Painter Postmaster and Sparrows

A painter-postmaster, Goa's oldest surviving temple, a dates and olive millionaire and a sparrow conservationist are all part of our newsletter this week

Rashmi Pratap
New Update
Painter Postmaster and Sparrows

Painter Postmaster and Sparrows

Dear Reader,

Like all children, I also eagerly looked forward to annual summer vacations as a kid. My brother, friends and I played indoor games in the afternoon, and as soon as the clock struck 5, we would step out for cycling and other outdoor activities. With trees and plants around us, the summers did not feel even half as hot as they are now.

One such evening, we saw a baby sparrow lying on the ground. It had survived an attack by a bigger bird but was gasping for breath. We picked it up and fed it some water using a dropper. It couldn't fly, and we allowed it to roam in our backyard. After two-three days, my brother placed it on the boundary wall ,and it flew away. We were happy as well as relieved.

This memory came back rushing when I read my colleague Narayani’s story on the Coimbatore-based Sparrow Conservation Foundation. Set up by B Pandiarajan, the foundation has put up over 3,000 nesting boxes, free of cost, across Tamil Nadu to help sparrows make their nests.

Sparrows, which prefer to live around human habitation over forests or grasslands, are fast disappearing from urban areas due to rising concretization and the unavailability of food grains. But they are a key component of the ecosystem and that’s why Pandiarajan’s work is extremely important. A school dropout, he has been instrumental in bringing back sparrows to urban backyards. 

Last week, I spoke to a postmaster-painter from West Bengal. His simple life story reiterates that if you love something, you can definitely find time for it. In Kalam Patua’s case, it was the love for painting. Born in a family of painters and idol makers, Kalam learnt patachitra scroll painting in childhood. 

After completing his studies, he got a postmaster's job at the local post office. Kalam was a postmaster by the day and a painter by the night. Life’s twists and turns brought him face-to-face with Kalighat paintings, which were last made in the 1930s around the Kalighat temple in Kolkata. He set out on a mission to revive them and after researching for two years, he began to make Kalighat paintings for friends and acquaintances.

Following his success, now many artists are practising Kalighat paintings once again and the art form has been resurrected. Kalam retired last year and is now fully dedicated to making Kalighat paintings.

My colleague Riya spoke to an enterprising organic farmer from Pilani in Rajasthan. An ex-NSG commando, Mukesh Manjoo was posted at the Delhi Airport when he took VRS to be with his ageing parents in Pilani. 

Mukesh earns over Rs six lakh per acre from the organic farming of dates and olives, which he doesn’t sell in the market. Top five-star hotels and other buyers procure the products from his farm where he also grows sweet lime and other fruits. The story meticulously details the economics of profitable dates farming, making it an interesting read. Do look it up.

Our Sunday piece is on Goa’s 12th-century Tambdi Surla Mahadev stone temple, which has been built without any mortar or adhesives. Still an active place of worship, it is the only temple that survived after the Portuguese invasion of Goa in 1561.

And in the Money section, Karan has written on a subject of our readers’ choice – stock market investment tips for beginners. So if you are a first-time investor or fence sitter, you may want to go through it. 

Since Independence Day is around the corner, do read our interview with freedom fighter Rameshwar Chaudhary. My colleague Urvashi met him in 2020 when he was 102 years old. He passed away in January 2022. His story, however, is timeless. It gives us a glimpse into the tough life of pre-Independence India and why we should treasure our freedom. Thankfully, we don’t have to pay taxes on smoke emitted from homes or spreading dari (sheet) in public places!

Happy Independence Day!





Coimbatore’s Sparrow Man brings back birds with nesting boxes


Kalam Patua: The postmaster who revived Bengal’s Kalighat paintings


How this farmer earns Rs 6 lakh per acre from organic farming of dates