The Gift of Flight

The Gift of Flight

How many times have you seen an injured chicken lying on the road and walked past,not caring or not knowing how to help?

Whenever the fire brigade rescues a bird in distress,it places a call to Chandubhai,the man who tends to Mumbai’s wounded winged creatures

How many times have you seen an injured chicken lying on the road and walked past,not caring or not knowing how to help? How many times have you felt the need to call the fire brigade to rescue a pigeon trapped on the tree growing outside your window? While most of us would leave the veterinary work to specialists or animal activists,58 year-old Chandubhai has devoted 40 years of his life to tend to the wounds of the winged creatures.

Whenever the fire brigade officials get a call about birds trapped on trees or lying injured on the road,they make their first call to Chandubhai aka Chandrakant R Shah,a diamond trader by profession and a devoted bird and animal lover at heart.

“I was never a stranger to animals as my whole childhood was spent in Bhuleshwar,in the area neighbouring the cowshed. However,it was only in 1995 that I began tending to injured birds. That was the time when I was consumed by a severe illness and a spiritual leader told me that soothing the injuries of the voiceless would help relieve my pain. Then,a friend told me about the fire brigade’s bird rescue operations and I offered to help them with the medical treatment of the injured birds,” says Chandubhai who now lives with his wife and son in a typical Gujarati locality in Charni Road.


His contribution has reduced the fire brigade’s work load considerably,even earning him the name ‘Chandubhai Jeevdayawala’ (Chandubhai who safeguards life)

“The fire brigade officials rescue a bird and hand it over to me or sometimes if a bird is lying injured on the road,they inform me and I reach there first and take care of it. I carry a medical kit in my two-wheeler and if it is a minor injury I treat the bird myself,or else I take it to the animal hospital,” says Chandubhai.

Chandubhai’s efforts were not restricted to helping treat the birds alone,he also shoulders the logistical responsibilities to make the helping process more effective. “I have provided the fire brigade units with a cage each to keep the rescued bird till I arrive and take it. It made it easier to move the bird without hurting it or us touching it. Similarly in places where there are no fire brigade units,some shopkeepers agreed to keep baskets in their shops to lodge an injured bird till help arrives,” he says.

Chandubhai’s fondest memories are about how he helped rescue an owl from Mantralaya and even helped tend to rabbits being reared at R R Patil’s residence. And his selfless work is not restricted to birds alone. “I attend to the birds found injured in Byculla,Nana Chowk,Fort,Colaba,Bhendi Bazar,etc. However when I get calls about animals needing help or any creature needing assistance in other parts of the city,I inform the NGOs that work in those areas,” he says.

Despite dedicating four decades of his life to the welfare of the voiceless creatures,Chandubhai’s zeal remains unaffected. And he claims nothing can change it,not even his first heart attack that has forced him to be bed-borne for the past month. “My son also helps birds now. My 12 year-old neighbour rescues crows and runs to my bedside and tells me about it. I am touched that there are some who would like to follow my example. Fifty-eight years of life,40 years of selfless service and a life-long sense of satisfaction. What more do I need?” he asks.