I hate to say goodbye to this place; it is all I have ever known! But I have no choice. I am the last of my kind.

My name is Speckles. Cute, huh? My parents called me that because the speckles on my feathers really stood out. I was pampered a lot – after all, I was the youngest in our small community. In fact, I was considered a miracle sparrow since I was the first baby born in years!

That was no fun, you know. I had no friends my age to play with, and the crows were too rough. My parents were rather old, as were most of the others in our community.

Times were hard for us. Food was not easy to get, and nesting places were few. From what I had heard, many sparrows had migrated in search of a new place. The promised land, they called it. They were supposed to come back with the news if they found it, but it seems not one ever did!

My parents were born and raised in this city. They too dreamed of the promised land, but with a child to raise, and with age catching up, they couldn’t take the chance.

They told me stories of ancient legends that spoke of trees and bushes, of small human settlements that lived in peace with nature. These stories had been passed down from generation to generation; of how the land was rich and generous, of how all creatures lived with dignity, of an era of plenty.

They spoke of abundant water, clean, sweet and pure; of good feeding and fresh air. They spoke of birds of different hues and plumages, of communities that played and worked together.

And then the city grew. The grey spread. Cement replaced rich soil. Concrete buildings replaced trees. Roads and rails replaced green airways. The grey spread. It spread.

The trees were cut down. The land grew barren. The water turned brackish. The grey spread. It spread relentlessly.

The heat increased yearly. The food diminished. The air turned heavy with soot and dust. The grey spread. It spread remorselessly.

My parents died when I was still young. The last few elders of our community have died. And I am the last. The last sparrow.

Tomorrow, while I yet have youth and strength, I will seek out the promised land. I will seek it out because there is no life in this city.

I hate to say goodbye to this place; it is all I have ever known! But I have no choice. I am the last of my kind. The last sparrow.

* * * * * * * * *

[This is a reflection on the spreading urbanisation across the country. The victims of this malaise are first the rich soil, fresh water and trees, then the beautiful creatures that live in harmony with that soil and water and those trees.

In my childhood, when Mumbai was Bombay, and Bombay was green, we had roads lined by trees, big, sprawling, gentle giants that stretched out their hands in friendship across the roads and paths that crisscrossed the then slow city.

These green behemoths shaded us, welcomed us, were our refuge during games and playtime. They hosted squirrels, bats, and birds of different kinds. Sparrows would twitter in their branches, friendly little birds who would dart down for a morsel, and add their music to life.

Once a sparrow became our guest. Having hurt her wing when she fell, we took her in and nursed her, learning from my mother how to nurture and feed her till she was strong enough to fly again on her own. While she left us sad at her departure, she visited our little verandah frequently, as if to say, “Hey, don’t worry. I’m doing great.”

In school years and in college years, sparrows and squirrels, along with kites, crows, tree lizards, frogs and toads, geckos and the occasional friendly snake were common companions.

But the city speeded up and the later years saw these lovely creatures diminishing as cement and concrete replaced rich soil, ugly buildings replaced graceful trees, and artificial lakes or cement covers replaced natural water bodies. And today, we struggle to see a sparrow, to hear its friendly twitter, to be gladdened by its presence.

What are we doing to our Earth?]