It was the top floor of a hotel in Singapore. My friend K was in the swimming pool on the open terrace of that hotel. There was no one else at the pool and that did not deter him from enjoying himself. In fact he liked the solitude.
It was his first visit to the city-state and from the time he had landed at the airport he had been impressed with the efficiency of the people here. He was taken in by the squeaky clean streets lined with trees and flower beds. The hotel room was comfortable and the service exemplary. Now he was enjoying a quick swim before joining a friend who lived here, for lunch.
K swam with brisk strokes across the pool, back and forth.
It was then he heard loud shots, obviously the recoil of guns. K froze for a moment. More shots rang out, like as if there was a gun battle going on. K did the only thing he could do under the circumstance. He held his breath and went under water, in an effort to escape from the range of fire.
He did not know what was happening. Was it the police after a criminal? Was it a gun battle between rival gangs?
As he stayed underwater, holding his breath, he remembered what he had read about Singapore in travel books. Unlike some other countries, citizens were not allowed to possess guns here. Singapore has one of the toughest gun laws in the world and possession of private weapons is a serious offence.
But now, within hours of his arrival, he seemed to be in the middle of a shooting range.
When he could no longer hold his breath under water and the noise seemed to have subsided, he slowly surfaced and looked around stealthily. There were some men on the terrace, holding guns.
But they were pointing at the tall trees outside.
Mustering up courage, he looked into the branches. Who was being targeted? No one seemed to have taken refuge in the trees.
Another shot rang out and before K could duck, something fell from the skies.
Right into the terrace which housed the swimming pool.
It was a DEAD CROW!
Much later, K learnt that the men were from the gun club, one of the few places where you could handle a gun. They had been hired by the government to shoot and kill the raucous crows that were detrimental to all the good that Singapore stood for. But the task of keeping Singapore free from the crow nuisance was proving a difficult one.
K was astonished when his friend explained this to him at lunch that day.
After a good holiday, K was back in his house in India.
His neighbor was an old lady, seeped in tradition and she had this habit of feeding the crows on auspicious days. In her religion, crows were supposed to be a link between her and her dead loved ones.
K watched as the lady kept cooked rice on a plantain leaf outside her house, and loudly called out:
“CAW, CAW, CAW!”
A bunch of crows swooped down and pecked on the rice, keeping a wary eye for predators.
K laughed as he thought to himself:
“Boy, are you glad, you are a revered crow in India.”
“In Singapore, you would be DEAD by now.”
Story by Bina. Written by Gulsum Basheer on Talkalittledo.
Flag- Image courtesy of mapichai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net , Hand with gun – Image courtesy of zole4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net , Crows – Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net