The Sparrows

I grew up in a village. In my childhood days, there were lush green fields around our village. The land was very fertile and only animal manure was used to boost the crops. Water for irrigation came  from the canals and a schedule for distribution of water according to the area of land a farmer had was fixed. We used to go to fields everyday after our school. We took many detours on our way to our field. In the summers, we took dip in the cool refreshing waters in the canals in which cattle also cooled themselves. We stole red ripe tomatoes, raw and ripe mangoes, maize corn and sugarcane etc in the winter seasons. I clearly remember that in the compound of our home, there were heaps of haystack. We burrowed in to them, it became very comfortable. There were two or sometimes three buffaloes in our home for milk.

Everyone was having a plenty of time for leisure in those days. Old people use to sit under the banyan trees with cool shadows and whiled away the time by gossiping. Nothing could remain secret as the village was so well knitted. Women used to go to fetch the water into the pails from the village wells.

Though we were not rich but we had not a single worry in the world. We chased the ducks and other animals. Our parents will sometimes chide us for running here and there running over the crops. We climbed on the the branches of trees. Many a times someone will fall down and break his arm or leg.

There were plenty of sparrows in our houses. In the morning and evening there would be incessant chirping in the houses as they settled for the night. In the morning, they acted like alarms for the day breaking. The sounds we heard in those days were of the birds, dogs and people. There was hardly any radio. There was no electricity and we used the kerosene lamps . People ate very early in the evening and went to bed. They would rise very early in the morning. After taking tea or lassi and few rotis they will proceed to their fields with their bullock carts. When they returned, there was dry fagots, branches of trees, fodder for cattle and vegetables in the cart. Things began changing as the Chandigarh city began to expand. Industries came along and spread poison in the air and water without scruples. Green area began to shrink. With the electricity came noise which distracted these small creatures.

The sparrow have a good presence in the Punjabi literature. Sparrows, though very small in size, gorge on food very quickly. There is a idiom which says that “Now it is of no use to repent, because when the sparrows foraged and eat all the grains in the field”. The unmarried young girls are compared to the sparrows. In some sad folk song, the girls are telling their father that they are just like sparrows and will fly away someday which is an illusion to their marriage and will never come back. There is a tingle of helplessness in their narration.

Now, I live in the town near Mumbai. It is happy to note that the sparrows visit the windows of our house everyday thanks to my wife taking care of them with seeds and water. Also there are lots of pigeons. Squirrels also come but they like slightly rough and bigger seeds like groundnuts. Pigeons like Bajra and rice. Sparrows mainly gorge themselves on the rice. There are vacuous crows which are the loudest and the meanest and most efficient eaters. They generally don’t like the grains and forage into the food thrown by the residents into the refuse collector bins. Occasionally, they grab a frail or injured sparrow or smaller bird than themselves and eat it. We also hear the cuckoos.

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