The ravens are a totally mismatched couple. They sit above my head on the top most branch of the magnolia tree and quarrel in soft tones all day long. Their glossy black heads nod and their sharp eyes gleam with malice and sudden sparks of passion like all couples who love a good fight with their beloved.
The magnolia in my orchard in the hills is old and its scarred branches full of comfortable perches and nooks for birds. I sit under its green shade every morning, just when sun is rising above the mountains and the blossoms begin to open their petals . I wait for the ravens to arrive.A sweet heady scent floats in the air as one by one the magnolia buds wake up. Their creamy white petals hide the tiny White eyes, restless birds, who are only interested in devouring the insects which the strong magnolia perfume attracts. This is the law of the orchard. Every creature is here to eat or be eaten. A bit like the world of art and literature ? Or academia ?or politics ? Or just life ?
I feed the ravens every morning and it gives my a great sense of happiness for some reason when they pick up the pieces of stale chappati in their beaks, their dark, handsome heads nodding with satisfaction.
Is it the perfumed air of the magnolia that brings this peaceful contentment or is it the fact that my mother used to feed the crows all her life(she said if you did that you would have a painless death and in her case it was true).She would scatter stale bread or even cake sometime much to my Spartan –“finish all that is on your plate” father’s horror . “Are you Marie- what’s her name or what ?”he would say but watch with amusement and love as my mother fed the greedy, aggressive city crows
My ravens are gentle and better mannered that the ordinary,grey and black city crows called House crows, by the way. Mine have deep black feathers with a polished sheen on their wings as if they have used wet-set-gel like slick , too smart city boys or male models. My elegant yet understated ravens, look strong and dependable and not at all like male models who I distrust on sight for some unfair reason though some of my best friends are male models but would I let my daughter marry one ? No.
The days I do not see my ravens on the magnolia tree, I begin to fret and pace up and down the hillside calling out to them. “Kaa ..Kaa ..Aaa..Kaaa.”
I see the village women laughing at me.
“There goes the mad ,city woman, talking to the birds” they say as they cut the grass with their sharp curved scythes. They stop and putting their hands on their aching backs, wave to me kindly,offering me a sweet plum or a ripe peach from their pockets as if to placate a wailing child.
Then the ravens fly down suddenly from the dark forests beyond the orchard and all is well. The blossoms heave a sigh of relief too and as they exhale a cloud of magnolia scent,spicy,lemony smooth, engulfs the entire orchard.
I lean against the old tree , so totally content and at peace. But I know as the sun slowly climbs over the mountains, the blossoms will close their petals ,the raven will head home and I will be left alone once more. Well, only till tomorrow morning. No ?
Bulbul Sharma is a painter and writer. Her works are in the collection of the National Gallery of ModernArt, Lalit Kala Akademi as well as in private collections in India , UK,U.S.A, Japan and France. She has published several novels -My Sainted Aunts, The Perfect Woman, Anger of Aubergines, Banana Flower Dreams, ShayaTales and Devi , Eating Women;Telling Tales , Now that I am Fifty and Tailor of Giripul .Her books have been translated into Italian, French,Chinese ,Spanish and Finnish.
She conducts ‘Storypainting’ workshops for special needs children and is a founder –member of Sannidhi –a NGO that works in village schools.