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The Fall of a Sparrow

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Item Code: NAL614
Author: Salim Ali
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 1987
ISBN: 9780195621273
Pages: 328 (46 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 370 gm
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Shipped to 153 countries
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More than 1M+ customers worldwide
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100% Made in India
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23 years in business
Back of the Book

This autobiography of the celebrated ornithologist, the late Salim Ali, describes his life and the changing world in which he lived, with characteristic wit and elegance. It is an eminently readable book-for the birdwatcher, the ecologist, and the general reader.


Living three-quarters of a century with no thought of writing one's memoirs and then suddenly deciding to do so is a bad business, I realize. With practically no archival material by way of preserved correspondence, diaries, etc., and only tricky memory to fall back on, the task is unsatisfactory. In the circumstances it took considerable persuasion from friends and 'fans' to evoke in me the courage to write an autobiography. This is, however, a useful way of letting curious people know how and whence I contracted the germs of ornithology at a time when the disease was practically unknown among Indians, and of showing the development of my scientific interest in birds. The writing of this narrative, under duress as it were, began eight years ago without any proper planning or chronological sequence-more or less in the nature of random re-collections and reminiscences jotted down lackadaisically in bits and pieces, as the spirit moved. But for the kindly though merciless nagging of well-meaning friends and relations it would have floundered in the mire of procrastination.

To the many-too numerous to identify individually-who have helped to recall long-forgotten happenings and who have helped in other ways, I am deeply grateful. Most of all, my thanks are due to R.E. Hawkins (Hawk) for agreeing so cheerfully to sort out the jumbled narrative and reduce the chaos to some semblance of order. Among the others to whom I feel specially beholden are J .S. Serrao , possessed of an enviable memory, who has been my indispensable aide and archivist for over three decades; and to the enthusiastic Archna Mehrotra who did all the tedious typing and retyping of drafts, and who by constant prodding and helpful suggestions was largely responsible for bringing to a close a venture that had begun to seem unending. I am aware that under the circumstances many incidents and personalities that should have found a place in the story may have inadvertently been overlooked. But eighty eventful years is a long time to pack into these few printed pages, and all I can do at this stage is to deplore their non-inclusion.


Prologue v
1 Special Providence 1
2 Schooldays 11
3 Burma 1914-17 20
4 Interlude at Bombay and Marriage 30
5 Memories of Burma 38
6 Bombay 1924-9 44
7 Jobs 1923-9 and Germany 1929-30 54
8 Hyderabad State Ornithological Survey 63
9 Interlude in the Nilgiris 78
10 Dehra Dun and Bahawalpur 1934-9 86
11 Afganistan 93
12 Ornithological Pilgrimage to Kailas Manasarovar 1945 104
13 Loke Wan Tho 121
14 Flamingo City 132
15 Bharatpur 143
16 Bastar 1949 152
17 Motorcycling in Europe 157
18 Hamid Ali 169
19 Five Other Men 179
20 Scientific Ornithology and Shikar 195
21 The Books I Wrote 202
22 Prizes 215
23 The Thrills of Birdwatching Epilogue 228

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