BIHAR: The Hindu mythology says Goddess Lakshmi dwells where house sparrows live and thrive. The house sparrow is the state bird of Bihar. Sadly, the species called Passer domesticus is facing the threat of extinction. This is not just in the state, but all over India.
Indian Information Services (IIS) officer Sanjay Kumar is deeply concerned. For him, ‘Save Sparrow, Save Environment’ has become a motto in life. He is the assistant director of the Patna unit of the Press Information Bureau (PIB). Popularly known as ‘Sparrow Man’ of Patna’, the 52-year-old officer loves these creatures. He talks to them, calls them over, and even plays with them.
Kumar begins his day filling the water pots and placing bird feed in the small shelters he has put up around his house. It’s pure joy for him as he invites them aloud and sparrows in large numbers flock in for an early meal. One can spot other birds in the mix too, like parakeets. “My life — before and after office — begins and ends with this little service for the sparrows and other birds. They understand me and I have started understanding them, not through language but by expressions of love and similar gestures,” says Kumar.
His house and the area around has a fair bit of greenery. This is home to a lot of birds. Kumar’s interest, chiefly, is in the variety that used to thrive in concrete settings without being dependent on trees not too long ago. With sparrows, he feels a sense of togetherness. He buys grains and biscuits for them and at times, even chocolates. He believes they interact with him in a familiar yet unknown language. As soon as he steps in, there begins an avian chorus, much like demanding children around their favourite adult.
“When I keep biscuits on the balcony and outside the house, near the trees and in these makeshift nests, these sparrows come in for their share,” says Kumar. He carries an SLR camera most of the times when he hangs around with his ‘friends’. “I have captured them in almost every activity — flying, fighting, chirping and cavorting. I observe their behaviour, longevity and nesting habits,” says Kumar.
The officer’s friendship with birds began in the summer of 2007. A thirsty sparrow had entered his kitchen. Out of kindness, he placed a pot of water. It drank and flew out of the kitchen. “Since then, I have dedicated my life to saving the sparrow and other birds”.
Each month, Kumar sets aside some money for the birds and the arrangements he has to make fo them. “I have at home bundles of paddy around the year and hang them from the railings and trees. I also get a good quantity of food grains from friends,” he said. He has received assistance in kind from Gujarat also.
His efforts have encouraged a section of youths in his locality and other parts of Patna to arrange nests and water pots outside their houses for sparrows and other birds.
Kumar also organises webinars and exhibitions regularly on the need to save sparrows and birds. “At my prodding, over 2,000 persons have joined me in a chain of efforts across the country to save the house sparrow and other birds from the onslaught of urbanised activities,” he said.
Kumar’s efforts were recently rewarded by state forest minister Niraj Singh Babloo and former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi. “It is a myth that radiation from mobile tower damages ‘goraiya’ (sparrow) population. Growing noise and air pollution levels are the key reasons for the dwindling population of sparrows.” He says a campaign should be launched across the state to save house sparrows and other birds, which play an important role in the fragile ecosystem. He urges people to come forward.
Officer and bird lover
Sanjay Kumar helps others realise that house sparrows are an important part of our ecosystem. Their numbers are dwindling due to aggressive urbanism. The Patna-based government servant is making an effort to save them by providing food and arranging shelter. His activities have started becoming popular in the locality and others are coming forward. Kumar also organises webinars to create awareness on house sparrows and other birds