Thursday, 12 October 2017

Delhi Birds

Black kites, Meena

Returned to Jama Masjid to look for the black kites and find out more about if and why they congregate in this area. I walk around the mosque, on each side is an entrance, each slightly different; North side is where coach loads of tourists enter, East overlooks the Bazaar where people meet and chat on the way up the steps. South is on the road where car parts are sold and the auto rickshaws park up forcing pedestrians to walk with the traffic. A teenager is chasing a younger boy around the steps with a belt then lashes out a stray dog, a beggar is ignored, a small girl slips her hand from her mothers so she can skip in and out of the unmanned security gate at the entrance. Across the road is Kalan Mahal street, mainly butchers shops and restaurants preparing mutton and chicken. This seems the most likely source of waste to attract the kites.

I head back to the South side and into the bizarre that leads away from the mosque and along the wasteland, Meena Park, where the kites are flocking. The ground is hard and washed out umber with a weak fringe of grass tufts smothered with dust and building debris. Trees on the far side shade a small group of figures. The walled bank rises 20 metres to the street, cubes of aerial laced flats jostle higher still into a smoggy smudge. A dumper vehicle is parked, a man changes into a shalwar kameez and another paces in wide strides throwing his arms in the air grinning and proclaiming his views to the sky. Children and elderly men watch me draw, discussing my progress and arguing over which bit of the scene I am currently drawing. A woman in a sari, her child perched on the wall above me, physically follows my hand from paint box to paper, leaning in and out or rifles though the pages of my sketchbook whenever she can. One word I recognise is repeated over and over around me, 'cheel' the name for black kite in Hindi and Urdu, it seems to please the onlookers that I am drawing their birds, they admire them too I think. The cheels cousin the red kite was extinct in London by 1600 and almost nation wide until the hugely successful reintroduction programme brought them back.

As I finished drawing, a man approached me who I could question about the reason for the kites and confirmed that this area was used as a dump. The dumper moves and the flock draws in, magnetised to this visual cue. The bucket is empty though and the flock moves away expanding outwards, but without disipating. I wonder why there is no rubbish on this dump unless it is specific to meat in which case the kites play an important role in the city's sanitation. And will I find out anything about the man I saw from a distance feeding the kites?

Back at Sanskriti, sticky dust of the city washed away with a bucket, I find a spot in the garden to enjoy the final glow of orange light you get here in the evenings. Still trees turn quickly to silhouettes, flecks of leaves sprinkled across the subdued sky. A crooked spindly shape breaks the silhouettes in ungainly flight. Another one a few minutes later; two grey hornbills going to roost in a tall fig tree behind the abandoned house.

Grey hornbill, dusk at Sanskriti Kendra


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