Sparrows

As I drove into the Rishihood campus for the first time, I was reminded of the IIM Lucknow campus, as it used to be back in 1992. The IIM campus had just shifted to Prabandhnagar, off Sitapur Road with the first phase of construction barely done.

I looked around and as I took in the trees being methodically planted, gardens developed and birds already arriving, I could not help getting a feeling of déjà vu, as if I had been here before. I thought back to the lush green, wooded campus of IIM L today and it was like looking into a crystal ball. That’s what I hope our University would look like in the future.

Despite the few trees on the campus, my first morning brought my second delight — the happy cheep cheep of sparrows. Spunky little birds with mighty voices! They have been part of the growing-up years for many of us.

I remember the little birds, chirruping contentedly, pecking away at the wheat that was washed and spread out to dry.
My fiction collection from Enid Blyton to Khushwant Singh brought alive many more sparrow stories. There was one by Enid Blyton that spoke of an old granny who fed the sparrows at her fireplace. She would make boy sparrows wear tiny bibs and girl sparrows none. (Girls don’t need a bib and ate very neatly, my mother reasoned). That was the very first story in Blyton’s ‘Bed Time Tales’ and it has remained with me even today.

‘The Portrait of a Lady’ about Khushwant Singh’s grandmother, brought alive the sensitive side of sparrows. Thousands of them mourned her death, flocking together in the courtyard where they were fed by her, he recounts. When she was alive, they would perch themselves on her feet, her shoulders, and even on her head. When she passed away, they sat quietly by her side, refusing to leave her until her body was taken away. Not a single chirrup was heard that day, nor was a single bread crumb consumed.
Sadly, sparrows are now included in the list of threatened species with the pigeon population overtaking them. Strong and aggressive pigeons are letting no other bird thrive. Unfortunately, this is a universal phenomenon. Modern architecture with concrete roofs leaves no place for sparrows to build nests.

It saddens me to think our children might never make the acquaintance of these delightful creatures. How would they learn to enjoy sparrow stories? How would they know the shades of brown of this tiny, spunky bird, with or without the bibs? How would they know the power of their voice?

We might grow back our trees but will we be able to save the sparrow and celebrate World Sparrow Day every March?

That said, it is heartening to watch that sparrow lovers have started creating artificial nests for them. Little nooks in our buildings seem to promise more abodes.

To me, this is the sign of hope, the hope of new beginnings with a new team, new students, more trees, buildings, and of course, the chirrup of happy sparrows.

Happy reading!

~Dr. Kavita Gupta,
Associate Professor,
School of Entrepreneurship

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