“Good morning everyone,” is usually how Gautam starts his day on Facebook. It was therefore with surprise that I saw his post this morning with his customary picture of the day. Gautam is a photographer who lives in Jammu and shares his catch of the day with fellow alumni from Delhi’s St. Stephens College. Today’s feast came with a surprising title.
“Yeah , Why Are They Sulking ?”
I messaged Gautam. Our paths had never crossed. Super athlete, head boy, winner of many trophies for billiards, Gautam was everything I wasn’t. He had come to Delhi from Srinagar where he had his two brothers and a family home.
“Gautam I love the picture of the two sparrows. It reminds me of my husband,” I tapped out on facebook messenger.
The picture seemed perfect for the bedroom wall. We chatted as we completed the transaction. I soon realized that Gautam in his own small way was saving the environment for future generations, capturing it one picture at a time for posterity.
The sparrows that chirped every morning as we dressed for school were almost gone. The house sparrow can live in urban or rural settings and therefore was ubiquitous when we were growing up in Delhi. According to wiki, the house sparrow has become highly successful in most parts of the world due to its early adaptation to living with humans, and its adaptability to a wide range of conditions. Most house sparrows do not move more than a few kilometres during their lifetime. Yet now Delhi had no sparrows. Atleast I have not see any. “Nor does Jammu,” added Gautam.
India is not the only place where the sparrows have disappeared from the cities. In the Netherlands, they are already an endangered species. In Britain, their population is dropping at such an alarming rate that when RSPB reported that in Britain the population of house sparrows has declined by 20 million in the last 40 years, a prize was offered by the Independent newspaper of £5000 for the person who came up with a clear scientific reason to why they were declining. This was awarded a couple of years back to Kate Vincent who found out that the lack of insect prey during the breeding season was preventing house sparrows raising healthy young. In France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Finland, the story is not very different.
The reasons for the sparrows’ decline besides concretization of urban spaces, lack of ready grain due to change in human food procuring and consumption habits, is electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones and lack of insect food due to excessive use of pesticide in urban gardens.
“The crows might disappear too,” lamented Gautam Lakra.
Gautam is a paraplegic, and takes all his pictures from the wheel chair or sitting in the car. In 2007 a taxi ramped his car from behind seriously injuring his wife who wears metal implants in both arms. Gautam himself was given up for dead. Extreme medical attention by Apollo hospital in Delhi snatched him mid flight and brought him back to life. “Its not the end of the road if one is in a wheel chair , life will and does give all sorts of openings , the scope is only limited by ones thinking.”
Gautam encourages fledglings whose wings have been clipped by similar calamities, youngsters who suffer spinal cord injuries, not to fall into depression and despair. “Infact i have done a lot of counselling to young people in India of both sexes who were suicidal.”
Life is appreciated when you have almost lost yours.
Gautam Lakra is a photographer and can be reached at [email protected]