I was standing in front of my professor’s office. He rose from his chair and walked towards me with an appreciative smile and extended his hand to congratulate me on winning the best project award. I saw my Mother standing next to me a plate in hand containing a pair of coconuts and an assortment of colored lumps trying to say something. Probably congratulate me. “Nethra ezhundhru….veyyil varathukulla kanu vekkanum…kaaka vandhudum”. I was in the deepest of hangovers from all the festival food from the day before and it beat the hell out of me what a crow had to do with my early morning bliss of sleep except tamper with the serenity of it. I sat up on the bed groggy and with great effort took my mind through a by pass route to being awake.
It was that time of the year again. Time for Mom and I to sneak out when the first rays of dawn were still touching themselves up with compact, tip toe to the terrace like the most professional of thieves, (if explaining kanu to me in the morning takes so much effort try telling that to the inebriated last night watchman!) and lay out a spread befitting a crow.
It begins with setting the table, couple of turmeric leaves actually. If you are a crow all you care about is food so it doesn’t matter if you are hoodwinked into believing it is a banana leaf! Then you proceed to ‘serving’. It weird because nobody is asking for more. But the exercise is fun because you go about placing 7 tiny little chunks of different coloured food on the platter. Not just that. You pray with every piece that even if the crow’s family comes to shambles fighting over who gets the better chunks your family should remain close knit and make enough food and love to share.
It is a brilliant strategy. The crow supposedly is like the authority on sharing because every time one of them finds food he caws out to his mates and shares (for all we know he could be showing off but hey I don’t work for the Discovery channel!). The assumption here is that even if such a big hearted though pea brained crow’s reputation is lost there is still hope that you family would stand rock strong given that you have successfully eliminated the avian reference.
This is a prayer for siblings especially brothers to remain together and maintain warmth at home even after the arrival of a ‘she’ from outside into their lives. Girls pray for the wonder man in their lives that would understand their ties to both sides of the family. Ladies pray for more strength to handle issues at home that sprung up probably because their crows didn’t listen properly to them last year.
Jokes apart this whole kanu concept is fun. I get to see dawn which is a wonder because my hibernation lasts well into afternoon usually, it takes skill to get 7 bits out of the lump my Mom gives me - they break, drip and refuse to be molded into shape and there’s the challenge of advertising your display before the hungry winged icons turn up. If you are still working at it even after they arrive there are impatient caws all over in sync sound admonishing your lack of punctuality. Crows can really show off trust me!
It has been many years since my first kanu when Mom handed me a lump and I placed it gingerly on the leaf like that with a look of triumph on my face at having accomplished a rarely easy task. Then she told me I had to make 7 servings out of it and I realized I had been majorly snubbed! There were times when it would be freezing on the terrace and many a crow would receive expletives from me for appetizers before the actual food. I used to literally sleep walk through kanu when I was a kid but now I have mastered the art of snoring inside and working outside. Four years of college teaches you that.
What all this has to do with religion or tradition I don’t really want to comment on. But I think the underlying message is that if you can believe enough in what you wish for you would ultimately obtain it. Crow or no crow holding a family together is an individual talent. Yet getting to do something with Mom, something she believes in and her Mother did before her, the jokes we crack during it and all the leg pulling is so beautiful that I wouldn’t mind if I have to lay a table for Tarzan next!