City Hangout – Bird Watching, Connaught Place
The N Block flights.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is late morning. The N Block sky over Connaught Place is blue and sunny. The icy air is echoing with the peep-peep of traffic horns. Most of the pedestrians are walking down CP’s tunnel-like corridors with eyes firmly fixed on their mobile phones.
Suddenly, a different kind of sound makes it to this placid world. As if it were a great fluttering of many feathers. Indeed, up in the sky, a huge dark cloud has surfaced — of pigeons flying along an imaginary arch. The birds soar above the busy road. After some moments, they retrace that arch, as if somebody abruptly ordered them to return along the same track. The cloud disappears as swiftly as it had appeared.
The pigeons are now gathered on a gigantic road divider, hobnobbing around like New Year holiday-makers on a Goa beach. The only odd one in the great crowd is a solitary woman sitting on the tip of the divider. One of the birds is perched atop her head. Turns out that the woman runs a stall on the spot — she sells grains and other bird food. A scooterist stops by, purchases fistfuls of grains from the woman, and tosses them towards the pigeons. The birds fatten themselves on the free buffet, occasionally making deep gurgling sounds.
Watching fellow citizens deal with their conscience by feeding urban birds is not rare. You see such scenes across Delhi. The breathtaking vision was that airborne parade of these birds. They repeat the act after a few minutes. As these birds climb high up in the air and start to fly forward along CP’s radial, their moving shadows run on the road directly underneath.
For the best experience, a birdwatcher must lean against one of the sturdy columns that line the colonial-era corridor, and patiently wait, like an angler, for the procession of birds that punctuate the CP sky every now and then.
The gap between the two flights though is frustrating — it can be very brief or very long (the photo above only managed to capture the tail-end of a flight, comprising a handful of lazy back-benchers). Meanwhile, more than ten minutes have passed and the pigeons haven’t taken off again. It is also fascinating to observe CP’s high-altitude architecture — Statesman House, American Center, Gopaldas Bhawan, the new multi-storey (Parsvanaths) that came up on KG Marg during the pandemic.
Suddenly, the birds become a cloud and N Block again becomes ethereal.