My early childhood days were spent in Agra and later in the crowded streets of Old Delhi. During the Ramleela days, I used to play this game trapping sparrows inside a basket using bread crumbs as a bait and then later setting them free. All in fun but I never imagined that these birds will take me and my passion for nest building from children’s school-books to the stage of House of Commons in London for International Green Apple Award.
I recall my childhood, playing cricket in the garden filled with lush green trees, eating raw guavas and drinking water from hand pumps, I had no worries. The sparrows could be heard chirping on the branches. I was always a master in finding out the nests of the sparrows. Trees were their homes, their safe haven. But that didn’t last long.
After the 90s, things changed at a rapid pace. The seasons shifted from their usual time. The fall started to come early and spring didn’t stay for long. The summers got more intense and winters lost their chill. Parks were now covered with cemented tracks. Small trees and shrubs disappeared. All the things the little sparrows liked were taken away from them. The multi-storied buildings destroyed the bird’s habitat. Slowly, the sparrows also started disappearing and getting distant from our lives. The chirps that used to wake us up in the morning were now replaced with alarm clocks.
Fueled by the nostalgia, I decided to do something about it. I started building a new kind of nest. The green coconut water was getting popular in Delhi. I did an experiment using the hollow coconut. I inserted a layer of newspaper in the empty coconut for drying up the interiors and covered the shell with dry grass used in air-coolers with the help of fevicol. A stick was fixed all around the shell for the sparrows. And the nest was ready. I fixed the newly built nest high on the tree so that it won’t move. After 3 days, I saw a male sparrow on it soon followed by a female sparrow. My happiness was beyond words when I saw the two birds started carrying a tiny amount of grass and twigs into the nest I made. An absolute ‘eureka’ moment! But the problem with green coconuts is that it dries up pretty quickly. Then I decided to make nests using the eco-friendly materials such as dry sticks, coconut fibre and jute thread. That also resulted in success. The journey I embarked upon with one nest has now reached more than 32,000 nests.
Soon, I started an NGO, Eco Roots foundation, working for the conservation of the environment and natural habitat of animals. The vision of the foundation is to bring the environmentally sensitive bodies together to catalyze faster work towards conservation and to sensitise the others in order to have a sustainable ecosystem.
Slowly, with the support from schools, colleges, corporates, residences, welfare associations, the chirping of one bird soon became a full orchestra. It feels good when three generations sit together to build nests.
Our constant effort and will to save birds met with great enthusiasm. Among many accolades that my NGO received, the Green Apple Award for sparrow conservation in 2013, takes the top spot. I’m extremely proud that the work done by me and my team is recognised all over the world.
We are moving ahead now. We have started a water conservation campaign under the aegis of the National Council for Science and Technology Communication, working on theatre to motivate people.
Only if parents also motivate their children towards environment conservation, only then maybe, we would be able to pass along a small percentage of rich legacy we have received from our elders to the generations ahead. Children holds the key to the future and with proper motivation, we can ensure a green one.