Early on in the winter season, Delhi becomes a “tourist” destination of a different sort. Hundreds of migratory birds, especially seagulls, stopover in the city, catching a breather before flying onwards to their destination.
This annual phenomenon, best witnessed on the banks of the river Yamuna, has become a hotbed of activity for photography enthusiasts. The ghats serve as religious spots throughout the year, but for these few weeks, all attention gets diverted towards the magnificent flying visitors.
The best time to reach the ghats is just before sunrise. Photographers ranging from novices to professionals head on out at this idyllic spot behind Raj Ghat in New Delhi to witness the birds fly about with the rising sun forming the perfect backdrop. A chance to capture some stunning silhouettes as well as the orange coloured skies clicks from camera shutters cut through the tranquillity of the morning.
The seagulls are hungry and yet they remain inaudible. Knowing not to break the sanctity of the environment without reason. As the sun starts to rise, locals begin to take paying customers (Rs 50 per person) out into the middle of the river. Their boats filled with bags of bread and grains to attract the birds.
Every time this happens, a five-minute drama ensues where countless birds swoop down to pick up the food and fly away, encircling the boat until the packets are empty. A few minutes later, another boat leaves, and once again the screeching sounds of the seagulls fill the air.
Unfortunately, the city’s continued crusade against pollution is evident alongside the innate beauty that is on show here. A couple of crows catch a few plastic bags floating down the river. Cunning, why waste time flying when there is free transportation available. Garbage of all sorts is spread out in every direction – right under the signs that advertise the cleaning of Yamuna. Bags of plastic collected by the moored boats, waiting patiently to restart their journey down the river once the boat moves. A peculiar smell overwhelms the surroundings, a combination of the refreshing morning mist and the air pollution that is slowly choking the city.
Who can we blame but ourselves? Where do we start and how will it end? It seems philosophy is slowly turning into reality right in front of our eyes and we don’t know what to do anymore.
But there is a sense of natural brilliance amongst all this. Something, we city dwellers aren’t privy too on a daily basis. So, make the most of this special event – until the birds stop coming – and head on out to the Yamuna Ghats. Take a boat ride and help the locals, and come back with snapshots that will linger on in your mind for years to come. And hey, they’re sure to get you some likes on Instagram too.