Close encounters of the animal kind

Yesterday I bought a bunch of sardines from our local lady fishmonger (fishmongeress?? :-)). Buying fresh fish from her is an art in itself. All the fish that she will hold up for inspection will have red gills and firm flesh. But once she is gone, I always find that she has mixed in some day-old (I'm being conservative here) specimens into my purchase.  The reason why I don't buy fish more often is all the work it entails. Unlike super-cleaned supermarket fillets, here the fish come with all their organs intact and it's a slimy and time-consuming process to descale and gut enough for a curry.

To make it easier, I tuned in to my favorite FM station and sat down on my shady backsteps to clean the fish. That's when things got interesting. A crow watched my proceedings with interest and signalled his own interest with some significant cawing. I threw him a sardine head. He flew down, eyed me suspiciously and then flew offf with it. Okay, a few moments later, he was back on the same tree and cawed again. I threw him another titbit. This time, he flew down, and before picking up the food, he set up a loud cawing. At first I flattered myself that it probably was crowese for 'Thank you', until I heard an answering chorus from all around me.

Then the trouble began. They arrived in ones and twos, no doubt alerted by my first crow of the all-sardine-head-you-can-eat buffet. They edged closer and closer if I didn't have heads ready for them. Then one hapless crow who had a coveted titbit already in his beak was cruelly attacked and robbed by two others and was being pounded on his back when I threw a stone to break up the fight. Those three flew up to my back wall and sat there abusing each other in cacophonous crowese (I was glad I didn't know the language, no doubt some of it was meant for me too...) till I had more sardine heads to throw at the abusive trio. So it went on till I was down to the last couple of fish which I cleaned super fast and took all the remains and buried it in my garden. I was just glad that I had escaped unscathed! Lesson learned - use fish remains only for manure and not for entertainment!!!


This incident was too close to another that happened just last Tuesday. After handing over our Indica, we took a bus to Kollur, the tiny temple town in Karnataka that is the favored more by Malayalis than the locals. On Tuesday morning, we got up early and had darshan. The sleepy town was still not fully awake when we got out looking for breakfast. I had just a small drawstring bag with me into which I stuffed 3 of 4 laddus that we had bought from the temple. The extra laddu had a paper cover of its own. After breakfast we slowly walked to the Souparnika river ghat. The Souparnika was emaciated in the summer heat, but the water was cool and clear. We all stepped in to where the water just covered our feet and watched as tiny fish gathered around us.

Soon, my DH pointed out some monkeys sitting on a rock across the Souparnika from us. We watched them and in a little while another procession of monkeys came trooping from behind them and crossed the stream jumping from rock to rock. The leader was passing to the left of us as we watched quietly and had reached our side of the river when he stopped and turned. He immediately took hold of my dupatta and wouldn't let go. My family didn't understand that it was the bag that he was after. We tried splashing water and though momentarily he let go, as soon as I stepped on to the shore, the monkey again caught hold of my dupatta. A local standing on the shore shouted to us that the bag was attracting the monkey. DH, meanwhile had got to a safe distance taking our toddler with him. I weighed my options - my new dress that was Mom's birthday gift to me and bodily injury or the bag? By this time there were more monkeys blocking my escape route. Then I had a brainwave! I took the solitary laddu that wouldn't fit in the bag, waved it in front of the leader monkey to make sure he saw it and then threw it as far as I could. As expected, all the monkeys followed the laddu. I escaped with my dupatta and bag (with hotel room key) intact. Lesson learned - don't carry bags into monkey land!!!

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