A single man has managed to give food to feral pigeons almost unfailingly over the past many years as a source of happiness and inner tranquility when he makes a hard living in one of the most developed cities in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.
On a recent day, Nguyen Van Chuong – a street vendor of ornamental plants – swept leaves on part of a sidewalk near the Tao Dan Park in Can Tho City and strewed rice at two separate spots.
The 56-year-old then scattered morsels of banh bo, a Vietnamese rice flour sponge cake, on the ground before whistling to pigeons to descend for breakfast from post office roofs, hotel tops, tree branches and overhead power lines.
The tamed pigeons were followed by nimble, more timid passerines which preferred banh bo.
One of the doves flapped its wings hovering before Chuong, a suntanned person who is usually seen in a faded T-shirt and pants rolled to the knees.
“This bird has an injury in its beak. It’s the most enthusiastic in the flock to catch my attention by jumping up and down this way to get more food from me,” Chuong said.
Residents taking dawn physical exercise at the park said ‘hey’ as a friendly greeting to a man they see on a daily basis while foreign tourists stopped to take photos of the feeding spectacle.
Vo Minh Duc, a motorbike taxi driver who parked awaiting passengers near the park, said Chuong has spent six years giving the birds meals in the morning, around noon and in the late afternoon every day, rain or shine.
City pigeons have increasingly gravitated to the street corner, with the number now exceeding 150, the driver added.
After half an hour of feeding the birds, Chuong began going around the city to sell ornamental plants.
When he finished his lunch, he came back to the corner, feeding the feathered creatures until 1:00 pm before resuming his job.
|Nguyen Van Chuong offers to sell plants to a customer in Can Tho City, southern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
He returned to them at 5:00 pm, when his working day ends, and provided them with food again.
Before he left them, he affectionately patted a pigeon that had landed on his hand and lifted it above his head.
“That’s just enough for me to be free from tiredness and sleep soundly until the following morning,” Chuong said while looking at the dove flying up.
The middle-aged bachelor said he considers the birds as his children and thinks they also love him.
The motivation behind Chuong’s animal care came to him six years ago, when he was filled with sorrow.
While having nothing else to do, he sprinkled pieces of banh bo, which was then his breakfast, on the ground to see if pigeons would come.
And they did. He felt a moment of peace while seeing the birds on a full stomach soar past him and glide overhead.
He has believed he is linked to the doves by a great bond of destiny.
He offers them food and they give them happiness and company in life in return.
Out of the monthly income of around VND7 million (US$301), Chuong spends VND60,000 ($3) on bird feed a day, VND1 million ($43) on accommodation rental and the remaining on daily expenses.
When somebody said feeding the doves was futile and it would be much better to accumulate money for old age, Chuong just smiled at the view, citing benefits of the action and his belief that everyone has their own fate.
He tried to protect the birds from urban hunters driving motorcycles or cars by intercepting their killing, noting the license number plates down and calling the authorities.
But he failed sometimes, and he cried in sadness and anger while holding pigeon bodies in his hands.
In Vietnam feeding doves in public places is not fined but anyone carrying unlicensed hunting guns will be punished.