There are bamboo beams outside my building. Painting work is on. I don’t see anyone doing anything. I am glad. The sounds would irritate. The other day one of the workers rang the doorbell and asked to come into the house.
“Kyon?” I asked.
“Haath marneka hai!” All he meant was that he wanted to touch up the inside wall.
I said, “Nahin marneka.”
“Sab theek hai andar,” I said. I saw the paint peeling.
Things peel and expose themselves. So what? A wall remains a wall. How much can you touch things up?
Every morning crows congregate on the bamboo. I watch them intently. One preens his feathers. Have you seen a crow do that? But this one does. It is an unusual and sad sight because in doing so I see the grey body and its short feathers.
There is one that moves its neck like a pigeon. I wonder why. When they are quiet I don’t mind, but they start pecking the grilles on the window. That day I had drawn the curtains and I heard the cacophony; I hit the window from inside with my palm. I could hear the flutter of the birds in flight. But the thup-thup sound continued, almost slyly.
I parted the curtain. One of the crows had stayed back. He stared at me. The gaze was unrelenting. I waved at him and said, “Shoo.” He kept watching and came closer to the glass. His beak tapped on it. I have never let crows into the room.
Why had he stayed back? Was it a challenge, was it his comfort zone, was it his need to see who I was and what I’d say when we came face-to-face?
I said, “Go!”
He put his head down, turned his back and flew. I was relieved. “Caw, caw,” I heard again.
He was perched on a wire running overhead outside. He looked at me and I thought he smiled. Was it a smile of victory or of feeling accepted?
I shook my head. I really wasn’t worth the effort. My window is high and it remains shut.