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Haveli of house sparrows: Bijnor’s Sheikh family turn their 300-yr-old mansion into avian’s paradise

MEERUT A 300-year-old haveli (mansion) in Bijnor’s Seohara area has all the architectural grandeur to turn the eyeballs of the passers-by and yet its archs and pristine white paint are not the first things an individual notices about the house. It’s the mellifluous sounds of chirping sparrows that take all the limelight.

Birds are provided with food, shelter & water; forest dept appreciates efforts. (HT Photo)

Home to several sparrows and a resting point for several other birds, the haveli — which boasts of a rich garden with a lot of trees — has earned the name of ‘Gauraiya Wali Haveli’ among locals and its inhabitors — the Sheikh brothers — are known for their affection towards avians.

The brother duo shared an interesting anecdote on how this love for birds developed. “My brother Ali Arif and I were less than 10 years old when we went to the forest for a stroll. On our way back to the haveli, we picked up a bird nest. Our mother was infuriated. She asked us to go back to the jungle and place the nest back at the exact same place from where we had picked it up in the first place. When we returned again, mother didn’t serve food but asked us to go to the terrace and keep a pot of water for birds and spread grains for them,” said 53-year-old Jamaal Siddiqui, who inherited the haveli from his father Nawab Akbar Hussain Sheikh.

Jamaal further said, “This little incident taught us the importance of caring for birds and we developed a fascination towards them. Our family has been taking care of birds since then. In a bid to sensitise people, we also distribute sparrow nests and clay pots to people. It is essential for us to protect these birds. They are crucial to the existence of humans as well.”

Family’s next generation is also continuing the tradition of feeding birds. “My nephew Saab Sheikh and son Sheikh Faraz, along with other family members, take care of all house sparrows. We feed them grains and other eatables every day. At any time, thousands of sparrows can be found on the trees planted here and inside the premises of the haveli,” Jamaal added.

In a similar vein, Jamaal’s son Faraz said that local residents and other family members — including Dr Manoj Verma, Nouman Ali Akbar, Vania Siddiqui, Shaad Ali Akbar, Afsar Choudhary, and Akram Ansari — also take part in activities organised to sensitise people towards bird protection. “Rakesh Khatri, popular as the ‘Nest Man of India’, also visited the haveli and appreciated the efforts of the Sheikh family in protecting these birds,” added Faraz.

The administration too has taken cognisance of the family’s efforts. “It was amazing to see hundreds of house sparrows in the haveli. The residents of the haveli treats them as their extended family and takes care of their needs. People should learn from them and come forward to protect these birds by providing them food, water, and shelter,” said Gyan Singh, sub-divisional officer of the forest department.

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