Big city, small tales

Pigeon Lovers

For the past three years Usha takes a bus from her residence in Khanpur to sit at a busy intersection of the posh Connaught Place market.

On the pavement she sells different varieties of cereals which are purchased by passersby interested in feeding hundreds of pigeons flocking the area. A father of two, fills the hands of his children with barley and corn after bargaining on the prices of the same with Usha. “Everything here is Rs 10 per plate and some people even find that expensive,” Usha says.

Corn, wheat, millet, or maize, you name it and Usha beams with pride in the quality of the items she has to offer. “I buy all of the stuff from Paharganj once a week. The pigeons also need their food fresh, don’t they,” she remarked. People from almost all walks of life halt at the intersection opposite of the massive office of Life Insurance Corporation of India, purchase the cereal of their choice and feed it to the pigeons.

After her husband died five years ago, Usha was forced to look for petty jobs. She soon realised that the money coming in was not enough. “My husband was a gardener at an embassy,” she says adding that she never asked him which embassy he worked for.  “It didn’t matter. The money was steady plus my husband liked his job. He loved nature,” she told Metrolife.

Why do people take out the time to feed pigeons though? Usha doesn’t delve much into the reason but she does propose few theories. “Some people do it because they like pigeons or the idea of feeding them. Others might do it to experience something new.

In any case they help me to live on,” she says. It costs her around Rs 100 to purchase one kilogram of cereal and after deducting travel expenses she manages to earn somewhere between Rs 5,000-7,000.

Five years after her husband’s death, Usha is responsible for taking care of three of her daughters. Going back to her native place in Uttar Pradesh is not a good idea she says. “I came here as part of a family and accepted the city as my home. This is my home and this is where my family belongs,” Usha adds.

Her three daughters are getting educated in the same government school in Khanpur and she wants them to have a ‘proper office job’. Asked if she likes what she does or did she ever have ambitions of her own to work in an ‘office’, she replies “We just needed to survive but then also it keeps me close to nature. Something which my husband liked as well.”

Kindness being a rare virtue in a busy city like Delhi, Usha’s career certainly looks like an exception. “The people in large cars don’t stop much, but there are some who do. One fine morning a man stopped his motorcycle and handed me this shawl. It is warm,” says Usha.

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