Known for its sacred ghats on the banks of Ganga, Varanasi is a sight to behold. With its grand temples, arresting aartis, soulful music, world-renowned saris, and spectacular handicrafts, it is no wonder that the temple city plays host to lakhs of tourists round the year.
Another gem, albeit a hidden one, lies in the humble lanes of the city’s Srinagar Colony. Located in the colony is a 3-storeyed house that was built a couple of years, post Independence, and is an as yet unexplored tourist spot.
It’s the sound that greets you first. The slight murmurations that lead to a crescendo and then fall back into a gurgling cadence. Yes, you hear the sparrows. The colony, particularly the 67-year-old house, boasts of hundreds of sparrows and a walk in the lane at any time of the day will remind you of the childhood days when the humble sparrows were easier to spot.
I say this as listening to sparrows chirp is a thing of the past, especially in the concrete jungles of our metro cities.
Like most of us, Inderpal Batra grew up when the sparrow population was high. However, in the early 2000s, he noticed a change in their number as more and more buildings came up in the city.
He purchased a clay pot, drilled a hole, filled it with some twigs to make a nest for the birds. Though it started with 4-5 sparrows, today the number of the puffy birds has grown to more than 2,500 with over 100 nests in Inderpal’s house.
Speaking to The Better India (TBI), Inderpal says,
Sparrows were an integral part of my childhood as my friends and I gave them water and food all throughout the year. I remember my mother would dry the grains on the terrace and we used to sit there waiting for the sparrows to come. Feeding them was our daily ritual.
“I don’t want my children to be deprived of this due to rapid urbanisation. So, I started building nests in my house. One became 10, 10 became 50 and now we have hundreds of them,” he adds further.
A typical day of the 52-year-old begins with opening the windows in the all the floors and letting in hundreds of sparrows to their nests. Later, he places 3-4 food plates on each floor with sufficient water.
In his absence, his family, especially his daughter Amrita, ensures that food and water is served three times a day.
As for maintaining the cleanliness inside the house, Inderpal, an entrepreneur by profession says,“Sparrows do not dirty the house. But our domestic help does clean the areas around the nests regularly.”
The family orders 30 kilo worth of grains and during summers they give glucose biscuits to them. “We purchase the leftover grains from the ration shops and stock it at home every month. In summers, we crush the biscuits and give them to our sparrow community.”
Besides building a natural habitat for sparrows, Inderpal and his family have also been working towards environment conservation and protection. They have planted around 800 trees in their colonies, and on the outskirts of the city.
Once in a year, during monsoons, we plant trees as they are not only beneficial in controlling the rising temperatures but also in bringing back birds. I strongly believe that it is in our hands to make or break the environment, he says.
Over the years, as the sparrows in the colony increased, the neighbours have also started keeping water and food outside their houses. What’s more? Many tourists are now visiting Inderpal’s house to see the natural settlement of sparrows.
For years, the sparrows have lived in close contact with the human population. However, the modern infrastructure does not accommodate space for them to nest. Besides, the green cover is declining as we pave the way for more concrete constructions.
Inderpal’s house and efforts prove that sparrows are very much a part of the human world. It is time we pause and analyse our habits that are directly and indirectly harming nature and its creations.
If you wish to know more about Inderpal’s initiative you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at +91 99199 98000
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)