Humor: The Pigeon Parity!

Once upon a time in our native village home our grandfather used to rear pigeons by building them nice wooden nests, apart from a large cowshed for the cows and the bullocks, and also rearing goats to a limited extent. As was or still is customary in the traditional Hindu society of India the cows are held in high esteem, often worshipping them in a symbolic way, to take a regional example, during one of the days of the Rongali Bihu (Assam’s spring festival), for prosperity in the profession of cultivation and in the daily supply of milk. The goats have to be kept carefully as they often eat up vegetable/fruit and other useful plants. We used to cry as human kids when the lovely kids grew up big enough to be sold out to the local animal traders, because we exactly knew what was going to happen to them. The pigeons, our basic subject matter, were also reared up with loving care giving them grains at regular intervals during the day; however, there was a huge and a cruel difference. 

Whenever important guests turned up for lunch or dinner the strong boy of the household used to throttle a pair or more of the pigeons to death, cleaning and cutting them up for the delicious curry to be prepared. We were rather hypocritical, feeling the pain at their cruel termination, but enjoying the curry prepared by our grandmother. This practice still exists in the villages, with the modern-day pigeons steadily becoming urban habitants in the cities that are relatively safer.  We apologize if the vegetarian readers or the bird/animal lovers are offended. But what to do? Food habits of the people the world over are very diverse and various birds or animals become part of an inevitable food chains. As I mentioned we are hypocritical, we don’t feel anything when chickens or ducks or goats and a few others are butchered regularly and we happily partake in that as per our food habits. We often see in wildlife movies lions or tigers or other carnivorous animals hunting their preys, finally tearing up their flesh, and we feel a lot of pain. But, can we make those carnivores vegetarians? Let’s return to our pigeons as this digression is too complicated. 

Once I came to Mumbai, the financial capital of India, my perception about the pigeons changed in entirety. Here, I found the pigeons looked after with loving care by all the inhabitants, including both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, building up elaborate shelters cum fodder for them in public places and in private homes. To my surprise, I found the pigeons here fearless and even impudent, sorry to use the latter term normally used to describe some of our fellow beings, of the humans, flocking around them in gay abandon. Slowly and steadily I too started loving them which excluded it entirely from my food habits and whenever I found that curry as a dish during my visits to my home place, I refused to eat it or rather found the act abhorrent to cater to. 

As a result, the population of the pigeons here multiplied exponentially. They are to be seen everywhere, from the streets to the housing society complexes. The people do offer them the grains, but are largely unable to provide nests for them thanks the obvious reason that our fellow beings too have to live in sort of congested flats, let’s say nests for humans. The scenario creates the inevitable problems: in an eternal search for fodder, mating and laying eggs the flocks of pigeons try to occupy every available place, often intruding into the human nests; the balconies or the ledges become their usual habitats, particularly in unoccupied flats or in some of the flats where the owners/tenants go out for a long holiday or work interests. New occupants or returning occupants always find their balconies blackened inconsolably by the pigeon droppings and nests built up in the corners, at times with babies growing up. 

More coincidental trouble for the housing societies in the outskirts of the metro, near to forest areas and hills. Monkeys are said to be very fond of pigeon eggs and they often become the uninvited guests, sometimes climbing up even as high as the tenth floor thus creating more hassles for human inhabitants. Besides, the eagles too indulge in their dashing raids to look for pigeon babies or eggs thus creating terror for some. Therefore, notwithstanding our love and care for the birds we have to take the appropriate steps to prevent frequent mating and going on to build nests in the balconies. Some go for grilling shut their balconies while some others put obstacles at the likely corners or get the nets covering the balconies fully. Still some others consider it more disadvantageous for themselves rather than for the pigeons, and they post themselves on constant guard to prevent unauthorized activities during the day, because, fortunately, in the nights the pigeons return to their nests wherever they be. 

A thought comes to my mind considering the ever-growing population of the urban pigeons and their possible territories for feeding, mating and laying eggs. This is related to a very common practice in Mumbai which is called the hafta (illegal money collected weekly by local goons, self-styled protectors or the underworld from the prominent resident stakeholders) in vogue for decades or maybe centuries. The pigeons too must be having some system in operation. They must be dividing the territories between clusters of them, that is to say, some being assigned a certain number of flats or floors over which they seem to enjoy full jurisdiction. This atrocious thought of mine is somewhat confirmed by the fact that I always happen to find the same group of pigeons led by a male bird who haunt our balconies and ledges all around the flat. In conclusion, we stand by our conviction that the pigeons are lovely birds of believed good omens; but how we care for them is entirely our jurisdiction too. 



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