KOCHI: For many of us, the precious 'me time' is either at movies or hanging out with friends and family. Not for Abdul Salam, a 60-year-old seafood businessman from Kochi. For him, leisure time is all about spending time with pigeons and feeding them, at Durbar Hall Ground or Fort Kochi. Abdul Salam has been sparing an hour every day for the purpose for the last 10 years regularly.
He says the winged beauties had always enticed him. But, feeding them didn't become his daily routine until he began visiting Durbar Hall Ground with his family. "I used to feed them peanuts. Later, I realised a handful of peanuts wouldn't suffice to feed hundreds of birds. Then on, I started getting two kilos of wheat everyday," says Abdul Salam. This became a routine soon, thanks to his doctor.
"My work gave me a lot of tensions and pressure. So, during a visit to the doctor, he suggested I take some time off every day to relax. A visit to park or beach to soothe my nerves was what he suggested. That's when I decided to do it regularly. I enjoy feeding them. If I can't make it a day, I feel upset," says Abdul Salam. He goes to feed the birds between 2 pm and 4 pm every day. By then, the birds would be waiting for him. Much to the amusement of onlookers, the birds would perch on his head and hands till he is done with his chore. "If I can't make it to Durbar Hall ground, I go to Fort Kochi," he adds.
His family supports him. “My wife and younger daughter Sameena accompany me often. Sameena is studying in Ireland and whenever she’s home, she comes with me. The only time my wife complaints is when she sees pigeons dirtying my clothes," he quips.
Abdul Salam says many children and tourists join him while he feeds the pigeons. “Children are very enthusiastic. Some foreigners love taking photos too. But, what irks me is when people try to capture them," he says. He rues the lack of enclosed spaces with nets for feeding pigeons. "Like Mumbai, we should have such enclosed spaces in Kochi too," he adds.