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The crows of Mumbai have something to say

A trio from Hyderabad, Delhi and Kolkata, living their advertising dream here, use the city's resident bird to ponder Mumbai's ails

The three met during an advertising course in Ahmedabad, and by February of 2012, Delhi-based Rachit Narang, (28), Hyderabad resident and Surabhi Dave, (25), and Kolkata-based Ananda Sen, (29), had packed their bags and moved to Mumbai.

"Apart from the crammed buildings and traffic jams, we noticed that the crow was a leitmotif," says Dave, who along with her friends launched a Facebook page, Crows of Mumbai, to tell the story of the city they made home through its resident bird.
Five months ago, they put up a video of a crow picking up garbage from the ground and dump it earnestly in a bin. "Meticulously, he was picking up a plastic cup, a crumpled paper and other rubbish in its beak," recalls Dave. This crow made it to the first post on Crows of Mumbai.

(L-R) Anand Sen, Surbhi Dave and Rachit Narang. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
(L-R) Anand Sen, Surbhi Dave and Rachit Narang. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

"Often called the sweeper bird, the crow is smart. If it wants to crack a nut, it will throw it in the way of moving traffic, hoping a car will run over it and crush it to reveal the insides," shares Narang.

The three say they had been tracking Humans of New York — the ever popular blog featuring street portraits and sketches of New Yorkers — and its spin-off, Humans of Mumbai. "We wanted to present a neutral perspective. A resident of a chawl thinks differently of the city than a businessman residing in a 20-storey high-rise. The crow, a bird closest in proximity to humans, was a good looker-on," says Narang.

The Autocrow took to riding the streets of Mumbai instead of flying in a bid to understand humans better. While he is ridiculed by his clan, the change of heart occurred after a girl rescued his cousin from a kite injury
The Autocrow took to riding the streets of Mumbai instead of flying in a bid to understand humans better. While he is ridiculed by his clan, the change of heart occurred after a girl rescued his cousin from a kite injury

It was in April that the page went live, carrying narratives told through pictures, illustrations and storytelling.

While it is not a satire, it is an insight into Mumbai and its people, seen from the perspective of the crow, says Sen, the chief illustrator. "All of us craft stories before I illustrate. Crows have an important place in Indian society. We say it is lucky when they shit on us; we feed them to please the dead."

The SoBo crow doesn’t fly beyond Bandra
The SoBo crow doesn’t fly beyond Bandra

Sen’s favourite character is the SoBo Crow who "doesn’t fly beyond Bandra". "He is the uptight townie, who travels by cab and shuns the car," says Sen, who lives in Santacruz East like his friends. "Sometimes, the three feel akin to migratory birds. "Where we come from, balconies are taken for granted. In Mumbai, it is a luxury. Recently, a crow sitting in between six others, in crammed fashion on a cable wire, inspired one of our posts. Surprisingly, it was the first one to sit there; others hijacked its space. It tells you a lot about Mumbai’s fight for affordable housing, doesn’t it?"

The three are contemplating their next post. Narang says, "We have Aamir Khan on our mind, but we are not sure how tolerant or intolerant our viewers are. But then, we are talking crows. They won’t come protesting!"

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