Nikunj:The Bird Lover

Posted by Neerad Trivedi on Jan 16, 2012

We met Nikunj during one of our trainings. This young not so shy boy struggling to give an introduction was practicing for a presentation we had asked the students to make. During this preparation he told me sir; I want to be able to make good presentations quickly so I can tell people where I come from.  In all of trainings we’ve done before nobody felt the need to talk about his village or the place rather they would focus on how to best describe themselves. I curiously asked him, where do you come from? He said I am from to Khijadiya bird sanctuary and said whenever you want to come there, pls. call me and I will show you around. I promised myself to visit him.

The day arrived when I lived up to my promise of visiting him. I was very excited to go there as birds and animals have always fascinated me but my excitement was only a miniscule percentage of Nikunjs’. The entire family was there to greet me – Grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, uncles and aunts and all their nephews and nieces. My first reaction was Oh my god! After the introductions we had tea and snacks and then left for the bird sanctuary. Nikunj’s knowledge of the birds and flora fauna is amazing. His love for birds started when he was a little boy and would often spend hours and hours looking at them and try to know more about them. Often when ornithologists visited Khijadiya, he would come spend a lot of time talking to them and listen to their stories. He learnt English when he started his graduation. He is one of the four in a population of 1600 in the entire village to have studied so much. Thereafter, he started reading more and more about birds their background, breeding, migratory pattern and so on. Much to my surprise this amazing destination has only one forest officer and just one guide who can only converse in Gujarati. Nikunj is the only person at Khijadiya sanctuary, who can converse in more than 3 languages and speaks decent English. He has helped several tourists from all over the world.

But what completely took me by surprise was when we heard the staff at the bird sanctuary telling their friends – See he is Nikunj and he takes acts as a guide for free and they started laughing as if he is doing a foolish act. I then asked Nikunj, what inspired you to do this and he had the most simple and amazing reply. I love birds and I love khijadiya – my birth place. I want everyone in the world to know of this beautiful place. The phenomenal combination of salt water on one side and sweet water on the other attracts maximum variety of birds from all over the world. He says, I don’t charge money because I do it for my love for birds. If they offer I accept gladly but I never ask. I want to help spread the message that this sanctuary has some of the most amazing variety of migratory birds and one of the best in the country. He has no intention to set up a tourist company or anything like that. He just lives in the present, enjoying with birds by his side and helping tourists from all over the world to know more about this beautiful place.

During the entire day, He took me to all the favourite spots, his farm, served me home cooked food and showed me all the different variety of birds we could spot. He has left in my mind an indelible impression of simplicity, honesty and true love for nature. He is pursuing his CS in Rajkot, so whenever he has his vacations or some spare reading time, he heads home in search of new birds that would have migrated from far off lands. I would never forget the warmth, eagerness to learn and share, deep sense of attachment to nature and his love for birds. Not to forget some of the best photographs I could take with his help, some of which I have attached with this blog. He breathes gift economy each day and the best part is that he is not even aware of it.

Posted by Neerad Trivedi on Jan 16, 2012 | permalink

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