Pigeoned For Life

We’re facing a peculiar problem at home these days. Since quite sometime now, we’ve been plagued by a flock of stubborn souls who refuse to let us alone. Well, they literally come in flocks and take over the tiny terrace that our living room opens into.  A heavenly place that it once was has now been reduced into nothing less than hell thanks to these grey invaders, the pigeons. It takes me hours, days and now years of scratching my confused head in absolute irritation and cleaning the place to the scratch a million times over to make a wildlife enthusiast like me to admit the kind of menace these pigeons have been.

It all started a few years back, when we started placing a bird-bath on our terrace to do our bit for nature. Soon our beautiful terrace garden saw a host of colorful birds of various sizes. Parrots, sparrows, mynahs, crows and pigeons would descend on the bird-bath and frolic in unison. But, somewhere along the way we failed to notice that there were more pigeons visiting us than the other members of the feathered community. I doubt if these seemingly harmless birds bullied those tinier birds away with the sheer force of their numbers.

I always was of the opinion that a pigeon symbolised peace but not anymore. Not a single surface on the terrace remains shielded from their droppings. I wonder how such small bodies generate so much poop! The terrace that once boasted of tinkling wind chimes and a comfortable swing to unwind on breezy evenings lies in shambles now. The chimes have been plucked off the wind leaving behind a trail of twines that hang in silence witnessing the cacophony of the cooing bird chatter. The plants that flowered incessantly hardly see their little buds flowering before they are mercilessly pecked off the plants. The swing is forever coated with a dry sheet of droppings. On rare occasions that I have ventured to sit on the swing to savour my morning coffee after clearing up a bit I have landed up with the stuff dropped unceremoniously into my cuppa. And there, you have a new flavor of coffee. Who knows, it could probably have some medicinal values which could combat deadly diseases? Thankfully, I have none of those diseases, so most of those coffees have gone down the drain, untouched after I’d have briefly exercised my vocal chords to shoo off those rowdies. While they still sit and shit shamelessly, watching me from the top bar of the swing as they teasingly coo in amusement into each others ears. I’m sure they nudge each other and whisper about me, giggling as they strategize on new ways to harass me everyday. Also, these dimwits have no concept of giving personal space to people. Given any time of the day a few of them coolly stroll into my living room with a gait similar to old men taking leisurely walks in public parks. At times, if no one’s watching they fly on to the dining table and also sample our meals. Gone are the days we could open our doors and windows to get in some fresh air. Stuffy rooms and nosy pigeons are what we’re left with.

Someone gave me a handy hint that could probably keep the pigeons off the terrace. So, the next morning I gathered as many old used compact discs that we had at home and started hanging them at regular intervals on the terrace. Apparently the shiny discs are said to ward off the birds since the glare disturbs their eye-sight. I thought of giving it a shot. The hanging discs looked a bit like wind chimes but on second thoughts I feel it looks more like a seedy pub. I was overjoyed when I did not see a single pigeon on that day after doing that. It continued for a good two days. None of them ventured into the terrace and I breathed a sigh of relief. But on day three, I noticed a dropping on the swing. On day four I saw one of them perched gingerly on the periphery of the terrace eyeing me from the corner of their eyes. On day ten, all of them were back! Discs or no discs, they were not going to give up their right on my terrace!

Way back in 2009, I had rented an apartment in Mumbai since my job then required me to stay half the month in Mumbai. So I’d live in that apartment only for fifteen days and the remainder of the month I’d spend back home in Baroda. It was a well furnished studio apartment in a high-rise building amidst a decent locality. I had everything under control during my stay there except for one thing. The kitchen had a gas stove standing on the counter facing a window with a broad ledge. On the days I was gone this used to be a favourite haunt for the crows of the vicinity. Disgustingly, these birds would come back to the window with bits of atrocious food that would kill my appetite instantly even as I was making myself a hot supper on the stove. It could be anything, from bits of a half-eaten raw meat or suspiciously inedible objects, the origins of which I would not dare to guess. So, every time I landed in Mumbai my first chore to tackle was to remove the nest from the ledge. Over a period of time the crows started outsmarting me. They came back with barbed wires and wove concrete nests which I could no longer do away with my bare hands. I would have to call the watchman of the building who would charge me a hefty amount to remove it using pliers and scissors. But it left me bewildered. Who on earth would have thought that even the wildlife has been influenced so largely by urbanisation? I mean, barbed wires – really? How could these crows figure out that alternative at all?! In the coming days I did everything to keep them away while I was gone.  Before leaving I’d place empty bottles, cans and old newspapers to make it difficult for them to build a nest on the ledge. But when I’d be back, everything would have disappeared and a new nest would have taken shape again! I slowly trained myself to cook with the window shut, exhaust fan switched on and my eyes fixed only on the gas stove. They were there to stay.

Since a few weeks now, I have been observing something strange. The people who live in the building next to ours have been placing a plate with some kind of bird food on their boundary wall. The first time I saw it, I wickedly smiled to myself expecting the pesky pigeons to get diverted by this new offering. Finally, my terrace would see some tranquility and cleanliness! But I was in for a disappointment. The bird food there did attract birds but only the most beautiful of parrots and not the pigeons as I had secretly wished. I still wonder what it is that they are feeding that only attracts parrots and keeps the pigeons away. They look like some seeds from a distance but I’m not sure what it is. As I watch those beautiful parrots from a distance I resolve that some day I might just walk around the block, ring their doorbell and find out their magic formula. Till then I’m pigeoned for life! As I dare to sit on the swing yet again humming on ‘Kabootar ja ja ja,’  I realise how unromantic the song now seems to me.

‘For god’s sake, you two up there, can you stop rubbing it in? Go, find yourself some other place to romance. Shoo!’

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