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Sorrow over sparrow

Sathya Vijayagopalan
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I am just curious. Have they given an order for a bag of grain for the conference? March 20 is World House Sparrow Day. This day, this year too, they have a conference to wonder, discuss, repent, research and submit papers on how to get the sparrows back in our backyards.

If sparrows are still around with us, it is because we still have a few hedges, crevices, low roofs and some generous people who put a bowl of water on the window sill and scatter grain or food on the wall.

Years ago, people woke up to find the sparrows chirping in their backyard. A noisy lot, they took grains right from your hand if you had befriended them. They got over their fear easily and demanded food or water with their loud chirping if you had forgotten to give them their regular share of food. Tiny pink beaks opened to morsels of food or worms sometimes regurgitated by the parent birds. We had a splendid time watching the bird family bond and children sat gazing at them as they picked up grain or splashed about us in muddy water.

Many people have written poems and lyrics on sparrows, their noisy chirps, their friendly nature, and their spotty feathers. Sparrows were a menace on the fields. There were guards with slings and stones to chase them away as they ate grain from standing crops. Now people are trying to woo them back to nature.

Sparrows have become scarce in modern times for a variety of reasons. In olden days, houses had tiled roofs but now we have the apartment culture. The sparrows built nests in the crevices of some of those broken walls. Hedges and thorny bushes abounded and the sparrows got worms and insects in plentiful supply. They built their nests far away from predatory birds. Foodgrains while being transported by bullock-carts spilled out through the holes in gunny bags. They attracted the birds. Nowadays, they are packed in neat plastic bags and sacs and offer no scope for spillage. Some sparrows are found near the kirana shops that still store grains outside their shops, thus providing food for the winged visitors.

Have you seen sparrows take bath in the tiny pools on the sidewalk caused by rains? Or scatter mud as they take a muddy bath? These are rare sights in cities these days. They can be seen only in films or on Y-tube. Happiness unlimited.

The world is moving at such a fast pace that most of us go about our routine without a thought about placing a few grains or some food or a bowl of water for the avian guests. Vehicles whiz past frightening their very existence. Compound walls are replacing the hedges that were their nesting places. The space within compounds is cemented with neatly laid tiles on the footpath. Their mud baths have vanished. We spray pesticides and use a lot of chemical fertilizers which scare the pests away, thereby robbing the sparrows of their foodstock.

Trees are felled to make way for free flow of vehicles. The tiny holes in these trees house these birds. They sometimes borrowed a nest from other birds and made a fine family. The scene these days is different with treeless roads robbing the sparrows of their habitat.

Now it is widely feared that the cellphone towers are the culprit. We don't use slings and stones to scare them away from fields; we have robbed them of their very existence by just being connected.

(The writer's email ID is: sathyavijay1@yahoo.com)

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