"One for sorrow, two for joy - if you see a single crow, the all black one the ones with a lighter colour around the neck don't count, if you see a single all black one, it will bring you sorrow. But if you see two of them together, it will bring you joy."
Words of wisdom from a 7 year old who went to a fancy school and was generally accepted by all kids in the neighbourhood as someone who was wise about everything in life. For most of my school life, my expectations of a day was totally detemined by the number of crows I saw in the morning.
If a favorite teacher ignored you or your team failed to score a single point in the net ball match - you knew it was coming , the single crow you had seen in the morning had said it all.
The day you were selected for a role in the school play or chosen to carry the homework notebooks to the teacher's room ( that was a huge responsibility and the teacher thought you were worthy of such trust!)- you mentally thanked the two black messengers who had indicated this joy to you in the morning.
Are there greater calamities and joys known to mankind?

On specially important days like examination days and the days exam papers were to be returned, I took special care not to look higher than eye level for fear of seeing a single one and inviting sorrow upon myself. Or looking up only when a friend confirmed that there were two together and I better look up and grab my chance to make my day joyful.

Stupid , silly things that one believed in with so much faith. But then isn't that what innocence is all about? Believing every good thing to be a gift and every bad thing to be a curse, not knowing the extent of control one had on determining these - entirely believing them to be defined by some external forces, and hoping to convert a sorrowful day into a joyful one by just seeing 2 crows together!

I do not know at what age I stopped believing in it - that must have been the beginning of my adulthood, doubts and scepticism.
After a long time I saw two black crows on tree outside my house this morning. It brought a smile and all these old memories. Well, this ought to be a joyful day - will confirm it tomorrow.
16 Responses
  1. Mahadevan Says:

    What a delightful piece!

    What seems trivial today, was a major fear to reckon with, for a seven years old. You could capture vividly the working of the mind at seven years, and convey to us faithfully, without tinging with the feelings,in a highly presentable manner.

    A fine example of raising the ridiculous to the sublime.

  2. Paavai Says:

    One for sorrow, two for joy, three for letter, four for boy friend, five for girl friend - dont know about 6,7, 8 and 9 - ten for death.

    Superstitions are a way of life, a lucky pen for exam, looking at the sun while playing a cricket match , never ending list.

    Childrens' minds are the most fascinating thing on earth - i was told by a four year old today that if I talk to my friend on walk on the street a old crocodile will eat me up to which a three year old added that she has grown taller by an inch and when asked how, she ate vegetables last night

  3. Inder Says:

    i didn't know this 'count of crows' thingy :)

  4. rads Says:

    Yeah, when you quit believeing in such, you become an adult. ugh?!
    My son proudly claims there is no Santa Claus. ..and he's all of 10 years! *sigh*

  5. its so true - I used to believe in these superstitions too - and I dont remember either when I stopped believing in it!

  6. Anonymous Says:

    As much as I can recall, the only superstition that I ever believed in was god, and I got rid of it when I was 16 or 17!

    Feeding children with superstitions, however innocuous they might sound, I believe is a crime, or "child abuse" as Richard Dawkins would call it. Not all of them are harmless, and not all those fed with superstitions get rid of them, when they grow up.

    A particularly intimate and revolting example that I came across recently was the so-called "Sevvai Dhosham" - or "the Mars Curse" on a wonderful girl that I know, who is soon to get her Ph.D. Her own father, who, btw, is a well educated fellow, believes in it fervently, and spares no effort to seek remedies in every temple on the earth, while spreading this despicable superstition around.

    No, Virginia, there is no such thing as Santa Clause (or Sevvai Dhosham or Counting Crows)!

  7. Usha Says:

    Mahadevan: Yes it was a make believe world of very simple joys and sorrows and one could believe in the role of crows in determining the day.
    The whole purpose was to record the memories from another era and how something so ridiculous seemed so important.

    Paavai:4 for boyfriend!! oh no!!! That would have been a major source of worry almost as bad as One for sorrow! A boy showing interest in you would have meant losing your popularity in the girls' gang.

