The Bird Suicide Grounds of Jatinga, India

By Will Walawender

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Every year in the small town of Jatinga, India, birds fly in from all over the world to kill themselves and tourists come to watch. It’s been going on for a hundred years, scientists say, in the months of September and October when the ground is still moist with little brown puddles from monsoon season. High above the sinking leaves of the jujube trees and damp wooden huts of the village, people line the street like they’re waiting for a parade in the dark. They watch their wrists as time ticks forward, glancing upward until the first bird appears against gray and heavy clouds like a black dot on a dirty canvas. The bird plummets like the first rain drop of a storm before splashing on the ground in a flurry of feathers. People gasp and cheer. A few people try to sprint into the lonely street to save the bird. They hold the little thing, dead, but still alive in their hands and really, they can’t tell if the dripping sound around them is rain or not. The air gets thick with tufts of feathery down until the 200 yard strip of dirt road clears of tourists drunk with dead stink.

A tiny Indian man with thick glasses and tall rubber boots waits until they leave before walking along the path. He picks up the birds with a trash pick-stick, stabbing at their hollow bones and putting them into an oversized trash bag with broken bottles and candy wrappers.

 – Will Walawender