The setting is pastoral all right, but does it belong in the middle of a metropolis, asks Aparna Karthikeyan

An open shed houses five cows and four calves. Guinea fowl wander among them, companionably. Further down the road, rough and ready animal enclosures line a part of the road; some doors are open, others are shut, and chicken peep out from beneath them. Between the enclosures and shed, a part of the road has been encroached.

But that’s not all; across the street, goats worry an emu. As the bullying goes on, two timid rabbits hide themselves under a parked car.

Oh yes, I said it right! There are emus wandering about in Thiruveedi Amman Koil Street, in Mandaveli. Visitors to the perpendicular Vanniyampathi Street are greeted with similar sights.

There, two other emus walk around; another sits to one side, breathing heavily in the heat. Meena, who sells fish and shelled crabs shoos away one that tries to forage from her. But usually the emus just mind their business she says, and is soon distracted by customers who line up to buy fish.

Now, I try to find out who owns this motley group of animals that is let loose on urban dwellers.

Enquiries reveal that the birds belong to A. Babu, a long time resident of the area. “I’m growing emus as a hobby, for some years. It’s not a business, they will not be killed and sold.”

The cows, he says, belong to the temple. “The people in the neighbourhood did not want ‘packet milk’ for the abhishekam, so these cows are raised here. Of the lot, only two give milk, which is given to the temple. The milk is not sold to anybody else”. Babu says that nobody in the area objects to the birds/ animals. “If there is a problem, we will relocate them.”

However, the majority of residents are accustomed to having cattle and emus underfoot. They treat these creates with a nonchalance that cannot be missed.

“There are five or six Emus here; I think they’ve been around for a while,” says Gopi, a resident of the street. Two more residents walk around a sitting emu and sleeping goat to get to the main road: and their gait and look, it is obvious they have done this countless times.

More In: Downtown | Chennai