Chinnappa’s neighbour had come to the station to see him off. As the train chugged off from the small town of Kudappah, he bade good bye and said,
“Okay. See you then. Keep in touch. Best wishes as always.”
Chinnappa was very sad in leaving his village. He was migrating to Pune, a bigger city for better prospects. Failure of monsoon coupled with depleting ground water, rising costs of farming, and the mounting debts … all led to widespread starvation and suicides in the village. Many peasants had abandoned their lands and migrated to bigger cities for livelihood. Chinnappa also joined the band wagon of migrators now. His old-time friend Kittappa living in Pune promised to get him some work in his construction company.
Kittappa had come to the village recently for Ganesh Puja. On tenth day it was immersion day of the idol. The villagers bade good bye to God Ganesha and chanted, “Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudcha Varshi Lovkar Yaa. Oh! Dear Ganesha. Oh! Dear Ganesha, go now to come back soon next year.” The villagers told the same thing to Kittappa also, while sending him off. ‘Come back soon.’
Chinnappa was worried if he could come back happily to join his fellow men at the village for the festival in coming years. Lady Luck smiled on Kittappa and he could do it. What about the poor fellow Chinnappa? What the destiny had in store for him? God only knows. God Ganapati only knows. Whatever it was, it should be better than the present wretched living in the village.
The train gained momentum. Co-passengers gathered conversation with each other. In his compartment there were some more passengers. Many of them were going to Mumbai. Dr. Bharadwaaj was one of them. He had to go to Stockholm. As he had forgotten to book his rail ticket in advance to Mumbai, by upper class, he could get only an ordinary ticket at the last minute. Another passenger Amitabh, who was a journalist, asked him about his Stockholm visit.
Dr. Bharadwaaj had submitted papers for getting his Ph.D. It got approved in principal. He now had to go there and make a presentation and attend viva voce. If luck was in his favour, he would also be getting employed in the same university very soon. Amitabh smiled and said,
“One more migratory bird.” Pointing to Chinnappa, he said that he was one “and now you are another. Oh! Yes. The lady in the corner seat is also a migratory bird. She is going to Mumbai for modelling. Hello Dr. sir, what is your topic for Phd?”
Dr replied. “Climate Change and its impact on Environment. I dealt largely on the human errors which were the main causes for bringing Climate Change. Actually, in one chapter I referred to those migrant labourers causing huge damage to the cities they migrate into. All cities are bulging at their seams. The influx of migrants adds to the already existing woes on local sanitation, health and hygiene, education housing, roads, cleanliness, sewerage and so and so forth. But you see, you are putting me also in the same bracket of migrants. Am I a burden on their society? Foreign countries are known for their neat and clean surroundings.”
“You rightly said about the human error. Global warming may be one aspect for Climate Change, but human error was another strong element in making it worst.” Then he took out his briefcase and pulled out a papercutting. It was an article written by him about a bird which had fallen dead. In three photos which appeared in the article, there were some birds flying in the sky, then a few of them having fallen dead on the ground and then a stretch of vast dryland with scanty bushes and shrubs. He gave the papercutting to Dr and continued.
“This happened last month. A local friend asked me to come and see the place called Pakshiwanam. Have you ever been to Bigwaan Flamingo Bird Sanctuary near Pune on the way to Sholapur? A beautiful place with a long-stretched lake and swamps. Flamingos, gulls and other water birds throng the area. People consider the place very holy and observe the visit of the birds as a great privilege showered on them. They do not celebrate any festival requiring firecrackers, drum beatings, campfires etc. Anything which may scare the birds and shew them away are banned here. Even motor boats are not allowed. That was the true love the people of Bigwaan had for the visiting birds.
This Pakshiwanam was also similar to that Bigwaan Bird Sanctuary. But this was a small one in size. Lots and lots of migratory birds from far and wide were flocking into this Bird Asylum during their mating season. The winged friends would annually visit the area for roosting. Once the eggs were hatched, they would fly back to their destination. It was very-very unfortunate that the locals did not care about this unique natural phenomenon occurring in their locality. They started hunting the birds and stealing the eggs. Not contented with this, they even used the wet lands and marshy swamps as dumping grounds. The strong woody trees were cut for personal uses. Bushes and shrubs were taken away and used as firewood. Slowly, the number of birds coming to the area got dwindled. Horror of horrors, birds came from far off countries like Siberia, Netherland etc., and not finding shelter or food, fell dead. All because of exhaustion of long flight, thirsty and hunger. Change of habitat confused them.
