Meheru, Mani and the Crows
One of Meheru’s responsibilities at Meherazad, when Baba required silence, was to ensure there was absolute quiet. The dogs, the neighbors and the birds all had to participate in Baba’s Silence. So, Meheru would have to tie up the dogs at a distance from the house, visit the Zine family living behind Meherazad, instructing them to keep the small children occupied and quiet, and then physically chase the birds off Meherazad property. Even Goher, with her painful legs, would join Meheru in running after the birds and the noisy crows down the Meherazad Approach Road and out of Baba’s range of hearing.
This habit of chasing crows persisted long after Baba was no longer physically present at Meherazad. Crows are especially pesky predators, stalking frogs, baby birds and chipmunks, often leaving their uneaten parts behind for poor Meheru to deal with. When nesting they are particularly aggressive, dive-bombing anyone walking in the garden below. So you would often see Meheru and those of us she appealed to for help chasing these big black crows out of Mehera’s garden.
However, not everyone wanted the crows banished. Mani had her own unique relationship with them—she would actually feed them! At breakfast time, you might see Meheru chasing the crows away from the veranda outside the kitchen where they would perch, hoping for some morsel of food. Mani, who would be sitting at the dining table eating her breakfast, would witness this little drama through the window. Later, when Meheru would leave to pick flowers in the garden for the vases in Baba’s Room, Mani would quietly take her uneaten piece of toast and surreptitiously walk to the end of the kitchen veranda where a grateful crow would be waiting to receive this bounty. A piece of toast would casually be dropped over the parapet wall and the crow would fly off with the booty in its mouth.
Another crow-feeding venue was Mani’s special prayer cupboard on the veranda of the small cottage where she would go each morning after finishing breakfast to spend time alone with Baba. However she wasn’t completely alone because the hopeful—or rather persistent—crows would follow her there. If she hadn’t been able to execute her feeding plan on the kitchen veranda, Mani would carry her toast to the small cottage. The crows knew this very well.
Maybe Mani thought no one noticed her feeding these rascally crows. But one day her own good intentions betrayed her. On that day she had on an old sweater that was a little bit rough in texture. And though she had carried the toast to her prayer cupboard, the crows evidently never showed up because, as she returned to the house, Mani was unwittingly brandishing the uneaten toast on her chest—it had stuck to her sweater! In the common vernacular of today, she was busted!!
Despite Meheru’s crow-chasing training, she was an ardent lover of animals. In her last years Baba brought her full circle in relationship to these big black birds. The transforming event occurred in 2011 during a rather prolific nesting of crows in the compound facing the Main Bungalow. While the crows were in the nest, many of us were daily harassed by their militant dive-bombing, making it difficult to get work done. Sometime after the babies had hatched, Meheru commented that we should look out for an injured crow. It seemed one of the newbies was missing a wing and, sure enough, we found him perched in a tree, frightened and unable to fly. Meheru befriended this crow who also had a deformed claw and beak. She named him Hopper since that was his only means of travel—hopping. A rescue vet in Pune advised us to feed him raw meat, and Hopper eventually trusted us enough to eat out of our hands.
Meheru was devoted to Hopper and even constructed a perch to make it easier for him to climb up the trees. But nature prevails and his family members, who were permanent residents of Meherazad, would periodically attack Hopper, requiring one of us to rescue him from their claws and beaks. Hopper had been with us about five months when one day we found our darling Hopper floating face down in the howd* outside the kitchen, his beautiful wing outstretched as if in flight. His crow-family must have attacked and chased him there as we rested in the afternoon. It was the first time we were able to handle Hopper and we were struck with how incredibly beautiful he was.
Meheru was heart-broken and made arrangements to have Hopper buried under Baba’s remaining mango tree behind the house. She even removed flowers she had offered that morning from Baba’s bed and placed them on Hopper’s body as he lay in the hollow the garden workers had dug for him. Together we covered Hopper’s body and said the Beloved God Prayer followed by several Avatar Meher Baba ki Jai’s.
Meheru’s heart had been captured by this little fellow who transformed all her years of chasing crows into a touching tenderness and affection.
—Shelley Marrich for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 11 May 2017
*An open tank used to collect and recycle waste water for garden irrigation.