Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Pigeon Man of Padang Nyiru

"'Tis a bird I love, with its brooding note,
And the trembling throb in its mottled throat;
There's a human look in its swelling breast,
And the gentle curve of its lowly crest;
And I often stop with the fear I feel--
He runs so close to the rapid wheel."

Lines from the Belfry Pigeon,
Nathaniel Parker Willis,
American author, editor
and (apparently) poet



Strangely appropriate - especially the bit about being "so close to the rapid wheel".

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Can't get any closer to rapid wheels than this.

The pigeons have always been practically a fixture of this part of old Malacca ever since I could remember. They would be roosting on the traffic lights, the signboards, the quaint antiquated shophouses, and basically, any old thing they can perch on with their little birdie feets.

What struck me as odd is that the greatest number of the feral Rock Pigeons would always be congregating on the ground, and specifically, on a whole lane of the busy street at the Padang Nyiru junction - the end of Jalan Bendahara where the traditional Indian district is located. Local drivers are familiar with the flock there and avoiding them had become second nature. We let the mottled grey birds keep their little territory in the city because - well - they are part of that bit of town as much as the old buildings are around them. It's just not possible for us to picture the place without pigeons.

I always wondered what really attracted the avians there till I saw the Pigeon Man. I was still in lower secondary school years and I was in my mother's car on my way to the ol' alma mater for Taekwondo training on a Saturday. I remember a wide-brimmed straw hat, a grimy white singlet and the little sack of birdseeds he toted with him - but that's pretty much all I can recall now. Besides, I could hardly see him for the pigeons that flapped excitedly all around him. He was a silhouette in the midst and flurry of feathers.

That's the first and last time I saw of him.

Now every single time I drive past that spot, I kept an eye out for the old man. It's just something I do without thinking, like how I always split Oreos and eat the white cream filling first and the cookies later. To date, I have always been luckless. Sometimes, I wonder if I really did see him at all - but I guess I must have. At least, the pigeons seem to agree with me and waited for him every single day (from 8 AM, no less). The other half of the time, I wondered if the Pigeon Man have passed away over the years or just stopped coming to that place. Perhaps the pigeons are still flocking there based on some niggling fragment of memory in their little bird brains that some old bloke in a straw hat used to come with with goodies for them there - and the younger birds would just join them just because it seems like such a happening place to hang out at for them.

If he really is really gone, then this spot would be a monument to his memory - a constant reminder of a facet of the man he used to be - overly romanticised, I know. But who wouldn't want to be remembered, really? Who wouldn't want to leave a mark on earth as proof that they once lived and breathed and have done some good in this world - that their existence have not been a total waste of air and space? We remember the pharaohs because of the pyramids. We'll remember Dr. Mahathir for his twin towers (at least, till Malaysia becomes important enough for someone to kill the towers with a passenger plane). We see names on wooden boards dedicated to people who have funded the construction of new buildings in school, books of long-gone authors in the classics section, tombstones in cemeteries and initials in crude hearts carved into the bark of trees. There's a yearning in every person's soul to live on long after they have stopped living. It's a very human desire.

I have no idea how much the Pigeon Man wanted to be remembered - or how much he really cared anyway - but he had left a very visible sign that he was here. The pigeons will remember him.

Or if the pigeons ever leave the junction of Padang Nyiru, the boy who saw him will.

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His legacy.



Who sometimes thinks a little more than necessary,
k0k s3n w4i

8 comments:

bevE said...

they all poopy on you.

mouldy.

wahlui said...

wow. you actually know that place's name. XD

k0k s3n w4i said...

@beve
Wubbish. Twash. Excwement.

And for the last time, I'm NOT MOULDY!!!

@wahlui
It's pretty hard not to know. "Persimpangan Padang Nyiru" was written on signboards hanging from both the traffic light posts there. They are there in the first picture.

bevE said...

mouwdy. T^T

Zzzyun said...

hey i do that with oreos too. but there's a slight difference. i split them, then eat the empty cookie first then only eat the other one with the cream on it. hehe...

yeah i know this post is abt pigeons not oreos =P

k0k s3n w4i said...

@beve
Mouwdy yourself. You ma'am, is an anus T^T

@zzzyun
I do that too, but with Ritz cheese-filled crackers xD

michellesy who is dying from assignment overload said...

There be a lot of pigeons in Malacca, oh yes there are.

Now how did I manage to miss that sight when I was there? Wandering around for an entire day no less

k0k s3n w4i said...

@michellesy
actually, we just have a regular number of them flying rats. it's only at the Padang Nyiru junction they hang out.