When winter was frosty and unbearable in northern hemisphere, birds migrated to tropical countries with warm temperature in southern hemisphere. That was bound to be there. But alas! The birds could never anticipate there could be one more threat. If the winter there with choppy winds, was a natural problem, here the disappearance of shade and shelter was a man-made catastrophe. The birds died an unnatural death.”
Amitabh continued. “I got it published in my newspaper and our al lied magazine. People came to know about it and a few enthusiasts visited Pakshivanam. A bird watcher activist drew the attention of the villagers. He highlighted the advantages of bird sanctuaries as to how they enriched the soil, helped in balancing ecology, how the endangered flora and fauna were saved and how greenery was protected and so on. He showed the third photo of my newspaper depicting the dryland and categorically emphasized that it was due to tree felling and the pollutants filling in the erstwhile wetland. When he told them if Dr Salim Ali, a famous Ornithologist, was alive, he would simply commit suicide for having killed these migratory birds. They had never heard of that famous Ornithologist. But they realized it was an unforgivable neglect on their part to have ignored the importance of Bird Sanctuaries.
The Activist Aaakaash, who was running an N G O in the name of FEATHERMAN showed them some videos of bird sanctuaries located in various parts of India, Bigwaan Agnipankh (Flamingos) at Pune, Salim Ali Sanctuary at Goa, one at Vedanthangal, one in Kerala, Rajasthan, Haryana and so on. Every stated needed to have one such sanctuary.
Dr Bharadwaaj wanted to know if the people changed for better. Amitabh said that he was coming from Pakshivanam only after recording the latest developments consequent upon the turning point of Aakaash opening their eyes. For the benefit of all passengers in the compartment he narrated the rest of the story.
Aakaash told the villagers that the current year’s season for the birds was not yet over. So, they could mend their ways and start rebuilding. He asked them to revive the wetland and plant quick growing species of green vegetation. He also advised them to dig some big pits. Then he brought some heavy machines and cranes. His team-mates uprooted some trees having thickly grown branches which were situated elsewhere and planted them alive along the border areas of wetland. It was a quick remedy. It might take some time for the uprooted trees to get back a new life in the new planted area. Nevertheless, it would help the birds to use the trees as a saving grace. Similar make-shift arrangements were made for food and water. Just to ensure that not a bird should fall dead.
Amitabh showed the recent photos and videos of Pakshivanam with villagers at work in full swing. Chinnappa pointed out to a particular shot in the video, where he sighted a small bird flying in the sky and was very excited about it. He wanted to know if it was a migratory bird. He already identified himself as being one migratory bird, was quite eager to know. Amitabh remembered Aakaash saying that it was a migratory bird but not from a far-flung foreign country. It was a starling myna, looking like a multi coloured parrot of a distant place found in India, Pakistan and elsewhere. Amitabh was bent upon showing and explaining everything to Dr PhD for the single reason that the migrant labourers need not be construed as a nuisance to the city, which in fact was their second home.
Before leaving Pakshivanam. Aakaash asked Amitabh to revisit the place in the next season and see how it got restored to its full glory. “Now you go but come back to see next year. Pudcha Varshi Lovkar Yaa.”
A vendor selling eatables went by their side. Dr Bharadwaj called him out “Hey you Parrot Halwa! Please come here. Give one plate for all of us here.”
The vendor politely said he was having Carrot halwa and not Parrot halwa. He was also having Beetroot halwa, Dudhi Halwa made of bottle-gourd and pumpkin halwa. Since he did not have sufficient quantity of halwa to cater to all, he was told ‘Go now. But come back soon’ for giving halwa to all. An air of ease and comfort flowed in the compartment.
When Chinnappa entered the compartment, the lady aspiring to be a model was the centre of attraction. Later when smart looking Tie-suit-boot clad Dr Bharadwaj told him about his visiting Stockholm, he became the hero. Later when Amitabh narrated Pakshivanam birds, he stole the show and became prominent. Finally, when he told Dr Bharadwaj that migratory birds enrich soil and add to environment and so were the migratory labour force, everyone’s eyeballs turned to Chinnappa. He suddenly shot to fame. He was happy indeed.
Somebody in the compartment alerted. Train reaching Pune shortly. He got ready and took leave from everyone. All of them wished him heartily, “Go now. We will meet soon sometime. May God Ganpati Bappa bless you. Ganpati Bappa Morya. Pudcha Varshi Lovkar Yaa.”
He too responded. Ganpati Bappa Morya.
Be it God Ganpati or migratory birds or he himself all them were sure of coming back very soon. The God to His devotees, the birds to their original dwelling place and the migrant labourers to their hometown. Pudcha Varshi Lovkar Yaa is a very special mantra.
Was it addressed to God only? He knew it was for the home-coming birds. That included him also.