I remember when I was young, my grandmother would sit by the window, cleaning up the grains. Then when she felt the time was right, she would place it on a plate just outside the window and let the magic happen. Within seconds, Sparrows would fly in, but all that is in the past now. On that note, let’s go to Varanasi and meet Inderpal Batra and his family.
Inderpal Batra and family are a peaceful and joyful family living in Srinagar Colony in Varanasi. They spend their day like any other family in and around the world, barring one difference. When you take a stroll around their house in the colony, it is the sound that greets you first. The murmurs ever so slightly begin to increase to chirps. And then you hear them, the Sparrows!
The colony, particularly Inderpal’s house, boasts of hundreds of sparrows, and a walk in the lane will remind you of the childhood days when the humble sparrows were easier to spot.
The nest he made is a simple clay pot with a drilled hole and just filled it with some twigs. It started with 4-5 sparrows. Today the number has grown to more than 2,500, with over 100 nests in Inderpal’s house.
Inderpal says, “Sparrows were an integral part of my childhood as my friends, and I gave them water and food throughout the year. I remember my mother would dry the grains on the terrace, and we used to sit there waiting for the sparrows to come. Feeding them was our daily ritual.
“I don’t want my children to be deprived of this due to rapid urbanisation. So, I started building nests in my house. One became 10, 10 became 50 and now we have hundreds of them,” he adds further.
The typical day for the Batra family begins by opening the windows on all the floors and letting in hundreds of sparrows to their nests. He then places 3-4 food plates on each floor with sufficient water.
In his absence, his family, especially his daughter Amrita, ensures that food and water are kept three times a day.
As for maintaining the cleanliness inside the house, Inderpal says, “Sparrows do not dirty the house. But our domestic help does clean the areas around the nests regularly.”
The family orders 30 kilos worth of grains, and during summers, they give glucose biscuits to them. “We purchase the leftover grains from the ration shops and stock it at home every month. In summers, we crush the biscuits and give them to our sparrow community.”
Besides building a natural habitat for sparrows, Inderpal and his family have also been working towards environmental conservation and protection. They have planted around 800 trees in their colonies and on the outskirts of the city.
Over the years, as the sparrows in the colony have increased, the neighbors also started keeping water and food outside their houses. Many tourists are now visiting Inderpal’s house to see the natural settlement of sparrows.
For years, the sparrows have lived in close contact with the human population. However, modern infrastructure does not accommodate space for them to nest. Besides, the green cover is declining as we pave the way for more concrete constructions.