The old house in the Chintadripet area of Chennai could pass off as yet another heritage building. However, not many know that its beauty lies in, apart from the architecture, the terrace. It serves as a dining area for hundreds of parakeets. For over an hour, every morning and evening, they take position like disciplined soldiers to feed on soaked rice and groundnuts.
Sudarson Sah, a businessman, and his wife Vithya, have been feeding birds on their terrace for more than 10 years now. Their effort is not just about the money (they spend about ₹40,000 a month on the feed) but also their time. The avid bird lovers have forgotten holidays; and whenever they step out within the city, they need to rush back for feeding time.
The recent lockdown complicated matters further. Sudarson — who used to feed sparrows before the species all but disappeared from cities — had a tough time procuring rice from the wholesale market in Koyambedu.
Waking up at 4.30 am every day to soak rice, and cleaning up the area after the winged guests leave is a strain. Parakeets are extremely sensitive and any movement during the feed makes them fly away. Though the task can prove monotonous, the joy of seeing the birds (including the odd crow and the pigeon) leave after having their fill gives the couple the energy to face another day.
Text and photographs by Bijoy Ghosh
Not chicken feed: Sudarson and his wife Vithya spend ₹40,000 a month to feed the birds
Keep calm: Jerky or sudden movements during meals tend to scare the birds away
Early birds: The Sahs wake up at 4.30 every morning in order to feed the visitors
Meal ticket: At the Sahs’, the parakeets have a fixed diet of soaked rice and groundnuts
Food chain: During the first phase of lockdown earlier this year, Sudarson struggled to procure rice for the parakeets