Thursday, 2 April 2009

Satyajit and the Owl

'It so happened I woke up one morning and glancing at the window behind me saw a whitish brown owl (it was more white than brown) sitting on the shutter of a window that opened on the outside. 

The owl had its eyes riveted on me. I came up to the window, looking silently at the bird - it didn't move a muscle. While I stood watching, I heard shouting from the neighbouring flats. Our house was set back from the main road, but could be seen by at least a dozen neighbours from adjoining flats. They were now calling out to the owl and making enticing noises.

My wife joined me. The reason for the excitement dawned on us both at the same time.  In Indian mythology, the owl is the mount of Lakshmi, the goddess of luck and wealth, and an owl sitting on your window must naturally arouse the neighbours' envy. 

All the shouting and crying and whistling didn't perturb the bird at all. It kept its eyes fixed on me. I took out my Leica and took a picture of the bird. The 'click' didn't bother the bird at all. The owl stayed in the same position for two whole weeks and then it was gone. Whether it moved during the night, I couldn't say, but each morning I found it in exactly the same spot - looking at me in exactly the same way. '

From My Years with Apu by Satyajit Ray (published by Faber & Faber). The Satyajit Ray Foundation

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