Pigeon-holed

Pranay Jha just wants to feel safe on campus

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I walk down Eastern Avenue with a group of friends. I have already spotted it from a few metres away.

My mind has stopped working.

A single bead of sweat drips down my face, my hands are shaking: we’re getting closer and closer. Around the corner is the winged devil of the sky. I pray that we keep moving straight and choose not to acknowledge each other. And yet, my prayers are in vain. It swoops past me, I squeal. I’m forced to confront my fear of birds.

For as long as I can remember, my ornithophobia has impacted my life in varying ways. Ornithophobia, or, as it is colloquially referred to by those not afflicted, “bird phobia”, is the “abnormal” or “irrational” fear of birds.

Although it may be a joke to you, I have spent many an hour contemplating and rationalising this fear. Put simply, birds are fucked. They can attack you from literally any angle, they form wartime formations (see: Indian mynas), and they have a weapon for a mouth.

My earliest memory of a traumatic experience with birds was at a National Park, at the innocent age of four. I stood, a confronted witness, as a kookaburra swept down and stole a piece of chicken from my darling sister’s fragile hands. After that event, she changed. And so did I. Soon after, I started taking the long way to school to avoid interactions with birds, something I was forced to do for the rest of my schooling. Thus began my fear of, and hatred for, birds.

As I sit to write this, I must confess, it isn’t easy. Sometimes I feel like a walking paradox: a vegetarian who ought to love all animals but despises these rats of the sky with all his heart.

For a good part of a decade, birds have been a source of deep embarrassment for me. The first time I went on a date with my girlfriend, I could not stop fidgeting, uneasy at the bobbing heads of the diseased pigeons roaming freely around me. But by far the worst aspect of this phobia has been my tribulations with the black-beaked Ariel hooligan – the ibis or in a vicious pack, the ibides (plural of ibis).

I’m not sure if it’s their ridiculously long beaks or the disgusting pink bits under their wings that makes me despise ibides more than other birds. The ibides have made my time at university a living nightmare. Their sheer arrogance, holding their ground when my more courageous friends attempt to scare them away, has brought them victory in our ongoing turf wars: I no longer sit on the law lawns or roam Eastern Avenue alone.

To many, this fear may seem silly or even “unfounded”. To these critics, all I can say is: open your eyes. One day you will be attacked by these satanic monsters and realise the trauma I have known for 18 years. One day your very own sister will be left chicken-less and starving as these cannibalistic creatures devour her only source of sustenance. Don’t become another statistic, stay clear of the birds.