Igatpuri 1 – The Ravens of Igatpuri – and Squirrels!

As I travel back into the rest of the world from the 10 days life of a recluse in Dhammagiri in Igatpuri, my mind is resplendently filled with peace and a lot of thoughts. I am going to miss the quietude of the place and the stillness there. And I will also miss the sounds of the birds and the quick movements of the squirrels.

The most predominant amongst the birds were the Ravens. There were no plain Safari-suited crows. There was a multitude of full jet black-suited monochrome shiny Ravens, each one busy in some daily timetable. They seemed to be constantly doing something or the other. Busy picking their food stuff from the trees, doing surveillance rounds of waste bins, looking out for each other and COMMUNICATING! While all 450 of us humans were under the oath of silence for 10 days, these blessed creations of nature were under no such restrictions – and they took full advantage of the freedom of crawing that they were bestowed with. Now I have heard crows. I have heard them in Pune, in Mumbai (their quintessential home) and in Nagpur. I know they go CAW CAW CAW CAW! I know they are an intelligent species, surviving the vicissitudes of an urban life style with forbearance and courage. 

But I was not aware of the social life of their cousins, the Ravens. I had seen a few here and there. But here in Igatpuri, there exists a whole community, tied tightly together. 

They have a vocabulary much higher then that of the CAWING crow. They have in their lexicon sounds and tones which the common crow would be lost to understand. They have a 

CRAW CRAAW CRAAAAW CRAW

CROOOOOEEE

CROOEEEE 

CRUI CRUI CRUI CROO

CACRAAW CACRAAW CACRAW 

and all combinations of the above. One would CROO from this end, and the other would answer with the same sound from somewhere else. Some of the CROOEE were so gentle, varying in gentleness comparable to the tones a human would use to speak to a cute puppy to a little baby to that used for a life partner during intimate moments. 

The maximum CRAWING was around 5 am to 5:30 am. That was when we were in our first two hours of meditation. That phase of high intense sounds from the treetops, probably each Raven describing loudly the individual plans for the day, surely woke up those of us who had inadvertently started dozing with the relaxed phase of breathing we were in. 

I observed them in my free time, after lunch breaks, after tea time. I saw them when I went for walks around the campus. They were everywhere. There was no place in the semi-residential, semi-forested area which was not theirs. They loved the mangoes and also some seedy fruits of some other trees. 

I wondered what they told each other – besides the public declaration of their daily agenda. I wondered whether they had a surveillance on for all of us. Were they reporting on how we were progressing in our spiritual and meditative ventures? Or were they perhaps observing the mundane happenings around? Maybe they were upraising each other about our whereabouts and were looking out for us. Maybe they CROOEED to pacify each other! Maybe they ruminated and discussed with wisdom the futility of it all! All they said can never be deciphered. But their presence gave me a different kind of company in the internal solitude that we were all experiencing.

And then on the tenth day we humans of Igatpuri broke our oath of silence and then the 450 of us came up with sound enough to drown the meditative crawing of the Ravens.

About the squirrels – some other day!

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