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Vol. XXIX No. 14, November 1-15, 2019

The Birdman of Madras

by Lata Ramaseshan

BirdmanSoaked rice on wooden planks for the parrots to perch on. Insert: Sekar feeding the parrots.

Sekar popularly referred to as the birdman of Chennai, is an environmentalist at heart. His Facebook by-line says it all – lets grow trees and feed lives, a loose translation from Tamil. A cameraman by profession, he pursues a rare passion, of feeding over thousands of parrots’ everyday in the morning and evening.

I had read about him a lot, but didn’t pay much attention, until one day, I decided to meet him along with my friend Subhashini. He had asked us to come by 3.45 in the evening. 

We trudged through the urban concrete jungle of Triplicane, with an odd tree or two obstinately standing its ground in front of the shops, refusing to be cowed down by concrete. We crossed Amir Mahal, one of the majestic landmarks of the city, until we spotted huge boards with a sea of green parrots printed on them heralding Sekar’s place. As we climbed up a two storied building into an open balcony we were greeted warmly by the birdman of Chennai. 

“From December to March, there are over 8,000 parrots which keep their appointment time”, said Sekar, as he neatly arrange soaked rice on wooden planks for the parrots to perch on. “Of course during summer the numbers drop to 1,000 or 2,000. The heat gets to them” he expounded. Every day he feeds over 75 kgs of rice to these exquisite birds. 

“I started feeding a small number of birds during the year of the Tsunami. And by and by the number of visitors kept increasing as they communicated to their community about this place perhaps”, he smiled. 

Where do the parrots come from, I wondered. “Triplicane does have some greenery where the big mosque and the adjoining burial ground provide a lot of tree cover. They must also be coming from the Guindy green belt of the Children’s park and IIT and of course the Raj Bhavan. They are capable of flying a 15 kms radius”, he reasons. 
“Can you spot the birds” they are already waiting on the tree”, he pointed to a lone tree as he completed the job of arranging the rice. The birds waited patiently for us to clear out as some advanced towards the cables and wires strung across the street. 

As we left the balcony, over 2,000 to 3,000 parrots swooped on the food, screeching in joy, nodding their heads at each other, somersaulting, and bobbing up and down the cables. And it was a sea of green as bald headed chicks and grown-ups scrambled around to perch and peck on the food. The rose ringed parakeets also joined the feast. I could not have imagined that there are so many parrots in and around Chennai congregating in one single space every day and every evening. 

A water tanker passing by honked loudly at the traffic and the birds with their survival instincts, fluttered and flew, only to come back knowing that they were safe. “Abroad in other countries, this would probably have been made a silent zone”, Sekar lamented. 

As we left, I felt deeply humbled by the experience of meeting the bird man and his parrots, as he unwaveringly feeds the birds every day, without taking leave or vacation, displaying a humane and caring sense of purpose towards Chennai’s green ecosystem in his love for the parrots and the birds.

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