Odd Jobs: Interview With the Pigeon Chaser

Travel Interviews: David Farley meets the man behind a hotel's pigeon-free zone in Jaipur, India

04.15.09 | 10:09 AM ET

Soumender. Photo by David Farley.

Meet Soumender. He spends his day traversing the courtyard of the Rambagh Palace, the home of a posh hotel operated by Taj in Jaipur, India. His job? Chasing away the pigeons. On a recent visit to the Rajasthani city, I caught up with this professional pigeon chaser.

World Hum: How’d you get this job?

Soumender: I just needed money, so I came here asking if they needed help and they offered me this job.

How long have you been a pigeon flyer?

One month.

How many hours per day do you shoo pigeons away from this courtyard?

Nine. But I have a colleague and we trade off every two hours.

What do you most like about the job?

It keeps me in shape. For two hours straight I’m walking around this courtyard, banging on this flag and swinging it around. It also gives me more energy so when I go home I can do a lot.

What’s do you like least about the job?

It’s lonely. Also the extreme summer heat is uncomfortable.

Do you totally hate pigeons or what?

No. But I do get upset when they make a mess because then it’s my responsibility to clean it up.

Because you spend nine hours a day shooing away pigeons, do you find that you instinctively do the same when you encounter a pigeon at home?

Not really, because here in Rajasthan we consider pigeons very auspicious, so we actually want them around. Just not in this courtyard.


David Farley

David Farley is the author of An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town and co-editor of Travelers' Tales Prague and the Czech Republic: True Stories. Hes a contributing writer at AFAR magazine and his writing appears in the New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic Traveler, and Gadling.com, among other publications. He teaches writing at New York University.


9 Comments for Odd Jobs: Interview With the Pigeon Chaser

Terry Ward 04.15.09 | 2:28 PM ET

Loved this, Farley!

Joanna Kakissis 04.16.09 | 2:34 AM ET

A great idea! Loved your interview with Soumender and the grand photo, too. Top notch work, as always.

Lindsey 04.16.09 | 10:41 PM ET

Was totally thinking about pigeons today!
How crazy and random!

Anyone know what they train pigeons to do when they spot people lost at sea?

Was a bottle cap fact I read during lunch today.

? 04.21.09 | 3:52 AM ET

I just realized that my previous comment that I posted was scrubbed. 

All I said was that I felt that this interview was a little lean.  It feels too much just like internet filler material - i.e. a good idea so the story will be clicked, but at the end of the day there isn’t much substance.  I don’t know, maybe there was a language barrier.

I think that is a fair comment and shouldn’t be removed.

Eva Holland 04.21.09 | 9:35 AM ET

@ ?

I’m not sure what happened to your previous comment, but it wasn’t removed on our end. Sorry you didn’t enjoy the interview—I thought it was a fun glimpse of a job I’d never imagined existed.

@ Lindsey

Do tell!

Trekking Tours 04.23.09 | 7:33 AM ET

After reading this article I can simply say just one thing - Incredible India.

Christine C Cesa 04.25.09 | 3:44 PM ET

When I clicked to open this, I was hoping to see a picture of our pigeon chaser at the Trident Hilton in Jaipur.

We were there in November 2008.
It took us about five minutes to realize what they have to do all day to keep the pigeons away from the pool.

And yes, India is Incredible !!!

Tim Patterson 04.29.09 | 7:11 PM ET

That was sweet and funny.  Thanks.

JN 05.23.09 | 8:15 PM ET

Very interesting and funny story, Farley! And I actually did not know that pigeons are auspicious in India!

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