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Make Space For The Sparrows

sparrow
 
It is spring and nature’s  beauty  is  in  full  bloom. Glorious flowers  are being wooed by buzzing  bees,  lady birds,  grasshoppers  and  ants.  During  the  day,  pigeons, crows,  mynas,  woodpeckers,   parakeets  and cuckoos can be seen  going about their business.  Some  are collecting  twigs  as  the nesting  period  has  begun. Others are impatiently  fluttering  their  wings and looking  to  grab a  bite   or lazily  moving  on  to the  fruit laden and  flowering  trees.
 
As  the  day  progresses   to  dusk,  the sky grows pale as if the  blaze of the dramatic  sunset  has spent itself.  Soon  the  canopy  is  dense black  and  stars  emerge  gingerly  to twinkle  sparsely.  Only to  burst  forth everywhere  in  a  resplendent silver brilliance.
 
The  trees  that stood silhouetted  against  the  indigo  of  the  sky  merge  into  the  darkness.  And  then  the  twittering, chirpy  birds  grow silent and  all  one  hears  is  the  murmur  of  the  wind  rustling  the  leaves. The sudden silence makes me wonder. Will the house  sparrows come tomorrow? Are there  any left?
 
I remember wistfully the hustle-bustle  caused  by  them in the  porch  when they came to  peck  at  insects  or  scattered  grains. They drank  from rain puddles  and  even  bathed  in  them. They  chomped  away  on  the  fat  earthworms  wriggling  in the  dark  alluvial  soil  at  the  base  of  the  trees.  They would plonk themselves on  milking  cows  and  buffaloes  to  pick  up  the  ticks  and  also  to feed   upon  the fodder  and  seeds  from  the  grass  the  cows  chewed. They shared a  symbiotic  relationship  with the earth and all its creatures. 
 
So  why  did  the  sparrows  leave? And  what  do  we  do  to get  them  back?
 
We do have a few answers.  The  electromagnetic  radiation  from  cell phone  towers,   air  pollution,  smog and depletion of their natural habitat  have caused havoc.  Their  nesting  places  have  vanished and have been  replaced  by  concrete structures that offer them no shelter, no refuge.  Natural  grass  and  muddy  paths and  green  swathes  have made way for  cemented   paths and  concrete  parking  spaces. The few  remaining trees  and  plants  are  covered  in  pesticides.
 
 Vehicular smoke  has choked  them  and the  few  that  survived  cannot hear the cries of their young above the  the noise  pollution.    The  water  loaded  with  chemicals,  has become too  contaminated  for  them.  Their  fertility,  seed  dispersal  abilities  and  food  chain  have been severely  affected.
 
These   sociable,  chirpy  house  sparrows were  an  integral  part  of  my  childhood,  though  my  children  have  hardly  seen  them. But  yes,  they  know  about  them through  my stories  and   mainly  via the popular  animation  film where we heard the lilt of, ”Ek  chidiya,  anek  chidiya,  dana  chugne  aaye  chidiya”  ( one  sparrow,  many  sparrows,  all  come  in  groups  to  feed  on  the  grains) ,  but   the many  sparrows  have  now  been  reduced  to  only  a few  and  now  no  body  feeds  them  regularly.  And  children  get  to  see  them  in  pictures  only.
These playful common  birds  have  become  uncommon. And yet there  were  times  when  we  kids    could  differentiate  between  the  male  sparrow (we  called  him  ‘chidu ) and  the female (Chidi to us)It  was  interesting  to  see  a  male  sparrow  proudly  displaying his  black  bib  to win over the  female.
 
To  save  these  lovely  birds,  it  is  important  that  we  begin  from scratch  by  planting  more  bushes  and  shrubs. We must feed  them  grains  on  a daily  basis,  create nesting spots and  fill accessible  pots  with  water.
 
Let us allow our cities to be greener and our gardens  to  be a little wilder so that there are   more  insects  for  the  sparrows  to  gobble  up.  Setting  aside  a  patch  of  green for them in our cities and a place in our heart and not just in our memories will really help. And then maybe the sparrows will chirp again.
 Anjali Sharma is  a teacher on  a  sabbatical  and  is  making  the most  of  it  by  scribbling  her thoughts . She believes in  keeping  things  ‘simple  and  easy’  and  her writing  reflects that. 

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