Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sky Rats

Bordering my neighbourhood is a large flyover which straddles a train line. The crest of this flyover is covered with thousands of pigeons. In my mind pigeons equal pigeon poop, stray grimy feathers and mess… gross. Quite often when I am driving over the flyover I will see cars pulled over by the side of the road and the occupants will be spreading out grain or old chapatis for the pigeons. Sometimes I see people washing out the festy* water bowls and leaving fresh water for the pigeons… why? I don't get it. It's not like they are colourful pretty birds; they are ugly grey sky rats. On occasion I have been riding my scooter toward the crest of the flyover and all of a sudden all the pigeons take off and swoop across the road, turn sharply swoop the other way and then come back to land. It freaks the living daylights out of me.

Def Col/Jangpura flyover

On the way to Hunter's school there is a T intersection with a small traffic island. This is another spot that people seem to be compelled to feed pigeons. Sometimes the occasional goat or chicken trying to get in on the grain action as well, but mostly it's just pigeons. On the days I pick-up Hunter from school in a cycle rickshaw she just about has a panic attack when we round that corner of birds. I don't know where her irrational fear of birds came from.

So why do people around here insist on feeding these sky rodents… well I did a bit of research.

Apparently pigeons have religious significance in quite a few religions; two of which are Islam and Sikhism. Now my area has a rather large population of both Sikhs and Muslims so that equals a double whammy of pigeon feeding.

In Islam, doves and the pigeon family in general are respected and favoured because they are believed to have assisted the final prophet of Islam, Muhammad, in distracting his enemies outside the cave of Thaw'r in the great Hijra. This seems to have lead to a few folk tales and superstitions... Apparently there was a man who was very poor, he could not afford anything. But despite his poverty he would feed hungry birds, with scraps of left over food. In return the birds prayed to Allah over and over again so that the man would become richer and luckier. Allah heard the birds prayers and slowly the man became richer and richer with much luck.

Another superstition I came across is that if a woman is having trouble bearing a child, she should eat 7 or 11 grains that are still in chaff from the ground where pigeons feed in Makkah… ewww

In Old Delhi there is a sport played called Kabooter Bazi. In the late afternoon Kabooter Bazi players head up to their rooftops and give signals for their groups of pigeons to fly around in packs. They then throw seed in the air and the pigeons circle back to eat a few and then resume circling. The pigeons know which rooftop is there home and promptly return to their rooftop when seed is thrown. The aim of the game is to get other pigeons to join your pack, increasing the size of your pack and basically gaining ownership of the pigeons. You could basically say it's winner takes all gambling with pigeons. Apparently you can buy pigeons to train up to play and good pigeons can be ridiculously expensive.

So there you have it… I learned something new today.

*festy- Australian word related to the word fester.


Frau Dietz said...

I used to find pigeons hugely entertaining... until one nested outside my (then London) bedroom window and had babies, which were the ugliest creatures I have ever seen. I continued to find them quite entertaining, however, until there was such a build up in lime/fungus/whatever it is from their droppings that I couldn't open my window, so actually physically painful it was to breathe it in (and you know that's why they lose their feet, right, not from standing in chewing gum but from standing in their own acidic nests), and then my bedroom became infested with bird mites (which live in their thousands underneath pigeons' wings) and I had to pay a man to come and spray the entire room and all my belongings. So now I don't find them so much entertaining as wholly repulsive.

Wow, sorry for sharing all that, I obviously needed to get it out ;) - your blogpost is totally fascinating!! :D said...

haha..your story made me laugh out loud :P
Repulsive little buggers.

Glad you enjoyed the post

Priya Kundu said...

awesome post! i love this!