Purani Dilli residents in the Walled City (Jama Masjid) will fly their favourite birds in the sky as a symbol of freedom on Independence Day

After Id-ul-Fitr, the Walled City residents are now looking forward to Independence Day when they get to fly their favourite birds in the sky as a symbol of freedom.

For Purani Dilli residents, bird flying is like going back into the bygone era when the Mughal nobility encouraged this sport. Had Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar not patronised this sport, bird flying would not have been alive today, say the residents unanimously.

Palpable excitement

Though the younger generation is not that enthusiastic about the sport, this Old Delhi tradition of bird flying is still thriving.

Excitement is palpable near the historic Jama Masjid when old masters congregate and narrate interesting anecdotes connected with this peculiar sport. Slowly, nostalgia fills the air as a crowd of locals of all ages listens with rapt attention.

For Allauddin, a bird connoisseur who boasts a variety of pigeons from across the country and even Pakistan, these feathered creatures are like his children. And he rarely parts with them.

On the terrace, his pigeons — white, black, brown and a mishmash of different colours — are locked in cages. An extraordinarily big rooster guards them protectively. A net covers the terrace to prevent kites and vultures from attacking his birds.

“This year there is a demand for Siraj, a Pakistani pigeon found abundantly in Multan. Next year, it might be for the Hyderabadi, Kabuli or Madrasi pigeon. I do not want to talk about how much some of these birds cost, but during festivals rare birds can even fetch prices in lakhs,” says Allauddin.

Tall and robust, Allauddin looks more like a wrestler whose keen eyes observe every minute detail about his birds. He communicates with them and the birds respond to their master’s call. His fondness for birds can be gauged from the fact that he travels to Saharanpur to procure most of his birds.

According to Mohammad Naim, earlier, every morning locals, especially those who had a terrace in their homes, used to let the birds loose. The obedient birds returned when called.

“The birds still return on their master’s call. However, the younger generation is not keen on this expensive hobby because getting appropriate degrees and decent jobs remain their top priority. They can only look after their own needs. Those above 40 years continue this expensive hobby, but only during August 15 or Republic Day.”

Noting that bird owners feed their pets with healthy, nutritious food, Mr. Naim said it depends how rich the bird owner is.

“If he is well to do then he may feed them desi ghee, cashew nuts and raisins, but a majority feed them a rich diet of crispy channa [gram] or bajra.’’

According to bird trainer Mohammad Islamuddin, most of these birds are flown during Republic Day.

“Birds get their feathers by the end of September. Some people fly their birds on August 15, but only after the Prime Minister has hoisted the Tricolour at the Red Fort. But the number is small compared with January 26.”

More In: Delhi