What was I crowing about anyway?

Did you know that regular urban crows in Madras, the ones with the grey neck have a caw that is distinctly atonal and harsh sounding compared to the larger jungle crows (Ravens, Andankaakka), which have a softer, tonally pleasing caw despite their unfortunate (and mythical, I might add) employment as Yama’s messengers. Perhaps it was by design. If ravens are harbingers of doom, it makes a certain morbid sense for them to have a more pleasing ‘harbinging’ voice so that they can say – “You are all about to die” but say it in a dulcet voice that softens the impact of the message.

I once tried taking my guitar tuner near a raven to measure his caw frequency, but the crow did not seem very comfortable with that situation. He let out one brief caw before flying away, and that registered at E flat momentarily on my tuner. Next time, I hope to try this experiment by leaving some rice and the tuner right next to it (and hope the crow does not get interested in Korg tuners). Of course, since I cannot see the readings on a tuner from a distance and the tuner does not record its readings, I will have to leave my cellphone (with its video camera running) near the tuner (and hope the crow does not get interested in touch screen mobile phones). Or I could try Puppy Manohar’s brilliant solution

That apart, jungle crows tend to be loners while these greynecks stick together, like birds of a feather and all that. Greynecks are also smart. They will collaborate to steal food from dumber animals. I have seen them cheat my neighbour’s hapless Labrador of his snack biscuits by co-ordinating a smooth distract-and-pilfer manoeuvre with one of the crows first making enough noise to convince the dog that it is worth his effort to leave his biscuits, lift his bulky labrador body and come chasing after the crow. The dog of course obliges and chases after the bird. The crow then says “caw-caw-caw-ca-ca-caw“, which translates to “How is it that you never seem to remember that I have wings?” and flies away to safety. The dog, with his characteristic labrador fat tail wagging furiously, tongue hanging out and panting, is now mentally cursing himself, not for forgetting that crows can elevate themselves, but for forgetting that Mr Crow probably has an accomplice who is, at this very moment, picking up his biscuits and saying “caw-caw ca-ca“, which translates to “So long, sucker”. He then goes back to his spot, dejected, and lies down with his jaw resting on the ground and puts on his trademark sad-eyed look that says “I could do with a few more biscuits”. I could walk up to him at that moment and read aloud Lonely planet’s review of Madras and he wouldn’t care, unless he smelled biscuits on me. Dogs can be remarkably sophisticated when it comes to the incredible simplicity of their lives.

Now, why am I telling you all of this? Because I promised to.

And also because, 300+ comments, regionalist hate, and an unchanged Lonely Planet entry later, I needed a therapeutic post. Because Lonely Planet does not matter. In my desire to rebut their craptastic overview, I had to assume that their review actually matters in some meaningful sense, because unless they mattered, my post wouldn’t matter and if my post didn’t matter, I wouldn’t have posted, and since I did, this ridiculous chain of illogic must come to an end somewhere. Let’s just say that it was just one of those xkcd-esque moments. Somebody was wrong on the internet, and I had to get involved.

If you want to read a real introduction to Madras, read maami’s, not Lonely Planet’s.

I decided instead to make some small updates to my Madras map

Chennai-map

And I also give my neighbour’s labrador some Tiger biscuits. He approves.

50 Comments

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  1. promise is a promise and good one at that ! Any particular reason that the raven cawed in Eb instead of D#….did it know both are ‘enharmonic’? and was it cawing in a descending pitch to be called ‘flat’….or did it visit a tasmac to become flat? 🙂 sorry for the random uselessness in my attempted humor 🙂

  2. Homeostasis regained! Looking forward to more areas of Singaara Chennai labelled.
    You could perhaps add a Yeroplane tata-byebye area beside The Hindu Daily Temperature Spot #1, and a Pondy bejaar off the Big-Brother road.

    1. I did. I usually carry my tuner everywhere. If I had claimed that I did the second part of the experiment (the one with the camera, rice etc), that would have been hyperbloge. Lovely word, by the way

      1. Dear KrishAshok sir,

        Couldn’t you have hooked up a microphone to the tuner and let the microphone sit outside with the crows? Cheap piezoelectric microphones can be obtained from old telephone receivers.

        Regards,

        Puppy Manohar.

        “What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?” – Beatles

        1. Sir,

          I’m sorry I didn’t make myself clearer. Since pictures speak a 1000 words, I drew a little diagram :

          The above setup allows one to sit inside and observe readings whilst the crows caw raucously outside. Surely such an astute crow-pitch-enthusiast as yourself will appreciate the overengineering involved in such a solution.

          Regards,

          Puppy Manohar.

