MIAN NAZIR AHMAD SAT ON A CHARPOY on the terrace of his three-storey house, dressed in a light brown shalwar kameez; a black woollen hat pulled over his head bore the logo of the New York Police Department. Behind him was a row of rooms lined with wooden coops, filled with more than 500 cooing pigeons.
We were in the town of Liliani on Ferozepur Road, which runs from Lahore, Pakistan, to Ferozepur, India. My search for the most serious pigeon breeders started in Lahore, a sprawling city of rooftops. I found the pigeon sellers online, their numbers posted on various forums. They, in turn, led me to the breeders. Liliani, a small town less than 12 kilometres from the India-Pakistan border, was where I would find one of the oldest and most famous pigeon breeding families in all of Punjab, the sellers said. They couldn’t give me a postal address or phone number; instead, they said, I just had to get to Liliani, and ask anyone for Mian Nazir Ahmad.
“Oh kabootar wallay baba?” (The gentleman with the pigeons?) said the first traffic policeman I approached. He then directed me to one of the narrow streets that snaked through the town and led to Ahmad’s house. Inside, I climbed up a flight of stairs and emerged on the largest roof for miles around, where I met Mian Nazir Ahmad.