Birds, ruins and cities

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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.

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11 Comments

Filed under Cities, History and Monuments, India, London, Photographs

11 Responses to Birds, ruins and cities

  1. spark

    Small disagreement about the this: “The monuments in the UK feel like big museums. Everything is dead, flat and labeled. And behind a glass case.”

    The monuments of Delhi are mostly reminders of someone’s past. Mostaly unwanted, unloved, uncared for and mostly just ugly. Like an old whore who no one wants to bed, with the occasional makeup of ASI plaster. The only irony is that despite the desperation of her ways, she still walks with the elegance of the courtesans of old Lucknow.

    The monuments in the UK are full of life. Like a an upper class middle aged lady who lives her younger days. The older parts are covered up or labelled and glassed, but still very much ravished by life.

  2. shoefiend: Danks maami.

    spark: I guess we look at monuments rather differently. The ASI finally has woken up in parts of Delhi – and some of the complexes are taken care of rather well. I suppose it’s also a matter of cultural preferences. For me a ruin at Mehrauli speaks volumes. That said, I like some of the smaller and older churches in England. They’re not museum-fied, and have a certain air of “someone’s past” to them. People, cities, buildings – they all grow old – better to accept it than be in denial.

    Besides, I find this whole analogy of whores and courtesans rather painful on the ears. It’s so terribly filmy, no? :)

  3. dipali

    What a bootiful photoo! Very photogenic kili, amazing stone work.
    I guess there is a city-to-city, monument to monument variation in how integral it is to the life of a place.
    I have a strange love-hate relationship with pigeons, will probably blog about it. (Thus spake proud brand new blogger!)

  4. We don’t have parrots down south. Haven’t seen anything but pigeons and the occasional hawk or sparrow in ages.

  5. really nice picture… monuments, or for that matter any old buildings, there are birds … atleatst bats !!!

    @jace – I disgree with you , Back home (in coastal Karnataka ) , there are plenty of parrots .. During mango and guava season , they are seen out more ..

  6. dipali

    @ don’t know about big cities, but when I lived near Gummidipoondi, saw some amazing birds, and lots of parrots.

  7. Was that a veena or a tambura? I mean in the “Vanaja” ad. Such strange ads Google thinks go with the posts.:-) Parrots indeed. Thanks, dear girl. I had a lovely time thinking about birds.

  8. Lovely picture !! That vivid green of the parrot is such a riotous splash of colour against the background of the monument.

    Beautiful :-)

  9. ys

    Hi, visiting from Mumbaigirl. Captivated by the parrot on the carved wall – thank you! Please please let me use it in my friend groups as my id-icon?

  10. Kamu R

    Lovely pictures ….I think I have been in a time warp. This blog thing is big!!!

    Tell me , do you do this for a living —-?? Or do you also have a day job to pay the bills….:-)