In Photos: Young Kashmiris giving wings to old passion

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Kamran and his pigeon, Ba'el. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

‘I’ve brought these pigeons because I love keeping them. When I’m with them, I don’t think I need to think about any other thing. They love me but they can’t say it, so they flap their wings to show their emotions.”

Kamran’s pet passion started three years back when he bought home a pigeon. He named his feathered friend as ‘Be’al’ (obese).

The bird looked fat and didn’t fly much, “so I named it Ba’el and sold it,” says Kamran, while scratching his pet’s head.

But weeks later, to Kamran’s great surprise, Ba’el came back flying to its owner’s place.

On the day of his return, the flying pet continuously hovered for five-long hours over its owner’s dovecote.

It was perhaps a stark sign that the “plump pet” was resilient enough to shun its slothful lifestyle for being its keeper’s pet.

A panormic view of Srinagar city from a vantage point. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

Kamran is giving wings to his soaring passion that has stayed constant in the changing cityscape. Even as his tribe has mostly migrated from Downtown, pigeon rearing—deeply embedded in the social fabric of Old Srinagar—has remained unchanged.

There’s hardly any neighborhood in Srinagar where dovecotes aren’t visible. From large bamboo bindings, to small hut-shaped structures, these wooden structures remain an important part of cultural and recreational glory of the city.

“So, when Ba’el came back,” Kamran continues, “everyone told me it’s a good flyer because it flied continuously for 4-5 hours without taking any rest.”

A view of Kamran’s dovecote. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

Kamran owns a drove of around 45 doves. Among them are some high-flyers who flutter so high that the pet-keeper loses sight of them.

The low-flyers mostly remain perched on the dovecots—the structure made of bamboo sticks, tin sheets and wood.

“Before shaping up my passion, I had to face many hurdles,” Kamran says. “But the flying passion was worth fighting for.”

Pigeons coming out of pen. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

In lower section of Kamran’s dovecot, pigeons spend the night and take rest inside a coop. The front part of it is covered with tin and wiring.

“It’s the most comfortable place for birds,” he says, “as they get food and water there with some scratching.”

Inside view of Kamran’s pen. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

But the scene inside the loft or coop is unpleasant. The air reeks of pigeon-droppings and floor is matted with molted feathers.

“It may look messy,” Kamran says, “but this place is filled with the warmth of love these birds share together.”

Pigeons looking through the netted cover of dovecote. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

Above the loft is a wide-space fenced with tin net. This section is called ‘pinjra’. This is the place where newly hatched juveniles and pigeons get their training.

“This section is very important,” Kamran says. “When a new bird is brought home, it has to remain in pinjra for around a week. This is in order to make the bird comfortable with its surroundings.”

Pigeons flying from pen only to perch at the top of dovecote. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

The top part of the dovecote offers perching for pigeons. They take rest there before flying in open sky.

Pigeons perched on the top of dovecote in the middle of the day. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

While some pigeon fanciers make the whole of the top structure with bamboos, Kamran’s structure features a wide iron grill.

During daytime, the yellow color of the grill gets reflected on white pigeons, giving them a golden hue.

Kamran trying to scare his pigeons with a long bamboo stick only to make them fly. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

Standing in one corner of dovecote, Kamran picks a long flexible bamboo stick and pushes his pets for flying. “These birds need to fly to remain healthy and active,” he says.

But since all his pigeons have got used to his long bamboo stick, so Kamran has to place a bottle at the end of the stick to scare his birds now.

Sunglasses hanging inside Kamran’s dovecote. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

During summers, the harsh sun makes it difficult for Kamran to keep track of his soaring pets. He has kept a sunglass handy in the dovecote which he wears during day time.

Kamran showing the identity ring of one of his pigeons. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

Kamran has also placed rings in all his pigeons’ legs for identification. While the number of Ba’el’s ring is 19, it goes all upto 40’s.

“Sometimes, I need to go out of station,” he says. “So, my friends look after my pigeons. If anything unwanted happens, they tell me the number of their ring, and I get the idea of which particular pigeon they are talking about.”

A view of a female-only pen. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

In the third floor of his house, Kamran has made another coop exclusively for female pigeons.

“I don’t want my pigeons to do excess breeding,” he says. “This is harmful for the health of female pigeons. So, I keep them separated. I’ve brought these pigeons because I love keeping them. When I’m with them, I don’t think I need to think about any other thing. So, I feel myself lucky that I’ve good company. They love me but they can’t say it, so they flap their wings to show their emotions.”

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