Sunday, July 12, 2015 - 05:30
  It isn’t unusual for people to come to a complete stop in front of an ordinary building on Pycrofts road in Chennai and look up in wonder. On a typical evening, Pycrofts road is like any other busy main road in Chennai – most motorists speed past the building and pedestrians hurry home. But when they cross this unremarkable building, quite a few people get out of their vehicles and gaze upwards in amazement when hundreds of little green parakeets perched on the terrace of the building take flight. As urban spaces gobble up trees and other habitats of birds, the sheer number of parakeets that turn up every single day on the terrace of this particular building is astounding. It's not just magic or plain luck though. The man behind this sanctuary in the middle of a concrete jungle is C Sekar. He has been feeding these parakeets for well over a decade on the terrace of his house. Wearing his trademark cap (probably to protect himself from bird poop) Sekar, said that feeding the parakeets wasn't something he had planned to do. He is a full-time camera technician and feeding the parakeets was something started quite unexpectedly in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. When the tsunami struck the east coast of India, villages were washed away, many people living along the sea line disappeared and animals were affected. “During that time, I found two parakeets sitting on my terrace extremely tired and thirsty. I fed them that day,” he said. When he continued feeding them every day, the parakeets returned, but with more of their tribe. In the evenings there are dozens of birds, they are everywhere – on the terrace, on electric wires nearby, but Sekar says: “This is nothing. If you come in the morning there are even more parakeets. At that hour, there isn’t much traffic and noise,” he said. Even as he said this, the entire group took to the skies when a truck loudly honked in the distance. However, they returned in some time to feed on the little mounds of soaked rice placed neatly on the terrace. Sekar spends around Rs 1,000 for 30 kilos of rice just for his little green friends each day. But Sekar too cannot explain where so many parakeets came from. “I think that when they migrate from one place to another they pass by here,” he said, recalling a day when two parakeets were so tired and thirsty that they couldn’t fly onwards on their journey. “They rested on the terrace for a while, had water, and then continued,” he said. He says that an unbelievable number of people stop and just stare at the sight of the little birds. “But some try to disturb the parakeets. So every evening I stand down (on the street) making sure no one harms the parakeets,” he said. Just then, two men passing by the building come to a halt near Sekar. As they enquire why Sekar fed parakeets, he was visibly irritated. “Why do these people ask me if it's a hobby? Do people ask if it is a hobby to feed the poor and the homeless? All these people only want to know how much it costs and whether I have a motive behind it,” he said. Gesturing with his hands, Sekar said “I live in a rented house. My office is in the same building as my house here. I own a scooter and I have two grown-up children who are settled.” What does he get out of doing this? Happiness, maybe. (This story was first published on November 21, 2014)  
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