Of Pigeon Market


Ours was a ‘jocund company’, a happy go lucky lot. My friends and I were always in high spirits and lively.Whenever my childhood ‘flashes upon that inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude,’ I remember, we made best out of the little means of entertainment available to us.
I enjoyed boating, fishing and cycling with my friends but what made me different from them was my fondness for pets and pigeons. I had two dogs, one grey and white cat and about a dozen of pigeons. Long before in this column, I wrote about the pigeon fanciers in our locality and their terrace aviaries, fitted with crisscrossed lofts. The pigeons after their flights perched on these crisscrossed lofts. The pigeon fanciers usually made the birds to fly twice; one in early morning and second time at dusk. Flying pigeons at sunset was seen as ideal time in engaging with neighboring pigeon fancier and luring his pigeons - that we called as wopur to your aviary.
There were many pigeon fanciers in our part of the city. Almost every mohalla had its share of pigeon enthusiasts but two in the backyard of our Mohalla had the biggest aviaries covering entire roofs of their houses. They had hundreds of pigeons.
On Friday at the crack of dawn hundreds of pigeon fanciers from different parts of the city with birds in  willow coops and wire cages  converged on the ‘Kotar-Gouder’ pigeon market  in an open space in Malakhah biggest cemetery of Srinagar near Shahampora. I do not know if history of pigeon market in this area could be traced to the period of Sultan Shihahbu d’ Din who had built his capital near Koh-i-Maran and named it as ‘Shihabpur’ now known as Shahampora or to the later period. But, there is a reason to believe that the tradition of Friday bird market had some connection with Arabia. In Cairo the practice of pigeon fanciers gathering on Friday in the cemetery of old city to trade birds continues even to this day. The pigeon fanciers that gathered in Shahampora- ten minutes walk from my home had evolved their own lingo for trading of pigeons.  For being too young, I never dared to buy pigeons on bidding from this market instead, I bought pigeons from a bird seller in our Mohalla or from the two top pigeon fanciers in the nearby Mohalla Pandan.
I had great fancy for buying a pair of white yahoo kotar (fantail pigeons or crown pigeons). I had   many  times seen ‘Saadmakars’, gypsies in long tunics pretending to be fortune telling fikars engaging young pregnant or married women in their bewitching conversations and telling them in their peculiar style : ‘Yahoo Kotur Chouh vadav Karan- Naachow Hi Naachow’ (fantail pigeon is hovering over your head- you will get a son). The gypsy would leave the house after getting money and a bowl of rice.
I cannot say what was special about this breed of pigeon if it had some mystic connection or not. However, in my innocence I did believe that fantail pigeons sang hymns in praise of God as other caged birds thrush,   pipit, cuckoo and dove did. Besides, fantail pair, I had pigeons of different plumages. I still remember Kashmiri names of different varieties of pigeons. I and my cousin for many years purchased nothing but pigeons from our eidanna (Eid money).
To build an aviary on top of the two-story sulehar was my dream. Nevertheless, this dream never came true. My mother opposed it vehemently.  She did believe so did many elders believe that pigeon fancying was not gentlemanly. I had arranged the nest boxes in an abandoned room of the ‘sulehar’. Making nest boxes for pigeons from old wooden boot cases many time brought out a good carpenter in me. An empty box wooden box cost us one rupee.
The shedding of foliage from trees presaging winter engaged elders in storing for chilly days. My cousin and I prepared ourselves for shifting pigeon nests from first floor to the ground floor of the sulehar that was used for stocking firewood, saw, driftwood and other fuels for winter months. During frosty winter months, the sulehar served as the best ‘flypen’ for my dozen and odd pigeons. It provided them room to fly around… And during winter months I spend a lot of time in the sulehar with my pigeons and pets….

Lastupdate on : Sat, 18 Feb 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 18 Feb 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 19 Feb 2012 00:00:00 IST

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