    Inder:If you were born after the 80s you wouldn't know.

    Rads:Thanks to televison and their exposure to books, today's children are so well informed and need proof for everything. I think in todays' world they cannot afford to be naive.

    somethingtosay:True, the world didnt come crashing down when you stopped believing in these. It happened so smoothly.

    The RF: I am also against feeding superstitions to children. But there are certain simple faiths that characterise the simplicity of the world of kids which everyone eventually grows out of. For example, kids believe their parents and older people to be capable of anything (My daddy strongest)`which is not true - the harmless part is that"anything" doesnt mean supernatural powers. It just means someone who is not scared of darkness or can fix and electric bulb or can buy you nice things from big shops.
    Superstition in adulthood is stupid and especially when it affects important decisons of life like sevvai dosham or as it happened recently in bangalore, a medical doctor cutting down the tree in front of his house for reasons of Vaastu hoping his daughter's health would improve.
    Yes, one cannot define when it is acceptable and when it becomes unacceptable. So I guess we have to get rid of them even if it means throwing Santa claus out with Sevvai dosham.

  8. passerby55 Says:

    Hello Usha,

    A well written post.

    I have known the crows to be an intelligent bird. i was not aware of: two crows bringing joy and for one sorrow.

    i was told that Mynas were the bird to watch. Mynas were regarded as symbols of undying love, because they often pair for life and maina is also sometimes used as a term of endearment for young girls. two for good luck and one for sorrow.

    it was also believed that if you did see one myna and then search to see one crow immediately. The pain the sorrow bought could be less.

    ANyway, i shall now start watching two crows...


  9. Usha Says:

    Passerby: Hahha, no point looking out for crows - that was just a childhood pastime.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Who knows,Usha? Maybe, the crows sit on the tree top all day long, solemnly watch the human beings pass by below and count, " 1 for sorrow, 2 for sorrow,3 for sorrow, ...." . They won't say the same thing as they can't speak English, but they will probably say this as "ka, kaka, kakaka"..

  11. MJ Says:

    hey...really i too was such an innocent kid at school.But i think we used to look out for a bird which was a lil brownish in color and had some pale white color inside their wings and used to pray hard for the pair of those birds to compensate for seeing the single one.

    And there were many more such-these are all my little treasures which will make me smile at myself.

  12. Anonymous Says:


    I remember that I also had such a beleif. I used to travel by bus to reach school and college. now I used to sum the numbers in the digits of the bus ticket. If I had an odd number I thought I will have a great day and if even not a great day. I used to always pray that It should be an odd one. Funny isn't it? How you start to believe things like this. But joys of our childhood....

  13. One for sorrow, two for joy, three for letter, four for boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for secret never to be told :) that's what we used to say when we were kids. I still feel happy when I see 2 jungle crows together!

  14. Artnavy Says:

    Oh i still have so many superstitions like that- only it is no longer viewed by others as innocence- but as immature:-(

    I hate the number 4 and love to see a red mail van and make a wish

    In my belief, Friday the 13 is very auspicious BTW

    hopefuly willnot pass on these quirks to Anush:-)

  15. It is mynahs for me, not crows.
    And if you had the good luck to see two or if you had the bad luck to see one mynah, all you did was call someone else to see it with you.
    Even in superstitions, sharing halved the sorrows and doubled the joys. :-)

    I still believe in it, and search frantically for a pal when I see a lone mynah!

  16. Anonymous Says:

    1 for sorrow, 2 for joy, 3 for letter,4 for boy, 5 for silver, 6 for gold,7 for stories yet untold, 8 for the boy who sits by the lake, 9 for wedding, 10 for wake. I remember knowing this but not when i learned it. In newfoundland we draw an x with our left index finger over the single crow if you are married or blow him a kiss with your right hand and wish him to meet his mate if you are single.
    I love superstitions! The boy who sits by the lake means a stranger will come it's important to make them feel welcome. I dont know too many people who have heard this long version.