The little bird By T.D.K. Ram - Roorkee, Uttarakhand
March 20 declared as World House Sparrow Day', I read in an article in The Hindu. So, I suddenly remembered sparrows. Memoirs of those little birds flashed across my mind.

Sparrows were one of the first living creatures that wished a good morning whenever I woke up early. When I was young and waking up early was a habit, without bird chirpings, it was never a morning for me. Tens of sparrows would come on to the roof of our house every morning to drink fresh and pure water that overflowed from the tank. It was always a beautiful sight watching them sing, dance and play as the golden morning sun reflected and refracted in the water on the floor. And whenever, as a child, I went to feed them with grains and if possible catch one of them, they would flee leaving me with an elusive aim of catching a sparrow at least once in a lifetime.

In the evenings they would all come again, sit on the old jasmine tree that grew in our house, discuss among themselves and rest inside the inner branches. It was one fine summer day when my parents decided to get the house painted and so they arranged for a painter. "The jasmine tree has to be cut down sir, otherwise I cannot paint," he declared. Cutting down the tree meant demolishing the home of the sparrows. " Is there no other way out ?"

"Don't worry sir, even if you chop a tree, it will grow back. You will see it before your eyes again in no time." Chopping didn't take much time nor did the painting work. It was evening again and the sparrows returned. They couldn't believe what they were seeing. They couldn't believe they were homeless. They were chirping at the loudest or is it they were shouting, as if to say,"Who are these humans to destroy our homes? Is it not our home? What right have they got to take away our home? Don't we have a right to live on this planet? What have we done to you?" Questions were useless for there were no answers and damage had been done.

Habits changed and so did I. Our house changed and so did everything. The sparrows never returned to remind me and so I never thought about them anymore. Spring returned, leaves grew on the tree, but it could attract sparrows never again.

I came back into the article and read the next sentence, 'The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has included the common House Sparrow in the red list of highly endangered species.' For a moment, my stomach twitched and I cursed humans and more so myself, even I'm a human. What remained with me was a guilty feeling and few memories.

"Will you ever return O' little bird? I want to be your friend once again. Will you ever forgive me?"

I lived with my parents and three sisters in a place called Gyogon, which was a few miles away from Yangon (Rangoon) in Myanmar (Burma). We lived in a beautiful teak wood house built on stilts with a lovely flower garden and a vegetable garden. A few mango trees, a tall tamarind tree, papaya and the most delicious 'martaban' banana plants grew in our garden.

We lived with nature. Snakes, scorpions, lizards fell on our shoulders causing utter chaos while we studied at night. During the monsoons, menacing leeches hung on to us. We must have loved birds because we were alert trying to save the sparrow nestlings when they fell from their nests. They were featherless creatures and helpless. My elder sister and I used to pick them up, wrap them in cotton wool and take them into the kitchen to keep them warm by the fire. They were fed with drops of sugar water and we hoped that they would survive but alas, these little ones would just slip away from this world.

After shedding our tears we arranged for their burial. Mud was dug up behind our Mali's quarters and the little one would be laid to rest on leaves covered with mud and flower petals. The Mali cooperated with us in burying the sparrows.

Weeks later, we four children would decide to see the condition of the buried bird as we were told that they became dust. How disappointed we were when on digging up the buried ground, all we saw were red ants! This infuriated the Mali who threatened to report us to my father but of course, he was kind enough not to do so.

Sadly, the war with Japan started and leaving this beautiful house we fled to India in February 1942 to start life anew.

Years have gone by but memories do not fade and now as an octogenarian, I have started feeding sparrows, doves and bulbuls who sit on the trees in my little garden waiting to be fed. Sixteen sparrows come along with at least eight doves, grey in colour with yellow specks on their wings. They feed on bird seed and chapatti. The bulbuls feed on ripe banana although once in a while they enjoy other tit-bits. They drink water, bathe and fly away. Black and white magpie robins come for a bath and then fly off. These birds live in perfect harmony. I watch the fledglings being fed by their mother and also see on bully dove chase away the other doves but it never attacks the sparrows! Tiny honey-suckers who make the most noise, swing on garland-like flowers of a creeper sipping the nectar. With three pale honey-suckers come a dark blue one, a loner.

From early morning till 4 pm these beautiful birds are my companions and these harmless little friends keep the lady who helps me, busy replenishing their food dishes.

We have always had birds in and around our home but my thanks for this love of feeding the birds goes to my daughter Benita who loves animals and birds and feeds a variety of them.

I also thank Mr Mohammed Dilawar for making me a member of Nature Forever Society.

May God bless you all for looking after these innocent, helpless birds.

My love for sparrow is unfaded till date.

A Lifelong affair with Sparrows By Apurba Prosad Basu
I FELL in love with this little magic bird at the age of 36, in the year 1974, when I was house-bound because of a fracture of my left foot metatarsal, while playing un-habitual football with the local boys. My left foot was then plastered and so I was rather locked in my room with my son, aged four years.

I wanted to pass time with my son and started painting sparrows which were in plenty on my verandah. I am not a professional painter, but painting, sketching and sculpting are my childhood hobbies. So, during the early period of my confinement, I started feeding sparrows with a variety of domestic small grains only to draw them, sketch them and get enormous pleasure along with my son.

The birds were so familiar with us, that at times they'd allow me to even hold them in my hands and again let them fly. So, to draw, I would catch them to see their colour, count their feathers, observe their feather patterns, measure their wing span etc, and let them fly again.

During that one month of confinement, I made some sketches. I attach one of them here. I find (with my seasoned eye) now some anatomical mistakes in the drawing, but still, it will be a pleasure on my part to show you one such, since you are attached to the Sparrow Movement.