I picked up this hobby at an early age of fifteen. I grew-up in a small town-like colony. It was a densely vegetated place.
I spent my childhood in close proximity with nature.This proximity shaped my love for birds, trees, pets and other creatures that I often came across in the terrace (actually it was a large balcony and not terrace..but we still address it so!) which was part of our small house in H.A.L Township housing colony.
I don’t remember the exact day when I started taking bird watching (or simply birding) seriously. But it was “The Book of Indian Birds” by Dr. Salim Ali that had set the ball rolling. I think I had found it in the Junior College Library while I was actually looking for “Godaan” by Premchand. Stoke of luck, I guess. Of all things that I liked about the book, the most prominent was a magnificent picture of male ‘Paradise Flycatcher’ on it’s front jacket cover.
It was summer of 2000. I had lots of time and really nothing meaning to do. Board exams were over. There was no outstation trip on charts. Most friends had fled out of town. Sitting on the steps of our staircase, I decided to ‘read’ the book.
Initially I was little surprised to learn that the book is more like a pictorial documentary containing facts and figures about hundreds of Indian birds. That’s all. I felt like cursing myself to have picked such a listless pack of papers. But a bright yellow colored picture of a mid-sized bird anchored my attention. I said this to myself aloud, “I think I just saw this thing outside.. just 10 mins back… Oriole, hmm…what a name”
And that is how it started. I use to stand in our terrace for long number of hours in search of real birds around me and relate them with those that were described in the book. Slowly this practice gathered momentum. Subconsciously, while playing in the garden, cycling, walking, jogging, sitting near a window at friend’s house and even while travelling in a bus/train, I had only one agenda. Bird watching. Birding had arrived for me. I got obsessed with birds and their habitats.
I read through several newspaper cuttings, books, magazines and emails from like-minded friends. My cousin, Anand, was part of this whole affair. Every time we met, there were only two things to discuss – birds and chess. I still cherish memories of days when we use to go biking several miles across dams and canals just to have one glance of “Hornbill”.
Bul-Buls, Munias, Flowerpeckers, Woodpeckers, Parrots, Bee-eaters, Drangos, Tailor Birds, Weaver Birds and what not…each one is a case study in itself. We have had hours of brainstorming and pointless idea generation that attempted to bring some kind of revolution in the field of birding.
There came a point when I almost started having a felling that I was the next Salim Ali of India. Typical teenage hyper confidence!
And then came grad school, post grad, professional education, job etc etc. My birding could never find a suitable place in all these ambitious endeavors. It was lost, as silently as it was found.
But they say old habits don’t die so easily. I consider bird watching as the sweetest addiction I have ever had. IMT Nagpur campus, abundant with varied bird species, has re-kindled that fire. This time I guess I will not allow myself “To Kill a Mockingbird”