Owl

May 5, 2010


I suddenly woke up in the morning due to a startling commotion around our house. I came out running, shedding the sleep.

It was a normal rosy winter day and I would have liked to spend a few more hours in my bed. The dawn had just broken out.

Our house was surrounded by a fifty odd people that were all staring at the house, gesturing and shouting. Most had returned from their early morning duty or were planning to go for.

Somebody clutched my jaw, twisted it brutally and asked me to look, look, with open eyes.

Where? What? I could see nothing unusual….The house was intact….The sky was pink…Then as the sun brightened a little, I could make out a faint profile of a giant Owl sitting on the roofing tiles at the highest spot near chimney, although it was very well camouflaged with the colours of the tiles and smoke chimney.

Common Barn Owl

It must have been a couple of feet tall. It did not appear to be perturbed by the spectators. It was majestic to say less and looked more like a sage than a bird.

May be it has constipation, or must have eaten many rats, one of the men said, probably relating to his own condition.

Hands tied behind my back, I went to the flock of womenfolk who were in a heightened discussion with my Grandma. They were saying that it was a very bad omen and results could be anything….Death in the family, Bad weather, Bad results in exams for me. Most vouched that they had personally experienced such phenomena. Grandma was saying what she can do if a bird comes and sits on top of the house unannounced. In reality, nobody was listening to anybody and was just voicing their superstitions. Do something and quickly, was the call.

The school nearby rang its bell. But children instead of going to school stopped at our place and joined the party. The house now did not seem to belong to us, but to the mob. Girls took to flowers, boys to fruits on trees, some started climbing the walls, some pelted stones.

The Owl was still maintaining its still frame. May be a flutter of wings, which was all.

This continued until it was about nine o’clock. Now, men were very anxious. They had there duties to perform! They started advising Grandma to take immediate action. With some she smiled, sometimes got angry and sometimes stared hopelessly. But she was slowly gathering her thoughts and wilting under the pressure. She called me inside, gave me a cup of tea and told me to call Dinookaka, my uncle.  He used to live nearby. And ask him to bring his gun, she said.

Gun? Dinookaka was famous for slaying man eating tigers, not owls! But she had decided. And once she had decided, I knew that she would not budge.

Anyway, Dinookaka never took us on Tiger Safaris, he would go only with his trusted guides, drummers and our family friend and neighbour Kharag Sing.  If fortunate we could only help in cleaning the gun, which was all. Therefore if he indeed brought his gun, it would be exciting.

I went and told him Grandma’s message. Although very reluctant, he could not overlook Grandma’s order. He took his 12 bore and two red cartridges. What a waste, he said.

The news of the gun started spreading. More people gathered. The mob was now becoming hysterical. However, everybody was wondering why that Owl was maintaining its calm.

Dinookaka also tried to hoot out the Owl first. When there was no response from the Owl except for a beaky look, he loaded the double barrel gun.

From the house, grandma instructed him not to kill if possible. Accordingly he fired the first round missing the Owl. Still no effect on the Owl. Dinookaka said it must be injured or tired; otherwise it would not just sit like this.

What had to be done had to be done! He said, poor soul, without much emotion, then aimed and floored (or tiled) the Owl with the second. The crowd gasped and went in a big cheer.

Somebody climbed atop the chimney and brought it down. The 12 bore used to have  small bullets/ steel balls in the cartridge. The Owl had taken four or five and was a mess of blood and flesh. I was witnessing any Owl from such close distance for the first time. Its face was still intact, and the expression said it was not very disturbed. May be it had wizened over the years or decided to commit suicide or just resigned to fate.

The crowd would not disburse. Owls were in great demand in Black Magic practitioners. As such it needed to be disposed of properly. They suggested that the compound gate at the rear would be a good place for burial as also for good fortune. Many volunteers came forward, dug a hole and buried the Owl and a heavy stone slab was placed on top.

We came back to the house and I realised that I had bunked the classes today. Why worry, said Dinookaka, because your class teacher was there in the crowd until the end.

Then he said people are stupid, and he regrets every kill. Grandma said, why take chances? Some of them could be wise. Better for the Owl to rest at the back gate, instead of humiliation.

However, the same night, the Owl’s carcass was stolen and a gaping hole was discovered next day at the gate. The miscreants did not want the Owl to enjoy its rest even after death.

Owl carcass, dead women’s hair or human skull and bones, they were useful only after death.

Owl in flight

Picture Credits  :  

http://www.birding.in/birds/Strigiformes/Tytonidae/barn_owl.htm ,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barn_Owl

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2 Responses to “Owl”


  1. The Owl proved who was wise and who was anxious and jittery. Unfortunately it had to sacrifice itself in the process.

  2. Rajeev Says:

    Yes. We used to mourn about it for considerable time.


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