Have you ever seen pigeons cooling off near falling water? They are really cute. They lift their wings and lean their underside towards the water. A little away and not directly under as they hate getting their primaries wet. Or have you seen pigeon siblings slap each other really hard for space to sleep on a pipe or on the feeding ground? They lift their wings and hit the other pigeon hard. Have you watched how a mother bird guides younger pigeons away with ghuttar goos or tiny pecks on their heads? Have you seen immature birds screaming at the mother birds fighting for space in feeding bowls? I guess not, as most of us don’t want to feed pigeons – the urban pests- anymore.
Ofcourse humans domesticated them for acting as messenger birds or collecting the feathers they shed everyday or for bringing warmth to cold days. Pigeons, when they fly create breeze and bring joy. But most of us can’t appreciate them. They have become carriers of various illnesses as their life in urban areas has been degraded the most. They eat cement and grit because we dont want kabutar khanas. They drink water from chemical laced outlets. They breathe and fly in air full of urban pollutants. We forget that we made these beautiful creatures into pests. It’s sad.
Pigeons prefer heights to small trees, as heights keep them away from urban sounds. High open ledges allow them to fly off easily. There are more places to hide and seek shelter from weather and predators. They fly away from humans and only close contact with pigeons may lead to getting some illness, if they are are carriers. Don’t you think most of us would be really ill if all pigeons carried illnesses?
It had to happen. A society member suggested that I stop feeding the birds (read pigeons mainly) because they poop. Well, they will poop even if I don’t feed them.
On further enquiry, I learnt that one of the neighbours with a flat directly below mine found them noisy while feeding, which lasts less than fifteen minutes twice a day. It got me thinking hard.
I started listening to the sounds around me. There is loudspeaker namaaz five times a day heard by the entire area. God forbid, you need rest on a Friday afternoon, because some highly angry Muslim preacher speaks on current issues for two to three hours after one p.m. Then, there is some wedding venue nearby where loud music is the norm and festivals are also celebrated with gusto. There are some welding and steel workshops in the vicinity. Firecrackers often go off at a film studio nearby. Hey, I live in a noisy area. And of course, there is traffic. So, why do all these noises seem more acceptable than a little ghuttargoo from the birds. It’s a wonder that these birds hang out here at all, considering the sounds. Among others, there are crows, ravens, kites, kingfishers, drongos , bee-eaters, orioles, sparrows and robins, egrets and innumerable other small birds not to mention tabelas full of cows and buffaloes, small patches with goats and pigs. And the dogs. A stray dog howling was chased out with a stick as it was noisy.
Since when have sounds of animal and bird life become so alien that they disturb our peace?
Why is a little poop dirty and gutters full of chemicals acceptable? Why are Frooti packs and plastic bags ok to throw on the ground but bird seed or poop lying on the ground a bit unacceptable? In spite of living close to a forested area, we as humans are not able to live in harmony with nature.
I felt sad as I found about this issue. I don’t think that arguing passionately about my cause is going to sensitize them to nature. And preaching most definitely won’t. We need to conduct more nature sensitivity workshops in urban areas instead of taking people to forests and camp there or go for long nature trails and conduct slide shows. A creative way will have to be found to solve this problem.
Lately, I have a fan base among the pigeons. I started a bird feeder for pigeons. Luckily, there is no rule against it here, unlike Hiranandani Estate where they ban residents from allowing pigeons and plants outside your windows or flats. When I saw a group of pigeons hovering around, I was reminded of the kabutar khanas in South Mumbai, where the floors are always laced with jowar and hundreds of pigeon ghutargoo. I used to like standing and watching them eat there. It’s incredibly peaceful to hear them ghuttargoo and feel the breeze that fluttering wings create. I wondered if I could recreate the experience.
There was no pigeon feed in the kitchen. I pulled out a small bowl of rice grains and kurmura. The rice grains vanished in a few seconds. The kurmura or puffed rice was rejected. Until a merry white dove with a large pink beak came along. Either the dove was hungry or well, it had a preference for kurmura. It pecked the kurmura into oblivion. Well, here’s a bird that likes kurmura and it was pretty to watch, with it’s large pink beak.
I repeated the ritual the next day. Once again, all the pigeons stuck to the rice. The white dove, when it tried to peck the rice, was harassed by the black rock pigeons. So, it opted for the kurmura.
Now, I decided to get them some jowar. Oh, the pigeons came in hordes. Ten, may be twenty pigeons flew in from all directions. Jowar was the preferred feed. They went ghuttar ghoo; ghuttar ghoo. A family of white doves joined them. The younger white doves were now ignored as there was plenty of feed. However, the white ones did not opt for the kurmura, except for the one with the large beak, which did not look like it belonged to the family. Soon enough another large white spotted dove sailed in. Elegant with long neck, where flecks of black feathers were visible. It strutted around ignoring the rest with their heads bent, pecking at the feed. Finally, it decided the feed was good enough for it to try. As soon as it started pecking though, the other pigeons attacked its wings. And it flew off.
Discrimination is a part of nature’s survival guide. It tells you – are they different? Then, chase them away. They may get more food if they are not around. Are they attractive? Then, attack them. Are they injured or weak or disabled? Then, ignore them. Are they not like you? Then don’t accept them. God seems to prefer that they hang out in homogeneous groups. Well…I wish God would rewrite the survival guide.
God’s Revised Survival Guide for the Pigeons (a few pointers) –
- Don’t fight for food.
- Accept everybody. Let each eat what it can.
- Don’t hang around construction sites.
- Don’t think of cement or broken bricks as soil.
- Watch out where you peck.
- Don’t play with plastic.
- Don’t think that the garbage dumps are where humans put out their feed for you.
- Don’t build nests on buildings. The nasty humans might clean you out.
