Thursday, June 24, 2004

The sparrow and associated thoughts

When I was growing up in Bangalore, sweet chirping by sparrows would wake us up every day. We would see little sparrows, male and female, hopping around our houses and trying to collect grain. They were present in all parts of Bangalore. They were so omnipresent that we paid no special regard to them. We would not bother them and neither would they bother us.

All that changed a few years later. For a few years, I was blind to the existence of the sparrow and suddenly on one day I remembered the humble sparrow. I tried to find one around my house. They were not to be found at all. In their place were found jet black scavenger crows. Where did the little birds go ?

I could still find sparrows in my village, which is a couple of hours from Bangalore. When I came to the US, I lived mainly in the western region and could find these birds around residential localities. In the Bay Area where I live now, I can find sparrows here and there. Everytime I see one of these birds, I tend to go back memory lane and look at them with child-like curiosity.

What does the sparrow mean to me ? Especially now, when I am about to go back to the place of my birth, Bangalore.

For me the sparrow symbolizes Kannada Culture. When I was a child, I used to study and learn Kannada. As I grew older, my connection with Kannada weakened till I realized that it was pretty weak. I saw my bond with Kannada being as sparse as the times I actually was able to see a sparrow.

When I came to the US, I realized what I had been missing all along. My bond with Kannada seemed to strengthen. My pride and love for Kannada returned, probably because I was so desperate to create my own identity, though it is more likely because I had simply missed it for too long a time. I see sparrows every day now.

Happily chirping and jumping from place to place collecting grain, the sparrow is a clean bird. It needs clean environmental conditions for it to thrive. Urban Bangalore of about 20 years ago had good conditions. With the rapid and unplanned industrialization in Bangalore, the entire city grew like a small boy growing into a big boy but having only enough food to sustain a child. Resources of the city were stretched thin. Basically, unplanned growth caused a lot of grief for the citizens of Bangalore. The sparrow was just one of the many casualties. These tiny birds had no trees to nest in and were constantly troubled by predatory birds like big black crows. And in a few years, sparrows have become extinct within city limits.

When I go back, I will pay attention and look for that elusive sparrow again. Bangalore is so big that I hope that at least in one small corner of the city, a small family of sparrows may be thriving. I want to see these birds back in the city.

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