Friday, June 14, 2024 | Dhu al-hijjah 7, 1445 H
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His brief company gave joy, brightened my days

There’s something genial and empowering when birds trust you, eat from your hand and stand on your arm
Rasha al Raisi
Rasha al Raisi

When I rescued a baby crow (Yep! You’ve read that right!), my Indian and Serbian friends said that he’s an immortal creature while my Sudanese doctor informed me that baby crows are so ugly that their parents fail to recognise them and hence abandon them unknowingly.

Obviously, all these comments were cultural folktales. I found Al As’ham (which is the blackness that’s used to describe crows in Arabic language) on a regular visit to the vet. He was only a month-old and abandoned by his flock for having avian pox. He was on the ground alone and cawing loudly. Fearing for his life from the wild cats roaming around, I decide to take him home where I have more than thirty wild cats. But I wasn’t thinking at the time, my super heroine hormones were pumping high and all I wanted to do was rescue the poor bird the same way I rescue abandoned kittens.

When I reached home, I realised that I wasn’t prepared for such a task as I’d never adopted birds before. I went looking for a bird cage in pet shops nearby and ended up with a kitten kennel on sale. I placed Al As’ham inside it and set him on my balcony, while I sat on the edge of my bed — surrounded by my indoor cats — watching and contemplating his presence.

Kiki the blind kept sniffing the air, sensing the existence of a new creature in her territory. For the next few months, I became a bird owner which is much harder than being a cat one. Crows are smart and their intelligence can drive simple human beings mad. Al As’ham woke me up daily at 6.30 am cawing loudly and pecking his empty bowl. The cawing increased when a crow couple flew right past his cage or stood on a nearby tree to check on him and chit chat.

To stop this Hitchcockian nightmare scene, I’d drag myself out of bed to feed him and get some sleep. Crows are also the filthiest creatures on the planet and cleaning Al As’ham’s cage took almost half an hour as he stashed food in every nook and cranny. As for crows’ favorite food, specialised American websites suggested feeding them berries (too expensive here) or corn (which he instantly spat back at my face).

I found out later that like my cats, Al As’ham preferred rice and chicken or watermelons. YouTube videos showed singing and talking crows proudly trained by their owners, while mine gave me sanity-questioning-side-looks when I tried to do the same. I ended up begging him: “As’ham! Just say Hee-Hee like Michale Jackson! Very easy!” Of course, he never did.

Nevertheless, the bond that formed between us was special. There’s something genial and empowering when birds trust you, eat from your hand and stand on your arm. At one visit to the vet, he suggested that I should start teaching him how to fly to get him ready for the grand release in a few months. To achieve that, I used a stick and tapped on different surfaces in the bathroom for him to fly to, which helped him learn yet took a long time. However, Al-As’ham used to stand on the perch I set in the balcony forlornly, not seeming interested in flying away. This made me worry and feel guilty about him being too attached. A few weeks later, I woke up one morning to find him dead in his cage although he never displayed any sign of illness. His loss broke my heart and left a deafening silence for months to follow. Yet his brief company brought me comfort, joy and brightened my days.

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