Every time I close my eyes to think of my childhood, the memory of waking up in the morning to the sweet chirping of sparrows comes rushing back.
And, how just before breakfast, my mother and I would feed breadcrumbs and fruits to a fleet of crows that regularly visited our kitchen window at every meal hour.
I was not raised in a village cradled amidst nature. I grew up in a city, and yet, I was gifted these precious glimpses of nature. Today, I realise that I was lucky because both the morning chirps and pleasant visits have become a rarity now.
While every year on March 20 (World Sparrow Day), we acknowledge the tiny missing sparrows that once hopped and chirped all around, and dive into long discourses about what led to their disappearance, with a gnawing threat of their extinction in mind, how much action actually goes into it?
That is one of the many thoughts that urged this man to take a step.
Meet Sreeman Narayanan, a simple man who has embarked on an extraordinary journey to protect just not sparrows but all birds—with a single act of kindness.
“We all know what is happening around us. We can see it, feel it, but we do nothing to change it. I can’t be part of that lot,” expressed Sreeman, while in conversation with The Better India.
The man single-handedly has been changing the fate of Muppathadam, a village in Ernakulam, Kerala, through various conservation initiatives.
And, the most recent one is a rather sensitive move to help the birds glide through the scorching summers unharmed.
“This year’s summer has been so hot that it is burning the life out of us. Just imagine what it must be doing to the tiny beings. While I can do nothing about the weather, I can at least try and make it easier for them. Here, the water sources have mostly dried up, so I thought of giving them an alternative, and provide water to them,” said the 70-year-old who purchased and distributed as many as 10,000 earthen pots in and around the village for free, so that these birds have open access to cold water at every corner.
Each pot is big enough for 100 birds to drink from it, he adds.
Expense? What is money for?
Sreeman holds multiple professional identities that have earned him recognition. A dual postgraduate degree holder in Economics and Malayalam, he is an award-winning writer who bagged the 2016 Kerala State Institute for Children’s Literature award in poetry for his work ‘Kuttikalude Gurudevan.’
He is also a wholesale lottery dealer, a restaurant owner, and a Gandhian, who has dedicated his life to live by Gandhi’s principles and has distributed more than 5,000 copies of Gandhi’s autobiography to propagate his ideas.
Yet, he says that his true identity lies in being a good human being.
“I love working, so I continue to do something or the other. However, it’s not for money, but to have a purpose,” said Sreeman, who spent a total of Rs 8 lakh to purchase the earthen pots.
A father of three children, Sreeman says the expense doesn’t matter to him. “I have completed all my duties as a father. They have their own lives now. I don’t believe in saving up for the future while ignoring the present. So, I use the money earned from the restaurant and the lottery business to abate the destruction of nature and make it a better place than it is today,” he said.
Titled ‘Jeeva jalathinu oru manu pathram’ (earthen pot for life-saving water), the project was started in 2018. Its previous success inspired Sreeman to continue it this year as well.
As a result, more than 9,000 pots have been distributed in residential associations, educational institutes and clubs. With less than a thousand pots left, he said that he has ordered for more, and will continue this until every corner of the village has a pot of life for the birds.
This effort is not in isolation, as he distributed more than 50,000 saplings worth Rs 15 lakhs across the district, all for free. He planted 10,000 trees in the houses of his village. “There was one condition given to all of them. To make sure that the let the saplings grow into trees, and that they would spare the fruits of at least one tree in the compound for the birds to eat,” he said.
Sreeman is a living example of how each an every one of us can make an extraordinarily positive impact, provided we want it with all our heart.
Kudos to him and this initiative!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)