- Tall buildings are not trees and man is not God. He will destroy your nests and bee hives. He will also sell your honey.
- Be ready to eat what humans give you. As what you were given as Nature, was grabbed by humans for his fields and later factories.
- Humans will even use nets, guns and scarecrows to chase you out. So, learn to live amicably with them and wait for what they give.
- Always try to be on the good side of the human.
Of course, feeding pigeons daily has its drawbacks. Here’s a guideline:
- Make sure you have the right kind of feed.
- Make sure there is plenty. At least a bowlful and not a handful.
- Fix a time. The pigeons will come there daily at feed time.
- Be punctual. Else they will ghuttar ghoo till you respond in kind or feed them.
- Soon, they will think that you are a ‘dine –in’ and come at all times and ghuttar ghoo. They also have menu preferences, so be prepared to have your feed ignored. They will crane their necks left and then right and then peek at you with their orange beady eyes, pleading for more.
- Don’t feel bad when they ghuttar ghoo intensely and stare at you really hard and beg. Don’t melt, else your week’s stock of feed will disappear in a minute.
- Make sure your neighbours feed them as well. So, you feel les guilty when a few late comers straddle in. They can always hop over to the next window.
- Keep a little feed till the rest of them fly away. A few immature ones and the albinos or the mulatos (black with white feathers or the white with black feathers) will hang back. Then, sneakily spread the rest of the feed.
- Keep some kurmura at hand. You never know, which one prefers kurmura.
The old city had many sprawling tenements with hundreds of dwellers. In one such old sprawling tenement, in the heart of the city, a young boy dreamed big. His father was a clerk in the local civic corporation and lived on a meagre salary.
The boy had a few cousins, who lived in a large flat in an upper middle class area, as his uncle had a well-paid job in a private co. They rarely visited him except on a festive day.
When they did visit him, they were mean and condescending. They made fun of his things and even broke the few toys that he had.
On one such occasion, the children brought their own toys. But they wouldn’t let him play with it. As they said, he was a dirty boy. He felt sad but knew that they didn’t refer to his hygiene but to his poverty and poor living conditions.
He decided then that one day he would be a rich man too. He studied hard, and like his uncle, got a job in a private co. Soon he had a large flat, car and other luxuries. He got married and had kids.
He had forgotten the old tenement where he grew up. His close friend still lived there and one day, his friend called him for his son’s birthday. He took his kids for it. After cutting the cake, his youngest son refused to eat it. “There are dirty children here.”, the son whispered in his ears.
He collapsed in tears. He knew then that success was not about his flat or his car, but about the values he taught his kids. He knew his kids had not accepted him. His success had no meaning for them. They would never value his struggle or his early childhood poverty.
He sat down on the floor with his friend, instead of the chair provided for him. He took his youngest son on to his lap and slowly fed him the cake, telling him all the time that it was the most delicious cake in the world and that one day when he grew up, he would remember this cake and the friend who had given him the cake.
यह भी कश्मीर, वह भी कश्मीर
कितनी खुबसुरत वह तस्वीर थी
वह कश्मीर थी , वह कश्मीर थी
सदियों से छीपी वह वादियां थी
बादलों से घिरी बरफीली ऊँचाई थी
वह कश्मीर थी
वह गुल थी, वह गुलशन थी
वह कश्मीर थी
जहां नदी में तारे खेलते थे
झरने की कल कल से वह हँसती थी, खिलखिलाती थी
वह कश्मीर थी
वही बहती हुई नदियां, वही हंसते हुए झरने
उसकी मौत की ज़ंजीर बन गई,
उसकी लाश की कफन बन गई
यह भी कश्मीर है ,
यह अब कश्मीर है
वह गुल औ गुलशन, वह कली औ कलियां
सब बह गयी, कबऱ को भी साथ ले गयी
यह भी कश्मीर है ,
यह अब कश्मीर है
न रहे वह चीनार, न रही वह खुशबु
न रहे सेब के वह पेड़, न रहे सरसों के वह खेत
बस रहे तो रहे उजडे हुए चमन
रही तो सैकडो लाशों की बदबू
न बजेगी वहां सारंगी की घुन
न गुँजेंगे वहां सृंतृर के तार
जो रहा, वह है एक खोया हुआ सार
बह गये सब ख्वाब , रो रही है खुशियाँ
बह गया वह बचपन, बह गयी वह यादें
अब यह कश्मीर है
अब यही कश्मीर है
There is no precedent to this. The hills are collapsing. It’s a flood worse than Uttarakhand. We were warned then. We didn’t listen.
It’s a national disaster. The government must declare President’s rule and a state of emergency in Kashmir.
Kashmir will have to be restored, rebuilt and reconstructed:
फिर खिलेंगे वह गुल औ गुलशन, वह कली औ कलियां
फिर खुशबु देंगे वह चिनार,
फिर खिलेंगे सेब के वह पेड़, फिर लहलहायेंगे सरसों के वह खेत
फिर बसेंगे रंगबिरंगे चमन
फिर से बजेगी वहां सारंगी की घुन
फिर से गुँजेंगे वहां सृंतृर के तार
अब होंगे नए ख्वाब फिर से रौनक औ खुशियाँ
अब बनायेंगे नयी यादें
अब कश्मीर फिर से जागेगी, जीयेगी
अब कश्मीर में होगा पुन:विकास
Rains patter softly. Long drops
Of water laced with acid
The sun peeped a bit
Its rainbow and the
Pot of gold
His love invaded, striking suddenly
Emotions sang, danced
On giant waves
Foaming with loathe
A typhoon rocked
Emotions whirled, lost
Words stung. All barbs
Forgot to soothe
Sweeter than cyanide
My toxic cure
To love forever