3 May 2012

Ambernath (E)

How to start a zoo in Mumbai with Albert Amanna. 

I went to meet Albert for a story Time Out Mumbai did about aquarium keeping in the city only to discover that there are more birds and fishes in his home than people.

Albert is originally an inner city boy. He grew up not far away from the zoo in Byculla, in one the thousands of single room homes that shelter entire families. Those days, his escape from the claustrophobic Mumbai living conditions were among the trees at Rani Bagh. He knew the name of each and every tree in the garden. He says that those days spent in the park gave his life a positive direction. His love for the things he saw there diverted his attention from the very tough neighbourhood during a time when it was very common for teenage boys to get into the wrong company. 

A typical Mumbai home or room is the most unfriendly place for any one with a hobby. In a place where a reader will have no place to keep his books, imagine what a fish or bird lover like Albert could do. Those days, Albert kept his bird cage outside the room, in the shared balcony, where jutting out above the street. But many injured and young animals and birds always found their way inside where they were nursed and then set free. 


Today, Albert heads a concierge service for an international chain of hotels in South Mumbai after beginning his life as a bell boy at a 5 star hotel where he worked for several years. Along with his love for birds and fish, it was working for a hotel that changed his life for better. Along with joining the armed forces, joining a 5-star hotel is such a popular method of getting boys who do not do particularly well in studies, isn't it?

He's done pretty well for himself and like a good, successful Mumbaikar bought a larger home for his family. The only difference was that he needed a home that could house a hundred birds, 30 plus decent sized aquariums among other living things. So he did what most Mumbaikars did, moved to a distant suburb.

Albert lives in Ambernath, works in the southern tip of the Island city and devotes his weekends and mornings to his winged and finned family members. he works the later shift so that he can take care of his birds and aquariums. More food is prepared for his pets than for the members of his family each day. Also, his house resembles a laboratory. It is a row house where humans are allowed about 15% of the total space. Even the kitchen is occupied by large tanks that house exotic Discus Fish.

One bedroom is reserved for the people and the other for aquariums. The birds have the balconies and the roof. His wife's parents own the adjoining row house and Albert has taken over one bedroom for his birds.

The bird lovers social network. 

Albert is full of stories about birds, fish and animals from Mumbai and around the world. Before the activity was driven underground he reared a couple of prize winning fighter cocks. According to him, the people who raise these birds do it for the money alone. He was able to raise prize winning ones because he had a basic understanding of how to selectively breed the birds. He showed me some kind of parakeet (I didn't take notes, so I don't have the exact name of the breed) with a unique colouring that he will selectively breed. Some day, I also hope to accompany him and share chai with his friends who rear pigeons on rooftops in the crowded South Mumbai market area.

Albert's job takes him to different parts of the world. Wherever he goes, he gets in touch with other people like him, take part in competitions. He also showed me a trophy he won in Pakistan for his Budgerigar.

He also showed me photographs from his travels and videos. The aquarium in Hong Kong that specialises in a single kind of colourful fish. And videos from the home of a man who raises Budgerigar in UK. The cages that man owned were larger than most homes a rich Mumbaikar would ever dream of owning.



"downforce" said...

Friggin brilliant! You and he. That pied Rose Ringed parakeet [half lutino half normal] is a rare beauty...ive never seen or heard of anything like that b4 and hes even managed to breed them! Awesome Gops! I want to join you i that trip to the pigeon breeders...I wish I could - Ajit

pooja mahimkar said...

This man is AMAZING!!!! i would love to do something like this but as your rightfully said that living in mumbai you dont have enough room for your hobby but this man is an inspiration for me now :D

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