I was standing by Amma's kitchen and watching this lovely drama. One of her many crow friends whom she feeds and hydrates through the window kept dropping tiny sticks into their bowl of water. I gave Amma a quizzical look as though to ask "what are they doing?" She did not say. This afternoon as we sat drinking coffee I saw our little friend by the window again. Amma gestured to me to quietly watch. This fellow with his little beak gathered all the sticks which were now pliant and flew away. Amma, who has a wonderful way with animals, birds, plants and humans, said, "it does that to make fibre to build a strong nest to protect its young". She then asked me, what I realized later, was a trick question. "Have you ever been close to a crow's nest?" I said no. She said "because you cannot. They won't let you. They are so protective of their young." She said "for that matter all other species really care for each other. In the news today, a young man was beaten and left to die and no one came to his help for two hours. On the other hand when a dog is hurt have you seen other dogs bark and run towards them as though crying for help? Recently an elephant fell into a ditch and died. The baby would not leave the mother despite the Herculean efforts made by the villagers to bring her to safety." I believed her. This is the wisdom of crows, dogs and the world as seen by my mom!
There is a postscript to this story. I recently lost my father in law. He lived to be 90 years and led a wonderful life. He inspired us all throughout his life keeping a welcoming generous home. My mother in law is having a hard time with his passing, given he was her rock for over 60 years. This is the time when she needs emotional support and her two children and their spouses (one of whom is me) are taking turns spending time with her. At this time, we are witness to the craziness that is superstition against Hindu widows. Suddenly she has become persona non grata – for all religious occasions. To add hurt to an already distressed mind, she is treated as a social pariah - her presence at weddings and other such “happy” occasions considered inauspicious. Nowhere else in this 21st century have I seen such indignity bestowed on widows. It is becoming more and more clear to me that our unique capacity to think and interpret, when exercised based on fear, superstition and selfishness, destroys our humanity and causes us to take the most absurd, irrational and destructive decisions. We can rise above this with mindfulness where we notice our interpretation of what is, in a non judgemental way. This then stops us from spiralling downward into an abyss of reactivity and hateful behaviour that has the potential to harm us and others.