The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A story to tell, on the wings of a song

They symbolise unbridled freedom and the sky is the limit for them. The neighbourhood tuntuni, cockatoo, sparrow, shalik, parrot, benebou, kingfisher, chokh gelo, weaver bird, pankouri, mynah, nilkantha, pigeon and even the nondescript crow are all part of Das's sing-song world.

The senior librarian at National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation under the government of India has written over 22 songs on 22 different varieties of birds and feels there is no end to the flight of fancy. 'So far I've written only on birds of Bengal, but given a chance, I would like to make all birds my friends from the world over,' smiles Das, ruing the lack of opportunity to carry the work forward at the same time.

While the artist in her identifies with the songs of the birds and their free spirit, there is another purpose to Das's endeavour. The simple but moving songs are thoroughly enjoyed by children, says Das, herself a mother of two. 'Today, children have forgotten to derive joy from nature and the simple things in life. And not much is being written exclusively for children anymore. Whenever I have had the opportunity to face a little audience, I've noticed they and their parents simply love dancing to my songs,' elaborates Das.

Though most of it is aimed at children, many of the songs have a deeper philosophy derived from the individual characteristics of the birds. The shalik's tendency to flock in pairs, for example, inspired Das to tell a moving story about a teenage girl married into a rich zamindar family, who fails to find love and peace in spite of all the material comforts and wants to leave it all behind just to be part of the shalik's loving world. Then there's the mynah song derived from the fact that the bird sings in an almost human voice. In her song, Das invites the bird to sing with her and gives it the status of an artist.

In fact, Das believes that all birds are artistes and it causes her a great deal of anguish when she witnesses birds being caged or ill-treated. 'Live bird shows where inbred varieties are paraded makes me feel very sad. The birds clearly don't enjoy the experiment and lose out on their individual identity. I wish somebody would take up their cause,' feels Das.

She would love to compile her work in a music album for children, provided she finds sponsors. Any takers'

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