Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
Bird Business


MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA


MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
BIRD IN HAND, BIRD IN BUSH: Man makes merit, munia makes merry
A toddler rattles a cage and giggles as the bewildered budgies inside squawk, panicked. Nearby, 24-year-old Mohammad Minshad, who sells the birds to pilgrims at the shrine of Swayambhu, looks on misty-eyed. "This is all worth it", he says. "I'm happy because they're happy."

For the last 12 years, Minshad has been selling munias and budgerigars to Buddhists from all over the world, who release them from their cages to gain religious merit. He wakes up everyday at 9am and walks from bird wholesalers in Chabahil and Bag Bajar to shrines around the Valley, making regular treks up the 365 steps leading to Swayambhu. He carries up to 70 birds at a time, held in sets of five or six in about a dozen cages.

The business isn't very brisk. On most afternoons Minshad manages to sell only seven or eight pairs of birds. But he does better on full moon nights, celebrated by Hindus and Buddhists alike, who flock to temples and eagerly take up the chance to perform good deeds like feeding and clothing the poor and, happily for Minshad, freeing caged birds.

"Full moon days are my favourite. It's like another Dasain every month."

UP CLOSE: There's more to birds than pigeons and crows
Minshad is a crafty businessman. The price for a pair of munias is Rs 400 for Nepalis but about Rs 1000 for Tibetan pilgrims. Although bigger birds would fetch a higher price, he doesn't have a license to sell them. "If I sold big birds and the cops found out I'd be the one behind bars, not the birds."

But Minshad is going to have to close shop because he can't afford life in Kathmandu anymore, especially with a wife and two children to feed. He says he will return to his hometown Malangawa, in Sarlahi district, to try his hand at farming.

Will he miss his birds? "Yes," says Minshad, as he watches the toddler trail away and become transfixed by a pigeon fluttering on a nearby ledge.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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