Delhi’s Nest Man Rakesh Khatri grooms eco-warriors

Childhood interest becomes life-long quest


January 2, 2023

/ By / New Delhi

Delhi’s Nest Man Rakesh Khatri grooms eco-warriors

Rakesh Khatri, popularly known as the “Nest Man of India”, has been building nests for the birds, using eco-friendly substances

In an attempt to help save dwindling population of birds in the national capital, Rakesh Khatri, popularly known as the “Nest Man of India”, has been building nests for the birds, using eco-friendly substances. His efforts seem to be bearing fruit as many have joined his mission and he says that the birds’ population has begun to stabilise.

Rate this post

Holding a bag full of bird food, 60-year-old Rakesh Khatri, a photographer living in East Delhi’s Mayur Vihar, starts his day by feeding birds and keeping water for them in his neighbourhood. By the time this morning ritual is over, a group of about 10 persons, belonging to different age groups as well as coming from various parts of Delhi, sits with Khatri to learn the art of making eco-friendly nests for birds, an art that Khatri seems to have perfected over 50 years and which seems to have become his sole mission in life.

Khatri developed the passion for building nests when he a small child. He remembers the incident that triggered the passion in him. “It all started when I was a 7-year-old boy and I noticed that my grandfather had removed some bricks under the roof of our three-storeyed house in Old Delhi. So, I asked him why he was doing that and he explained to me that it was for sparrows who come here to build their nests,’’ Khatri tells Media India Group.

But it was not instantaneously that Khatri aped his grandfather and began to save the birds. In fact, initially, like many children, he destroyed the nests. “When I destroyed the nests, I was scolded by my grandfather, who explained to me the importance of a nest for birds in the city, where there are few trees. Then I realised that I should not be destroying their shelters, but instead help the birds in building their nests in places where they cannot,’’ Khatri adds.

He adds that the elders at his home would also warn him not to switch on fans as it may injure the birds that would set up nests near the ceiling or in the  skylights of the room.

In many ways, Khatri went a step further than his grandfather and other elders. Instead of making space for birds under the roof, Khatri began to create new nests for them by using waste materials like used coconut shells. “Initially, I collected used coconut shells along with my friend to see if a nest could be made and whether the birds would use it. It was an experiment as we did not know if it would work. So, I made nests out of it and placed them in an area and every day I would go there to see if the nests were occupied. Finally, on the 10th day, I could spot a sparrow inside one of the 40 shells that we had placed. Though it was just one shell, it made me believe that I was doing something right and I should continue doing it to help the Mother Earth,’’ he recounts.

Since that day, Khatri took it upon himself to continue the work of building nests and it is an activity that keeps him busy over 50 years later. Though he has not kept an accurate count, Khatri reckons that he has built more than 250,000 nests in a bid to save house sparrows. So much so that now he is known as the Nest Man of India.

“Due to urbanisation in different cities of India, the number of sparrows has fallen and are on a verge of extinction now because in urban areas, there is a lot of construction and trees are cut down. As a result, many birds have disappeared from the city. Only we, humans, are responsible for it because we do not care about our surroundings and there is a rise in global warming across the world,” says Khatri.

As part of his outreach to spread the message about importance of preservation, he established the Eco Roots Foundation in 2012. The organisation encourages children and youngsters to take care of the environment. It also works to raise awareness of e-waste and climate change and organises nature tours.

“I have organised more than 3,500 environmental awareness workshops and Ted Talks across the country. I must have taught at least 1 million children so far how to build shelters for birds,” says Khatri.

As part of Eco Roots, he continues to train the people, ranging from children to senior citizens, on how to make shelter homes for birds using eco-friendly materials. He also can be seen providing lectures about how to save the environment while he guides them about the making of shelters and tell them to hang these at any tree so that birds can come and stay in them.

Khatri uses a variety of material, biodegradable or wastes, like jute or plastic as well as wood to make birdhouses. His ‘students’ say they have learnt enormously from Khatri.

Nita Sukhdev is a 35-year-old housewife Khatri’s neighbourhood. She has been a regular visitor to Khatri and was influenced at a young age by Khatri’s zeal for saving the environment. She went on to join his organisation to learn new things and is a regular attendee at his workshops. “Since I have joined the Eco roots Foundation, I have learnt a lot and have noticed changes in myself towards our environment and these workshops have been very helpful for me ad it has developed a sense of care for birds in me also. Making nests and spreading awareness is the need of the hour,’’ Sukhdev tells Media India Group.

Ramesh Sharma, a 70-year-old retired government, is another visitor at Khatri’s workshops. He says that besides teaching him something new, the workshops also help him in a more positive manner.  “These workshops have helped me in a way that I am not ill or anything but instead of that I feel lively when I am around the people who have the same zeal and learn new things each day,” Sharma says.

Khatri has bagged many honours for his efforts. These include a Limca Book of Records award and there is also an entire chapter on him in some school books. But perhaps the biggest reward for Khatri would be the difference that his mission has begun to make on the ground.

“In Delhi, the count of sparrows has grown from last five years. I am trying to save birds from disappearing in the near future. I have changed minds of many people who are joining my mission now and which has given me a hope that we can bring a change with mini steps,” Khatri adds.

He says that he will continue to strive for his mission, irrespective of age. “Age is not the factor to stop us from doing anything, it is a will which keeps us going. There was a 92-year-old man who used to come here to learn the making of nests and attend the workshops. I see more people are joining in and contributing to the nature in many ways. Different group of people have their own initiatives and by that are helping others and the nature also,” he says.

As his workshop ends and he bids goodbye to his students, Khatri leaves them with a thought for the day. “If we cannot grow trees, the least we can do is adopt trees and nourish them and build nests on them so that it benefits both the environment and us,” he says, waving a fond goodbye to the motley group of ‘students’.




    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *