DIMMA PEACH

Sparrows and me

Written by Estelle Sarkar

I lived with my parents and three sisters in a place called Gyogon which was a few miles away from Yangon (Rangoon) in Myanmar (Burma). We lived in a beautiful teak wood house built on stilts with a lovely flower garden and a vegetable garden. A few mango trees, a tall tamarind tree, papaya and the most delicious ‘martaban’ banana plants grew in our garden.

We lived with nature. Snakes, scorpions, lizards fell on our shoulders causing utter chaos while we studied at night. During the monsoons, menacing leeches hung on to us. We must have loved birds because we were alert trying to save the sparrow nestlings when they fell from their nests. They were featherless creatures and helpless. My elder sister and I used to pick them up, wrap them in cotton wool and take them into the kitchen to keep them warm by the fire. They were fed with drops of sugar water and we hoped that they would survive but alas, these little ones would just slip away from this world.

After shedding our tears we arranged for their burial. Mud was dug up behind our Mali’s quarters and the little one would be laid to rest on leaves covered with mud and flower petals. The Mali cooperated with us in burying the sparrows.

Weeks later, we four children would decide to see the condition of the buried bird as we were told that they became dust. How disappointed we were when on digging up the buried ground, all we saw were red ants! This infuriated the Mali who threatened to report us to my father but of course, he was kind enough not to do so.

Sadly, the war with Japan started and leaving this beautiful house we fled to India in February 1942 to start life anew.

Years have gone by but memories do not fade and now as an octogenarian, I have started feeding sparrows, doves and bulbuls who sit on the trees in my little garden waiting to be fed. Sixteen sparrows come along with at least eight doves, grey in colour with yellow specks on their wings. They feed on bird seed and chapatti. The bulbuls feed on ripe banana although once in a while they enjoy other tit-bits. They drink water, bathe and fly away. Black and white magpie robins come for a bath and then fly off. These birds live in perfect harmony. I watch the fledglings being fed by their mother and also see on bully dove chase away the other doves but it never attacks the sparrows! Tiny honey-suckers who make the most noise, swing on garland-like flowers of a creeper sipping the nectar. With three pale honey-suckers come a dark blue one, a loner.

From early morning till 4 pm these beautiful birds are my companions and these harmless little friends keep the lady who helps me, busy replenishing their food dishes.

We have always had birds in and around our home but my thanks for this love of feeding the birds goes to my daughter Benita who loves animals and birds and feeds a variety of them.

I also thank Mr Mohammed Dilawar for making me a member of Nature Forever Society.

May God bless you all for looking after these innocent, helpless birds.

ESTELLE SARKAR

KOLKATA