Cometh Uttarayan and flocks of bird-lovers descend upon us. Misty-eyed ladies and gents with quavering voices get busy saving the birds while giving kite-flying enthusiasts the look that Christ must have given to the soldiers gambling for his clothes.
I feel sorry for these empathy-filled hearts lately, as, with popularity of kite-flying ebbing, they have less and less birds to save (and do photo-ops with) with each passing year.
Fortunately for these bird-lovers, there is one bird that never lets them down. It always tops the martyred-list. Rock pigeon is the undisputed mascot for bird-lovers mushrooming during Uttarayan. And, blinded by love, these kind-hearts fail to see the reason why pigeons secure top honors in committing hara-kiri with kite-string.
Rock pigeon is the bird-pest number one for the entire world. There are nearly 400 million pigeons inhabiting (mainly) cities across the planet. If you want to visualize the power of this number, pigeons paint our cities with 5 million tons of highly acidic guano every year!
As the name suggests, rock pigeon is a bird evolved with preference for rocky outcrops for its nesting. Fortunately for the pigeon, a species that dominates the planet today opted to build tall structures with features tailor-made for its nesting. No other creature, with exception of black and brown rats, has benefited as much from the global spread of humanity as pigeons. With humanity providing safe nesting spaces, pigeons have taken the idea of a nest to level that any minimalist artist would be proud of.
Nesting, for most birds, is a very sensitive issue. Birds are careful about choosing the right location and keeping it concealed. Disturbance can even lead a bird to abandon the nest. But, that is for the normal birds. Pigeon is a carefree artist that cares two hoots about concealing its nest or its safety. Like an abstract painter who wants us to believe that couple of lines put together is an artwork, pigeon just gathers couple of twigs and calls it a nest.
Even more brazen is the nesting behavior of a pigeon. It shades all its fear of human beings and nests wherever it pleases without any consideration of danger. This strange behavior, for me, holds a great learning.
Pigeons, by opting for irresponsibility while in company of humans have played a masterstroke. They have managed to press the right buttons to switch on human empathy in full force. They unfailingly discover a human being fawning over their nest coochie-coohing over the fluffy lumps that grow into shitting machines in a month’s time.
Though cuckoos have been maligned as parasites amongst the birds; pigeons, for me, are the true parasites. By shading their fear and allowing us almost unnatural proximity to their fledglings, they are fooling us into relating with them emotionally. So, unlike rats that discretely utilize human cities, pigeons are brazen pests that manage to exploit us openly and with us not minding their teeming millions damaging our buildings or spreading diseases.
Death of any life form, especially in a cruel way that a kite-string delivers is always lamentable, but the emotional over-boarding that pigeons cause every Uttarayan is, possibly an overkill in terms of the collective guilt it causes. If Uttrayan is killing and maiming pigeons, it is not because kite-flying is a sport of the cruel, it is more because pigeon numbers are becoming astronomical through their exploitation of human emotions.
Humanity has plenty of reasons to feel guilty about. Let us not add kite-flying to it. Compassion for fellow creatures is a great idea, but if we go overboard with it, we will be cramped for space to enjoy life itself.