How can one visit ruins, and not marvel at the life inside. Apart from the customary mynahs, sparrows, ring doves, rock pigeons and lazy dogs, the parrots breathe a certain madness into old structures. Their blinding green colour, and screeching calls make you laugh. One is so used to seeing parrots in cages, that they somehow become vulgar birds in the head. As though they consciously don’t desire freedom. It’s a cruel assumption, but how often have you seen parrots actually fly about in the sky. In Delhi’s monuments, they do. Their head turning antics are adorable, and you suddenly see them as they are – happy birdies and not ornamental creatures.
This time, wandering through the monuments, I was struck even more by the birds and the dogs. Unable to resist comparing these ruins with the well preserved structures in the UK. The monuments in the UK feel like big museums. Everything is dead, flat and labeled. And behind a glass case.
RV Smith, the Delhi lover par compare, wrote a lovely article in the The Hindu last year, on the flocks of pigeons in Delhi.
The pigeons have been among the few constant features of the masjid ever since the time it was built in 1656. Pigeons like to dwell mostly in historical buildings where nobody interferes with them.
The belief that they are sayyids, who like to be present at all the five prayers is part of the myth that is associated with birds in most religions. The neelkanth may be a symbol of Mahadev and the dove of the Holy Ghost but what do the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square in Rome or the ones at the Town Hall in Delhi symbolise?
As you drive around in Delhi, you see large numbers of pigeons sitting in one corner and then suddenly take off, all together, drawing one vast parabola after another as they fly, and come back to peck at their grains. I then think of the pigeons in London, so overweight and so used to walking that they appear to have forgotten to fly. Either way, I only hope that a flying pigeon’s shit doesn’t land on me.