Friday, 28 February 2014

Monywa Crows

A Monywa business uses two green lasers to keep the crows away

In Monywa, some businesses must maintain high-powered lasers as the one seen in this photo, to keep away the crows that are known to swarm in great numbers. This business photographed above shows two such green lasers that keep the crows at bay, and apparently must be shone even at nighttime. In older days, the method of choice were slingshots, and indeed, these are still commonly found throughout the Burmese countryside. Unfortunately, it has been—and still is—considered a boyhood rite of passage in Burma to shoot crows with a slingshot. Those not so skillful are taunted by being called “maymisa,” or “effeminate.”

However, the modern innovation of lasers provide a humanitarian alternative that is highly effective in moving the crows along while at the same time having the advantage of being entirely harmless and without injury. Such a method has been increasingly advocated by various progressive groups in Burma, such as European monks, expat authors, and even visiting doctors to the country residing in Japan. Surprisingly, one group that has not yet supported the initiative have been local tour guides.

The problem of cows is apparently not a new problem in Burma, as Julius Smith wrote about his experiences in 1890 in Ten Years In Burma: “We were wakened early… by the harsh cawing of a myriad of crows, which roost in the shade-trees of the public streets and private yards. We came afterwards to know these annoying pests that swarm over Rangoon all day long, as a tribe of thieves full of all cunning and audacity. The first exhibition of their pilfering given us, was that first morning when the early tea and toast… was passed into our room and placed in reach of the children. The crows had been perched on the window-sill before this, restlessly watching us within the room. But on our turning for a moment from the tray on which the toast was placed, the crows swooped upon it, and carried it off out of the window. This is but a sample of the audacious annoyance suffered from their beaks and claws continually. They are in country places also, but not so plentifully as here in the cities, where they literally swarm. Were it to our purpose we could write pages of these petty and cunning robberies of which they are guilty.”

Indeed, there is even an ancient Burmese proverb touching upon this nuisance that goes Tin daw paya, sad aw shwe gyi and refers to an offering “given to a Buddha, snatched by a crow.” And, it was an issue even in the Buddha's day, when he stipulated that one was allowed to be ordained as a novice so long as the boy was old enough "to keep crows away from his alms bowl."