Hyderabad: The appeal by GHMC not to feed pigeons may find few takers. For people in Hyderabad feeding of pigeons is not just a pastime or a fad. It's more than that. Many consider it a virtuous deed and feed the winged creatures religiously.

There are several areas in the city which are known pigeons spots. And in recent times their numbers have only multiplied. A locality close to Husaini Alam in the old city goes by the name of 'Kabutar Khana'. As the name suggests, it used to have a large number of pots placed in a wall to serve as cosy homes for the birds. Hundreds of pigeons made it their abode. A few years ago, when some pigeon-holes got damaged, the locals repaired them. This 200-year-old Kabootar Khana is believed to have been built by one Siddi Ibrahim who loved birds.

Not just this. Hyderabad also boasts of a Pigeon Welfare Association at Sultan Bazar. This hoary kabootar khana is also home to hundreds of birds. The pigeon coops here are maintained by the Sultan Bazar traders and residents of Hashmatgunj. An open area with coops in the middle is enclosed with an iron mesh and pigeons can be seen picking cereal grains, peas and millets offered by people throughout the day.

A portion of the parallel bridge built alongside the Muslimjungpul near the City College has turned into a huge nesting place for pigeons. At any given the time of day one can see hundreds of pigeons taking flight or landing on the bridge to pick up grains. The Begum Bazar merchants make it a point to feed the birds here. The Makkah Masjid near Charminar is another place where the pigeons come home to roost. Visitors to the historic mosque feed the birds as a ritual and click pictures with their children. With pigeon poop falling all over, it is a big task for the Masjid management to keep its premises clean. Also, because of the seeds deposited by the birds in the minarets often there is a vegetal growth, which if not removed, widens the crevices.

Apart from causing respiratory problems, the recent spurt in the pigeon population has become a nuisance to many. Especially those living in high rise apartments warding off the winged creatures are big a challenge. Of late many people are forced to cover up their windows and balconies with safety nets to prevent the birds from flying in or hitting the window panes.

Kabootar Bazi

The feathery creatures have held a special spot for the people here down the ages. Kabootar Bazi is the Hyderabadis idea of combining leisure with pleasure. Rearing pigeons and using them for the sport has been the favourite hobby of the erstwhile rulers. Come evening, and the nawabs and the well-heeledd would climb atop the terraces of their sprawling deodis and let loose their pigeons.

Oldies recall how bets were placed to determine the stamina of the birds to fly. Another area of interest was to woo away the pigeons of the other group. This was done through whistles and waving of hands. The pigeon flock of the rival groups get mixed while airborne and when they ultimately descend some are found to have 'defected' to the other camp. It is a matter of pride and a sign of victory for the one who has successfully weaned away the birds of the opposite side. Now it is for the defeated party to redeem its honour by getting back its birds.

The present times, however, doesn't permit such racing activities. There are still a small number of persons who rear homing pigeons and indulge in racing games. Kabootar ja ja ja... maybe a passionate cry of movie love-birds. But for Hyderabad is it is a pleasant pastime.

J.S. Ifthekhar

J.S. Ifthekhar is a senior journalist with nearly four decades of experience. Ifthekhar cut his teeth in journalism at the Indian Express before he moved to The Hindu. He was also associated with the Siasat Daily, Telangana Today, Deccan Chronicle, Onlooker magazine, Newstrack, Detective Digest and a few news agencies. He has written on different subjects and aspects of Hyderabadi life. However, his passion remains literature in general and Urdu poetry in particular. He is equally concerned with culture, heritage, civic affairs and problems confronting the man in the street. As a journalist he has taken up cudgels on behalf of the underprivileged and many of his stories in The Hindu saw the government promptly taking corrective measures. Ifthekhar has authored two books - Hyderabad - The Nawabi City on The Move and Haj - The Spirit Behind it. He has also translated two books from Urdu to English. Currently he is working on his third book - Poets and Writers of Deccan. Loves to write and writes to live. Can't imagine doing anything else.

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