July 2014. Paris.

 

This was the day I realised that it isn’t cookies that make birds fearless but children who simply love them. We were waiting in a queue to enter Notre-Dame de Paris when a small girl said to her grandfather, ‘Will those sparrows come to me, granpa?’

‘Yes, they can, if you want them to,’ the grandfather simply said, and then added, ‘but the cookie that you are eating might help them see you.’

‘Yes, they need to see I am here,’ agreed the girl and held the cookie high.

The sparrows flew in and circled around her, hopped on to a nearby ledge and watched her carefully. She just stood there, motionless, just murmuring, ‘Come, dear birds. Come to me.’

The queue too stood motionless and not wanting to move restlessly ahead as it had been doing the past few minutes. Entering Notre-Dame de Paris was suddenly not as important as to find out if the birds would come to this child or not.

Then one flew in and nervously perched on the tightly closed fingers of the little girl. This sparrow did not nibble or even advance towards the cookie held in the fingers.

It flew back suddenly and there was a lot of chirruping among the group. And they came… flapping their wings to be stationery right in front of the cookie-holding hand, like a chopper hovering. Some landed on her fingers too… and in a few minutes the cookie was devoured by them.

The little girl laughed.

Here was a lesson on human-animal relationship unfolding before our eyes, and the crowd slowly inched towards the entrance without being pushy or restless.

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At first my eyes were focused on the Notre Dame, admiring its architecture... and the bird or the girl did not matter...

At first my eyes were focused on the Notre Dame, admiring its architecture… and the bird or the girl did not matter…

When I saw a sparrow perched on the little girl's extended hand, my focus shifted...

When I saw a sparrow perched on the little girl’s extended hand, my focus shifted…

And I saw how friendly the birds were... or was it that they were fearless of the little girl?

And I saw how friendly the birds were… or was it that they were fearless of the little girl?

Yes, this little girl in Paris was happy... and fascinated...

Yes, this little girl in Paris was happy… and fascinated…

...and even the people around stopped being bothered about the long queue and looked at this drama

…and even the people around stopped being bothered about the long queue and looked at this drama

The dramam of the sparrows rushing in for a little bite... the hover... the connect...

The dramam of the sparrows rushing in for a little bite… the hover… the connect…

The sparrow hovering...

The sparrow hovering…

The Paris sparrows are happy!

The Paris sparrows are happy!

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Arvind Passey
07 January 2015