Friday 4 December 2009

Carrier pigeons

The dozen or more spotted doves that descend from the trees where they wait every morning to land in a literal heap on the bird table in the hen run where I leave them some wheat are apparently bringing me more than just pleasure.

In Delhi and Jaipur we saw entire traffic islands dedicated to pigeons - your common-or-garden, reviled pigeon that is discouraged so strenuously in other parts of the world. In the UK, the public buildings bristle with inhospitable-looking spikes on every ledge and alcove, and swathes of netting cover arches, blurring the view of the statues within them.

But in India? Where life is hand-to-mouth for so many people, where resources are limited, where selfishness would be entirely practical? In India, pigeons are generously fed and supplied with bowls of fresh water - it's good karma, to look after other creatures. The Jains take it to the outer limit, wearing masks so they don't accidentally swallow a fly, taking care not to step on insects - but more mainstream people like to do their bit, too, and stall-holders sell them grain for the birds, and pellets for the cows that wander the streets, serene and confident, seen by some as living speed bumps because they slow the traffic.

So those fat spotted doves down the bottom of my garden have been bringing me good fortune, all unbeknownst. And the photo? Amber Fort, Jaipur, with elephants for the sharp-eyed.

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