A family in Kozhikode buys 30 kg of paddy a month to feed birds. The visitors number around 75 a day.
It all started quite by chance for Rajan, a retired bank employee. The parents of his wife Rajani moved from Palakkad to Kozhikode a few years ago, and among the things they shifted from their ancestral home was Kathirkoodam, a bouquet of paddy sheaves kept at the entrance of houses as a sign of prosperity.
They presented the relic to Rajani, who hung it carefully at the doorway at Nageriparambu near Govindapuram, a few kilometres away from the city.
A handful of paddy seeds had dropped from the bunch and had accumulated at the bottom of the bag. Rajani strew them on the backyard. A pair of parakeets appeared from nowhere and began to feed on the grains.
Out of curiosity, she spread grains at the same spot the next day as well. After a while, a group of squawking parakeets descended.
Days passed. Their number grew from a handful to dozens and Rajan took charge of the feeding. A day for Rajan begins at 5 a.m. with a walk. By the time he returns around 6 a.m. commotion would have started at his backyard. After two years the birds’ number has grown greatly “I feed not less than 75 birds a day,” says Rajan.
When Rajan whistles, they would watchfully flock the wooden pedestal where the food-laden trays are placed. “In a few minutes the trays will be empty,” he says.
“Sometimes other birds — bulbul, sparrows, pigeon, and mynah — also share the food,” says Rajisha, Rajan’s daughter, who keeps track of the visitors. They religiously come twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. “When it is cloudy they arrive a bit early mistaking the cloud as a sign of the night falling,” says Rajani.
Once a week Rajan goes to the market and buys grains for the birds. “It takes around 1.25 kg of paddy to feed them a day. This is besides the cooked rice Rajani gives them,” says Rajan. He buys over 30 kg of paddy a month just to feed the parakeets — more than what he buys to feed his own family. “Yes, but less than what many families waste on meaningless things,” he says.
These birds, Rajani says, are ever vigilant. “They identify us, our sound and even the colour of our dress and keep away if anything is found suspicious,” she says. They also are restive when the feeding is delayed. Rajan’s son Rajesh is working abroad. “But he is also briefed about the parakeets whenever he calls,” says Rajani. Rajan and his family insist that the presence of visitors doesn’t inhibit them.
“We have already destroyed their habitats and the rich farm fields, where they ate and flourished. We don’t want to chase them away. Feeding them is sheer joy,” says Rajan.