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Vasu Ramanujam

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Citizen Sparrow
By Vasu Ramanujam   
Rated "R" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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The sparrow is almost extinct from our cities (in India). Can we save them?

 As I sit in the Bengaluru airport waiting for my flight to be announced, I am suddenly greeted by the very pleasant sight of a female common sparrow flitting about, trying her best not to slip on the impeccably polished marble floor, looking for crumbs that might have fallen from the hands of careless passengers eating their overly expensive sandwiches bought from one of the many brightly decorated stalls around. Till that moment, I had not heard the chirping of the sparrows – the loud but mostly incomprehensible announcements from tired, I-am-just-doing-my-job airline announcers and the various “goodbyes” on cellphones were punctuated with the sounds of the wheels of various makes and sizes of strolleys, and this did not allow me to hear the sparrows.

But then, when it dawned on me that the sparrows are sufficiently large in number to be heard, it came as a very pleasant surprise indeed! Being a passive but interested member of “Citizen Sparrow”, I found it interesting that these friendly birds had made this terminal building their home. True, there are some potted plants in this completely enclosed, air-conditioned terminal building, but don’t they miss the outdoors, the sunlight, the darkness of night, the winds, the rain, the trees, and let me add, the noise, the smoke and pollution of all other kinds? Or, are they the jet-setting cousins of the sparrows that wake me up every morning in my fourth floor flat on the banks of the Mula river in Pune?

A thought strikes me – is this the answer to the issues being addressed by Citizen Sparrow? Should we just build more airports around the country and make them “museums” in which to house live sparrows? Would that not make them birds being bred in captivity? Where did they come from, anyway?

Another thought strikes me – Will we be as tolerant to other species in our airports as we are to the sparrows? Crows, for instance? Or dogs? Or butterflies? Why not? Do we have the ability to stay oblivious of these other creatures as we are of the sparrows? Can we have some trees planted inside these terminal buildings, with skylights to bring in sunlight?

A long time ago, when the Pune airport authorities announced a concerted drive to exterminate birds from the vicinity of the airport, I expressed my angst by writing, “Isn’t it cruel that clumsy man,/ in his quest for freedom from earthly rue,/ After shamelessly aping his feathered friends,/ (Little realizing that light-heartedness, and not light-weightedness,  is a virtue)/Now proposes to exterminate them
from the vicinity of his airports,/ So that he may take off in peace and land in comfort?”

Today, as the announcer announces the departure of my flight to Pune, I wonder if killing those birds was really required to make my flights safer. Maybe the Pune airport authorities could just have taken the birds into the airport terminal building?

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Reviewed by Michael Charles Messineo 4/18/2014
Vasu, It doesn't matter what subject you choose to write about, or which side of an argument you take, you always express your feelings so well and you give me pause, to think.

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