fear.

The ‘six impossible things’ all linked to believing that I could, and would, solve all hierarchical problems before sitting on the doorstep with a very well-earned cup of perfectly brewed, second time around, coffee.

Enough confusion. Let me introduce you to the guys who habitually join me for a breakfast meeting come rain or shine.

Zardari is a very large, blue-black crow with the beadiest eyes I have ever seen. Basically a coward at heart (if he has such a thing) he pounces around pretending to be ‘King of the Castle’ yet still manages to come across as a joker, a rather clever joker one must admit. But a joker all the same as all one has to do to intimidate him is to form a pointing gun shape with fingers and fist, aim it in his direction and… screech… with a flap of his wings he is gone.

Now Malik, for some unknown reason a buddy of Zardari’s, is an incredibly cheeky, thieving, fancily attired, yellow-billed blue magpie who, after he’s been fed, makes off with just about anything hanging loose, specifically targeting things which glitter along with ripening apricots and plums to be stashed for a rainy day.

Gilani is a much smaller and less obtrusive member of the magpie brigade who hunt in packs. These extremely inquisitive, ridiculously stupid birds who enjoy nothing more than a squawking fight over nothing, long since learnt to bid their time for easy pickings until the likes of Zardari and Malik have had their fill. And if the leftovers aren’t enough to satisfy their voracious habits, they think absolutely nothing of marching into what should be private space and helping themselves to whatever catches their yellow-rimmed eyes.

The comparatively dowdy Quaker babbler, Qureshi, is deceptively wily. Leaving the main stage to more raucous players, he weaves and darts through the undergrowth, sneaking up to feast on tasty morsels the others have overlooked, or dropped in their gluttonous haste. This one is smarter by far than his attention-grabbing associates but should not, by any stretch of the imagination, be underestimated. This one may be the proverbial tortoise racing the hare and we all know who pipped whom to the post!

I am pleased to report that not all the feathered inhabitants of this little patch of permaculture are as maliciously grasping as the breakfast meeting gang. Endlessly chirping, bouncy bundles of happy sparrows flit companionably around the garden, tweaking an insect here, a seed-head there, hopping in and out of a birdbath or pond. Two pairs of delectably pretty stone doves puff out their pinkish chests, strutting their stuff and cooing in the grass. Swifts and swallows knife through the balmy atmosphere in sheer, unadulterated delight. The swallows enjoy their summer game of flying in through the open front door, gliding around the living room, then sweeping majestically out of the back door, through the woodshed and out in the garden humming with bees.

A large, stiff-legged, yellow-billed whistling thrush, feathers gleaming metallic blue in the sunshine, pulls elasticated worms out of deep mulch in the potato bed. Rose-ringed parakeets streak through the air above the fruit trees, as Himalayan greenfinches search for tasty seed-heads in the herb and flower border.

The distinctive call of blue-throated green barbettes echoes through the orchard and the forest beyond reminding me of the deal “we” made. They are allowed to eat the fruit in the tree tops where I can’t reach in return for leaving the fruit on the lower branches for me but, needless to say, they never stick to the bargain and gouge huge holes out of apricots, plums, peaches, apples and persimmons, never eating a whole fruit before moving on to the next and making off with cherries and grapes in one go.

A green woodpecker taps away at the decaying bark of a partially rotten weeping willow, digging out grubs to feed its three hatchlings who are safely ensconced in the nesting hole it hollowed out in the trunk of an old apple tree by the lily pond. And all is well in the world except for the presence of a single tawny eagle floating high above. Big brother is watching!

Published in the Express Tribune, June 27th, 2010.

COMMENTS (1)

Ambreen | 11 years ago | Reply rendered speechless at the sheer brilliance of the creative writing, if thats what it may be called. superb reference to eagle, hatchlings and teh crests. this deserves a standing ovation
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