METRO PLUS

House of sparrows

Bird and manAzeez places food for the winged visitors; the sparrows around his houseR Ragu

Bird and manAzeez places food for the winged visitors; the sparrows around his houseR Ragu  

In a building by the sea, lives an auto driver who nurtures over a hundred sparrows

It’s easy to locate C Azeez’s house in Pattinapakkam — all you have to do is follow the twitter of sparrows. The two-storied building looks ordinary on first sight. But soon, it sprouts wings, beaks, and tiny four-clawed feet — they flutter from one window sill to the other; peek from in-between doors left ajar; twitter loudly as they dunk into the birdbath at the front yard; zoom into a birdbox at the staircase landing... the small patch of land by the sea is alive. All thanks to Azeez’s habit of feeding sparrows.

“There must be over a hundred sparrows around us this instant,” says Azeez. An auto driver, he started feeding sparrows ten years ago at his home. “I did it casually one day. A neighbour raised lovebirds in a cage and fed them a particular grain called chana . I assumed that sparrows will like them too,” he explains.

They liked it and how! The birds made his building their home. Azeez has made arrangements to ensure that they are comfortable. He has put up 20 birdboxes at various spots around his building; a birdbath; and a feeder that he’s devised from kitchen tools. The 51-year-old takes his bird-visitors seriously, and times his everyday activities around them.

He addresses sparrows as ‘avunga’, meaning ‘them’ in Tamil. “They will come out any minute to spread their wings and dig into the sand,” he says, pointing to a sandy stretch at his portico. “At any given afternoon, there will be at least 100 of them, doing the sand dance,” he smiles. Azeez knows the eating and sleeping habits of the sparrows like he does his kids’. “When I come for lunch, they come for their rice that I place on the wall,” he says, pointing to a line of cooked rice placed invitingly for little beaks to peck at.

“We don’t need an alarm to wake us up in the morning,” he grins. “The sparrows are up by 5 am.” It is a sound that’s become one with his existence. Azeez is a man of principle — he doesn’t like to invite the birds to feed from his hands; he refrains from handling them.

“I don’t want to force them to do anything,” he states. “I’ve never touched the sparrows, except in situations that need my assistance — such as when a chick falls off the birdbox.”

The neighbourhood cats are all eyes for the sparrows and Azeez does his best to protect the birds. “There are occasions when I’ve failed,” he says. “I cannot express in words the stress I go through when I see a sparrow snatched away like that.” He admits to have cried.

Azeez feels that he was destined for some reason to take care of so many sparrows. “They keep coming to me. I don’t know why,” he says.

The building that houses his flat has a bleak future. “We’ve heard it might be demolished in three years,” he says. Where will all the sparrows go then? “I don’t have an answer to that question,” says Azeez. “But I don’t worry. I know there will be a way out. I just know it.” Perhaps the sparrows will follow him.

He has put up 20 birdboxes around his building; a birdbath; and a feeder that he’s devised from kitchen tools

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