Birds of a feather

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FLOCKING TOGETHER: Ramesh Babu with his beloved birds on his terrace.
FLOCKING TOGETHER: Ramesh Babu with his beloved birds on his terrace.

Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed

Pigeon racing is more of the birds’ staying power

BANGALORE: Among the many secrets that the modernity of Bangalore hides is the city’s historical tradition of pigeon racing that continues to have a large number of enthusiasts.

Many of these aficionados can be spotted on their tall terraces late in the evenings scanning the sky for their beloved birds. Scenes from films such as Shyam Benegal’s “Junoon” and books, including William Dalrymple’s “Delhi”, come to mind but modern Bangalore’s pigeon enthusiasts are slightly different, although their excitement for the sport remains the same.

Professional racers

“There are around 150 professional pigeon racers called “girebaaz” or “kabutarbaaz” in this city,” says Ramesh Babu, a former wrestler and a keen “girebaaz” himself.

Many of these enthusiasts meet regularly to discuss their pigeons and to strategise to secure a rare bird.

Mr. Babu, whose pigeons have won the Sri Venkateshwara Pigeon Tournament several times, is a keen participant in these proceedings.

His terrace is dedicated to these birds and of the 70 he has, his favourite is a white one christened Tara — a robust and pretty pigeon with a little bronze anklet on its leg.

According to Gurumurthy, president of a committee that organises several pigeon racing tournaments across the city and State, “Pigeon racing does not actually mean there is a race; it is more of an endurance test.

“The competition is about how long a particular pigeon can stay up in the air.”

While this does not sound as exciting as an actual race, it is far more gruelling for the bird, explains Mr. Gurumurthy.

Current record

The current record in Bangalore stands at a few minutes over 13 hours.

“This record was set last year when a pigeon started flying early in the morning and to our surprise, continued to remain in the air even after it was dark,” says an excited Mr. Babu.

Pigeon racing tournaments in Bangalore are conducted in June and July, months which have the best winds. Participants look at the bird’s bloodline apart from assessing it for its feathers, structure and eyes.

The 21 rules governing the tournament have to be strictly followed.

Asked why he flies pigeons, Mr. Babu says: “Taking part in tournaments and meeting fellow pigeon racers has helped me out a great deal, both personally and professionally apart from bringing me fame.”

The hobby, according to veteran “girebaazes” in Bangalore, is only increasing and is becoming more professional with contacts being established with a worldwide community of enthusiasts now through the internet.




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