Sunday, October 08, 2006
Songsters of the sky
Photo courtesy Kolkata Birds
As a kid, around 8/9 years of age I found a couple of magazines in my Dad’s small library of magazines and books, which he had collected while in the Gulf. The magazine was titled ‘Outdoors’. I think it was a Canadian magazine. The colorful pictures of sprawling blue mountains, snow covered slopes, rivers winding through snow and the sheer beauty of the landscape had me hooked. In the same section of the library I found books by Jim Corbett, and E P Gee and some other authors. I was a voracious reader then and these books were devoured in a trice. ’Outdoors’ was a magazine for hunters and I soon developed distaste for it. My Dad had apparently picked it up at the Airport Book Shop.
However chancing upon this magazine and these books on Wildlife was a life changing moment for me. I had found my calling, my passion…perhaps it was the genes…perhaps not as my Dad was an accomplished hunter in his younger days… or maybe yes, because he changed after he read Jim Corbett, E P Gee and Rudyard Kipling. Till today my Dad cannot explain how or why he purchased these books as he had no inclination or interest towards environmental issues then. But these books somehow landed in his possession as though placed there by fate for me to chance upon. I of course expanded this library. My Dad gladly let me take the books for my collection and these books were the first ‘serious’ books among my Golden Key comics, Enid Blyton, Asterix, Tin Tin and Kiddy Encyclopedia collection.
It was the book, The Wild Life of India by EP Gee that influenced me the most. It’s simple narration and helpless tone over the fast vanishing wild life of India was just the thing to ignite and interest in wild life conservation. I must confess that one cannot just read a book on wildlife and get enthusiastic about conservation. The matter has to take root in your heart and in your mind. As a kid I was fascinated by birds, I have been through the ‘jumping from the table flapping my arms trying to fly routine’ several times. I have spent hours watching birds fly in formation is sheer joy and free abandon from the terrace. The sheer color of their plumage and absolute freedom to swim in the air held me in thrall. E P Gee talked at length about Salim Ali in his book, a man he admired a lot. So it was no wonder that my interest in Birds took a firmer root when my parents presented me with a book on Indian birds by Salim Ali.
Salim Ali pioneered ornithology in India and made it a serious pursuit. It is because of him that ‘Birding’ and bird conservation has become a passion for several individuals and organizations who are now working doggedly to save India’s birds from extinction. Salim Ali died in 1987 when I was a few years old. I wish he had been born a little later so that I could get to meet him and shake hands with him. He is a living proof of the existence of God. Who else but God could have put him in our midst to remind us of these tiny and gentle creatures that form a vital link in the cycle of Nature. Besides delighting us with their color, wonderful plumage and sweet songs.
I am by no means a professional birder or ‘twitchers’ as they are called. My support for the various organization working for conservation is monetary, besides the regular birding outings with our amateur group and awareness camps in college and now in office. However birds are my life long passion and I cannot imagine a world without them. Spotting a rare bird is like a ray of hope that all is not lost. I cannot describe the delight of spotting a bird, recognizing it and following it with your binoculars. It is an addiction and like an addiction there is always one more spot you must try …and you keep walking and tracking through calls or a flash of color or movement in the foliage …till you realize it is sunset and you got to head home.
Nov 12th is Dr Salim Ali’s birthday. God bless you Dr Salim Ali!
( I am travelling from tomorow. Hope to log in and reply to comments. See you guys next week. Poomanam too will be updated only next week. Caio!)