  3. he he he…reminded me of my lab 😛 he was smart enough (read lazy) never to get his butt up even for a cat!!!! but he did love frogs…smart fellow wouldnt you say?? oh btw dogs love mealmakers raw too(esp labs) 😉 and crows might find it more difficult to carry away due to its spherical size and also due to the fact that the size might make it difficult for the crow’s beak to holster 😀

  4. Ouch!! You gave GOOD Tiger biscuits to a dog? I mean I love dogs and all that but right now I am in such an impecunious state that seeing good tiger biscuits being wasted on dogs amounts to sacrilege!! 😐
    I love the cheap tiger and parle G biscuits!! Only things I can afford 😦

    Pssst..would u have thrown away tiger biscuits when u were a student??

  5. The crowing on the previous post was much like Sreesanth saying Hayden is one out-of-form batsman. Unma ennannu ulagathukku theriyum! Vidunga saar, lonely planet aaavadhu moanly planet aavadhu enna vena sollatum – namma Karpagambal keeravada saaptundu jolly-a irukalam. Ok? ok.

  6. i thought i just left a comment here! Anyway, enna solla vandhen – the previous post was much like Sreesanth saying Hayden is one dabba batsman. Unma ennannu olagathukku theriyum! So indha lonely planet equityly (finance student, couldnt resist) planet ennavane sollitu potam. Naama Karpagambal mess keeravada saaptu jolly-a irukalaam. Ok? Ok.

    1. Of course I did not. Its presence is defined by its absence on this map. Look north of VISAlakshi kovil. You dont find it? No? That’s cos no one cares about the LIC building 🙂

      1. Krish, for the first time you are Disappointing. When i was mookku ozhingu thirinja kaalam, my cousin only takes me to mount road on his Hercules cycle and showed me “This is the biggest building in madras, 14 floors!!!” and we looked at it like how all juntha were fixated on trisha krishnan’s bathroom video.

        Next version of this map must have LIC and Devi theater on it!

      2. That was a brilliant reply inspite of the technical fault of not mapping the LIC building…. 🙂 Nevertheless its true that LIC is fading from public memory for the likes of tower like structures in Saturday Property plus 🙂

      3. Well the LIC building wasn’t always neglected. There was a time when the great real-estate magnet JB asked his assistant Cheenu to extract the code words (LIC building-ukku padinaalu maadi, aaranju pazhatha urichidaan saapidanum) out of his friend Velaayudam’s minion. Little did he expect Cheenu to confuse the man for the unassuming Hemanaatha bhagavathar who was oblivious of the number of storeys LIC housed.
        *Courtesy Kaatula mazhai.

  7. R K Laxman’s favourite bird is the crow and he has a fantastic series of paintings on the common caw caw.

    PS-I’m partial to Bruce Peck’s illustrations of Madras, but hey this Chennai map is sooper too.

    1. Maami,

      This is the only way I could hope to reach you. This is am impassioned plea from a long time fan of yours who has been brutally cut out of the beautiful (virtual) world of yours and the visual imagery which your prose created. Is there anyway that you would consider restoring access to that world?

      Cheers!

      Krish : If you are reading this, please to pass the message on. Thanks!

  8. How can one forget Poes Garden, Gopalapuram and Kilpauk Mental Hospital? The ordering was purely coincidental 🙂

  9. hey that was hilarious…The crow then says “caw-caw-caw-ca-ca-caw“, which translates to “How is it that you never seem to remember that I have wings?” and flies away to safety.
    gem….

  10. My neighbor’s labrador [1] tends to swallow tiger biscuits almost whole, marie in less than two gulps.

    He’s an amiable beast, if fat, lazy and pampered .. with a personal staff of a watchman to take him for walks, and an ayah to brush his hair, and a marked preference for riding in my neighbor’s toyota qualis rather than in his ford ikon. The laziest I’ve seen, and the friendlist – with a mouth like velvet when he snuffles at your palm to see if you have any more left.

  11. Don’t under-estimate ravens! On my visit to Erode, there was this raven that could mimic… yes mimic a cat and send the dog on a wild-goose chase (Now there’s a sentence I thought I’d never say) just for the heck of it! 🙂

    P.S: The dog is aptly named blondie

  12. Sorry to be pedantic, but the fully black ones are jungle crows or large-billed crows (Corvus macrorhyncho). Not ravens (Corvus corax). Ravens are a completely different species found in some parts of the Himalayas and latitudes north of there.

  13. @Krish:
    I think you meant ‘குதுரை oding grounds’ – appears to be misspelt.
    And er..what’s Foreplay Tutorials?

    I’m cartographically challenged with Madras..is that meant to beBrilliant Tutorials?

    Bombyx Mori and VISAlakshi Kovil were fantastic!! 😀

    1. I did mean “Kurudhai” as in the Madras way of saying Kudhurai 🙂 Also, to understand “Foreplay tutorials” look a little south, towards “JEE Spot” and perhaps it will make sense 😉

      1. lolz.. missed the JEE spot matter.. altho, foreplay tutorials are not all that popular (both ways i suppose).. and you really should include other places like “pondy bejaar” and silicon valee (ritchie street) and jurassic mall (spencers) and amity city (sowcarpet).. lol at reference to tondiarpettai

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