Thursday, February 12, 2009
"Down in their hearts, wise men know this truth: the only way to help yourself is to help others."
Promptly each morning in Calcutta the same feathered fellow would appear on the windowsill, peer in at Spouse and I through the thick glass, and cry furiously for us to hurry and begin the day's adventures.
"What are you waiting for?" he quite seemed to be questioning us as he hopped about impatiently.
We trusted that the old crow must possess valuable insight, given that he flew over a labyrinth of twisted streets all his life long. With his brittle call still ringing in our ears we would make haste and set out for some hours of exploration.
If the old crow was indeed familiar with the territory then he would know about the people of the city. He would know about their consistent, forthright willingness to help others, to guide lost strangers onto the appropriate path, and to do so with politeness and graciousness.
The crow would understand that gatherings of such obliging souls are a rarity and that in order to discover them one must walk a good deal, and prepare for extended moments of being lost.
On foot, and sorely lacking a map, Spouse and I encountered many individuals from whom we had to request help: not one appeared to resent the intrusion.
If Spouse and I should ask one passer-by about how to get to such a place, and if that passer-by should hesitate briefly, three or four more stragglers would rapidly convene, form a group and have a healthy discussion about the most efficient route, at the end of which Spouse and I would turn in the direction of the most steady pointed finger and soon be on our way.
Spouse, on one occasion, paused to ask a traffic policeman for his expertise on finding a particular building. The latter gave it, with much pride in his city and a courteous note in his voice, only for us to find the way barred by a surge of cars and rickshaws and hurtling trucks.
Seeing our trouble, the policeman stepped out of his little cubicle, raised a hand of authority and proceeded to halt the traffic so that the pair of us could cross the road in safety.
The crow, firm in his insistence that the precious day begin sooner rather than later, might have witnessed our experiences unfolding from his high perch on a building, and tossed his head in that assured 'I-told-you-so' manner of wise birds who know the streets and the hidden humanity of the people living and working upon them.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 12:33 PM