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Rain or shine, parrots will never miss their food
A camera mechanic, Sekar has converted his terrace into feeding area for parrots by setting up several rows of wooden planks on which birds sit and consume food. The thought of feeding birds came to Sekar's mind when he saw two parrots eating food on the terrace, which was kept for crows. "The day Tsunami struck Chennai in 2004, I saw a pair of displaced parrots eating rice kept for crows and squirrels,” Sekar said.
After this, Sekar started keeping more food and in a few weeks hundreds of parrots started coming regularly. "Since my terrace was not equipped to accommodate several hundred parrots at a time, I fixed several rows of thick wooden planks with the help of a carpenter and started feeding birds,” Sekar said.
After he created extra space, the number of parrots steadily grew and it crossed a thousand over a period. He had a hitch as his landlord was not happy with his activity. "It was very difficult to convince my house owner since he was not interested in my activities. He accepted half-heartedly when I literally pleaded with him,” Sekar said.
With more than 2,000 arriving daily, Sekar spends minimum of six hours a day to prepare food and feed them. He gets up by 4.30 am to prepare the rice mixture, which he then places on wooden planks on the rooftop. "Preparing food for birds is not that difficult since it is just a mixture of rice and corn. However, keeping the food on the wooden planks takes about one hour,” Sekar said. By 6 am, it will be an amazing sight. Whether it is bad weather or clear sky, all parrots fly in and promptly have their food on Sekar's terrace.
Most visitors and passersby, capture the event on their mobile phones. Sometimes even doves have food. "Interestingly, they will not fight each other,” Sekar said. The job is not over for Sekar. He again feeds the birds in the evening. "I repeat the exercise late in the afternoon to ensure night meal for birds. Many start arriving by 4 pm and leave around 6.30 pm after eating food,” Sekar said.
According to him, cleaning the terrace and the wooden planks is the difficult part. "It takes at least a minimum of two hours,” Sekar said.
Sekar makes sure that rice is cleaned thrice before mixing with corn. Every day Sekar uses about 50 kg rice to ensure none of the parrots gohungry. "In these 12 years, I have skipped or missed eating a meal at times. But parrots have never missed a single meal,” he said proudly. "They are also my kids. I love them,” he says. People donate rice and sometimes money.
Sekar pointed out that during summer the parrot count comes down to between 700 and 1,000 since the birds will migrate for nesting. "Here there is no place for nesting since trees are less. Besides, availability of water to birds in Chennai is also less,” he said.
Sekar spends about four to five hours on camera repair, which is the man source of his earning. "I do not allow customers when I feed birds. Birds fly away if they see strangers,” he said. "I have missed several marriages and important functions of my relatives over the years,” he said.
He spends about 40% of daily earnings to feed parrots. If Sekar earns more on a particular day, he provides special treat to the parrots by mixing American baby corn in the rice. During 2015 December deluge, not a single customer came to Sekar.
"The flood is only for us and not for birds. Therefore, I was badly in need of money, especially during the worst flood period. My wife offered her jewels. I was able to feed the birds after pledging them,” Sekar said. ”Some of my friends also chipped in and helped me,” he said.
Sekar's parrots did not miss their meal even during cyclone Vardah, which ravaged Chennai. "Most of them came and took the food,” he said. Sekar said during rainy season he will set up a makeshift roof arrangement on the terrace to ensure that food is not washed away.
Sekar has a worry as his landlord has put up the property for sale. "I cannot abandon my birds just like that. I have more than 5,000 vintage cameras worth several lakhs. I will sell them and try to purchase this house,” Sekar said.
Son of a mill worker and a diploma holder in electronics, Sekar came to Chennai 35 years ago dreaming to become an electrical engineer. He started his career by repairing video cassette recorders in late eighties.
As he was interested in cameras and photographs, he started collecting vintage cameras. Now, he not only repairs all the latest cameras but also teaches aspiring students, who want to become photographers.