Arjun Singh, 48, lost his father and wife in quick succession, in 2004 and 2005. Then followed a long spell of depression and “utter loneliness”, until in 2007 a sparrow chick that had fallen from a tree in the courtyard of his house transformed his life for good.
He tended to the bird for a few days. It recovered and flew off, kicking off a passionate association with sparrows. Today, about 8,000 birds of this fast disappearing specie live in and around his sprawling ancestral home in Neraipur village of Rohtas district, about 170km south east of Bihar capital Patna.
At his call, aao aao (come, come), the birds descend from skies and eat the grains he offers them every day. It has been estimated that every year he feeds at least six quintals of rice grains to the birds.
“When I sit down for lunch, these lovely birds gather around me and try to pick food from my plate. When I walk around in my house they don’t fly away, but just step aside and keep chirping. They have accepted me as their own. They have removed my loneliness,” said Singh.
“The death of my father and wife left I was completely clueless. The mental agony was unbearable. My daughter was just five that time and my brothers living in Sasaram took care of her, but I just felt lonely and deeply depressed,” added Singh, a post-graduate in chemistry.