Forty-seven-year-old K. Chathura, a seasoned bird fancier from Colombo, makes three trips to Chennai every year, mainly to visit his relatives. During these trips, he visits his favourite grain shop on a narrow lane behind the bus terminus in Mint where he buys grains for racing homing pigeons.
Located on the busy Mint Street, this small square-shaped shop has sacks of gunny bags, and only a little space for customers to walk.
Apparently, racing pigeon fanciers in Colombo also like to buy grains for their birds from this shop. And, Chathura buys grains for a few pigeon fanciers in Colombo.
He says back there, most of these grains, especially safflower and sunflower seeds (which are fed to racing pigeons for its fat content), are not available. Most of the grains for the racing homing pigeons in Colombo are imported from Indonesia.
“Imported grains from Indonesia are of poor quality. In my latest trip to the city a week ago, I brought around 120 kg of grains from the Mint shop,” he says.
“Buying imported grains is easy. But the grains brought from Mohammad Ali’s shop are of high quality as they are selected carefully from the wholesale market there. Also, these grains are locally cultivated and therefore suit native homing pigeons. This is evident from the healthy growth of my birds,” says noted film director and an avid racing pigeon fancier, C. Vetrimaaran.
Fifty-three-year-old Mohammad Ali, who runs the shop along with his wife, Jamila, for more than three decades, says he entered the grains-selling business after dropping out of school as a Class VIII student. Since then, he is running the shop with racing-homing pigeon fanciers as its main customers. The shop also sells grains for cockatiels and African lovebirds.
Racing pigeon fanciers across the State, including Vellore, Ambur, Nagapattinam, Ranipet, Wallajah, Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram, Madurai and Thiruvanamalai visit the grain shop regularly.
Pet lovers from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi, Nellore also place orders with the shop. Most of the 20 pigeon-fancier associations in Chennai, the highest in the country, prefer to buy grains from the shop.
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