Blind ornithologist seeks to create digitised bird-call directory

Meet Arup Chakraborty, 54, an employee of Eastern Railway's (ER) commercial division at the Sealdah railway station. Chakraborty is a well-known ornithologist, though for him the dictionary meaning of the word as bird watcher would have to be changed.

He is also an ardent high-altitude trekker and a visitor to various wildlife sanctuaries across India. "I developed this habit of listening to birds when I was just a kid. I wanted to see the world but could not as I'd lost my vision at a very tender age due to meningitis.

"Sitting by the side of the window in my bedroom, I used to listen to different sounds of birds chirping. Initially, I found it quite difficult to identify one sound from the other. But then I conquered my difficulties," Chakraborty told IANS.
Now, Chakraborty wishes to create a digitised bird-call directory with his huge collections of chirps.

Chakraborty, who completed his schooling from Calcutta Blind School at Behala, graduated from south Kolkata's Ashutosh College. He joined the railways as an announcer in 1978. Later he enrolled his name in the membership list of Prakriti (nature) Samshad -- a city-based NGO that works with amateur ornithologists.
"The passion to enjoy nature with feeling used to haunt me even when I used to be busy with the railway announcement job. I wanted to climb snow-capped mountains and feel the greenery of forests," he said, adding he had taped the calls of over 200 types of birds.

Inspired by famous Bengali travel writer Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyay, Chakraborty toured various forests in north Bengal's Dooars, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala and the northeast. He  trekked the Garhwal and Kumaon Himalayas, and   also trekked to the Pindari glacier located in the upper reaches of the Kumaon Himalayas.
Chakraborty completed a special training course at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI), Darjeeling,   in 1990. It was designed for visually impaired trekkers.
"Now, my only dream is to create the directory of bird calls which will help thousands of people to identify birds easily. I hope after retirement I will be able to manage adequate time to work on this.

"I also have a dream to impart computer education to visually challenged students so that they can progress in their lives as well," he said.

Appreciating Chakraborty's rare qualities, Eastern Railway spokesperson Samir Goswami told IANS: "He's adding a new dimension to ornithology. We encourage him for his welcome initiative."

His colleagues also praise Chakraborty's adventurous spirit.
"He (Chakraborty) first encouraged me to visit forests and took me to north Bengal. After that, I got addicted to the green charm of Indian forests. Now I have become his life-long companion on forest tours," said Amit Ghosh, chief controller (coaching), Sealdah.

"To me, Chakraborty has crossed his physical impediment and gone beyond human limitations.
"Now, should we call this person a physically challenged? Or a differently-abled man who has enough guts to challenge his physical inabilities?" Ghosh asked.

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