MY teacher was the world-famous scientist and bird expert Dr. Sálim Ali. He was slim and frail-looking, so we students referred to him as ‘Old Man’ even though we knew he was actually strong and full of energy! This may sound rude, but actually it was said out of our great affection for him and respect for his extraordinary knowledge.
What made us happy was that he never wanted us to stay in the classroom! He expected us to be adventurous and go out to jungles, mountains, rivers and lakes to study birds. It was a joy to be taught by him and to learn about how birds lived in nature — the different types of nests they made, the food they ate and how they migrated.
From the time he was a young boy, Sálim Ali loved birds. At first, what he liked best was to shoot them! Nowadays, killing or harming birds or any other wildlife is not allowed, but at that time, when Sálim Ali was a child, it was a common sport. He would proudly carry a new air-gun that a doting uncle had gifted him and wander about the gardens and open areas around the house with a bunch of his many cousins and siblings, trying to shoot every bird in sight, even tiny sunbirds and sparrows.
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April - May 2017