Chaki Ben Chaki Ben, Where Have You Been?

20th March 2017 is World Sparrow Day, a day that brings to light how ethically appalling the near-extinction of these joyous creatures is. To know how we can make things positive for sparrows and the environment, Creative Yatra correspondent, Himanshu Nainani met environmentalist Jagat Kinkhabwala, better known as Sparrow Man of Ahmedabad, who revealed the real facts behind the near-extinction of the House Sparrow and tricks to help bring them back.

Last night when I was experiencing insomnia, I went to my mother to seek some help. As soon as she heard about my predicament, she just smiled with a nostalgic look on her face and said, ‘I still remember how I used to sing the Gujarati lullaby Chaki Ben Chaki Ben whenever you weren’t feeling asleep’. Since this poem is dedicated to sparrows, a question arose in my mind, ‘When was the last time I woke up to the chirping sound of a house sparrow?’ I suddenly realised that seeing a sparrow has also now become one of those elusive childhood memories since the population of house sparrows in India has come down to only 10% of what it used to be. 20th March 2017 is World Sparrow Day and to know more about how we humans have led an entire species – which flourished so well in the past – to the brink of extinction, I met ecologist Jagat Kinkhabwala, prominently known as the Sparrow Man of Ahmedabad. Kinkhabwala, who has been working rigorously to bring sparrows back in our environment through his ‘Save the Sparrow’ initiative, explained how this devastating situation has emerged and what each of us can do to help recover the diminishing number of sparrows in the world.

world sparrow day 2017 with Jagat Kinkhabwala, Sparrow Man of Ahmedabad

What happened to sparrows?

Sparrows are believed to be a symbol of joy and love in Greek mythology, so how did we humans ended up eradicating this symbol of tenderness out of our environment? The answer lies in these uncomplicated words of Kinkhabwala, “Deforestation is one of the primary reasons why sparrows aren’t flying around us anymore. Sparrows are naive; they don’t have the engineering skill to build nests, like tailor/weaver birds. Trees are their only source of shelter, food and survival. Since sparrows are domestic birds, they don’t have a sophisticated defence mechanism against predators, and trees are their only support. Without trees, the chaki becomes extremely vulnerable.”

Why should we save sparrows?

Sparrows are an integral part of our society. In fact, they are one of the primary reasons why we can still breathe. Kinkhabwala, who has created an excellent environment for sparrows and butterflies at his home, says, “Did you know that every human being inhales 3 crore rupees worth of oxygen within his entire life span? But still we do not stop to think for a second while recklessly chopping trees down. The consequences are unimaginably dreadful. Sparrows have played a significant role in afforestation as active participants in the pollination process. In fact, many sparrows eat worms and insects that hamper crops and vegetation. The chirping of sparrows has been proved by scientists to also cure depression. Do you need any further reason to conserve this species?

How should we save sparrows?

“Unlike other glamorous species, saving sparrows isn’t rocket science. Simple steps, like storing food (preferably grains of millet, mung and milo) and water in your veranda, can do wonders for them. And since they also lack shelter facilities, you can purchase a sparrow house, which is cheap, durable and also an antique home décor article. You can also make your own sparrow house in a few simple steps,” to avoid a hole in your pocket.

world sparrow day, Jagat Kinkhabwala, Sparrow Man of Ahmedabad

Kinkhabwala is running the ‘Save the Sparrow’ project in Ahmedabad since the past ten years now. His empathy towards the birds has led him to conduct various awareness talks and discussions at dynamic platforms. Till now, Kinkhabwala has distributed more than 50,000 sparrow houses amongst bird adorers. We now look forward to seeing you celebrating Sparrow Day at your school or workplace with utmost enthusiasm, because it is only then that we can ask again ‘Chaki Ben Chaki Ben, where have you been?’

Photographs : Rajkumar Rao


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