Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gene Capsule

A typical summer evening. Scorching afternoon sun was now a big orange ball at the horizon. Sparrows were gathering on the shehtoot tree in the garden. Hundreds of them, discussing their activities of the day before they go to sleep. Maina was singing in different tunes on the Gulmohar. I have now recognized more than twelve of the sixteen different ways it can sing. Pegions could be seen in swarms circling around the eleven storey academic building. They go round and round and round. Disappear and then reappear again from behind the building. Jacky was being entertained by the pups that in between their play were catching its furry tail. Jacky was not growling at them. He was in a generous mood. The lizard on the bougainvillea was giving pragmatic slanting look to any movements around. A female sparrow sitting on the wire used for drying clothes was adjusting it's feathers. It shifted its position to the sweet neem and was now rubbing it's beak with the twigs. It chirped once and then flew to join the congregation on the shehtoot. No single sparrow seemed disengaged. Every one wants to talk. There are always such gatherings in the evening. Sometimes on the lush bougainvillea and sometimes on the shehtoot. Hear them separately and you find different patterns. When they hop around the bush you might hear chi-chi-chew, chi- chi-chew. When the males try to impress their wives they spread their wings, push their heads inside and hop around the female acting juvenile chirping in a manner little siblings do; little psychiatrists at work trying to bring out the motherly instinct of their partners. My sister got irritated when they did that. "I feel like hitting them with a shoe" she said. The phone was ringing for quite sometime now. I bent from the chair to pick it up .Somebody else picked it up from other room. So I kept surfing the channels as I watched the sparrows outside from the window. Two males were fighting over the place for building their nest I made over the window shed.
I decided to watch the discovery channel. A capsule that generally comes between documentaries was being shown. It said – “Humans and rats have more than 98% similarity in their genes. That makes it less than 2% that makes us humans from rats. Think about it.” The phone call was from my cousin. He had to go to America for a job so he was coming for a day to our place near Delhi. A dog was barking horrendously with pauses in between. It is a dog that never barks. Now that I needed silence to watch the documentary it was barking mad. It was taking this opportunity. There was a private function nearby in the campus and there were movements around. The bark was in retaliation. To signify that it is not able to associate the events to the usual. In reality it was an over amplification of the desire to bark. Not to let go this beautiful opportunity of neutral barking. Barking loud and loud as you can .This spurious sense of responsibility over amplified by the desire to bark was however not appreciated by other members of its family. They didn't even look at him for what he was doing with so much effort. They probably knew the psychological reasons behind. I shooed the dog away. It was now barking at a distance near the dustbin. A slim black bitch showed up her’s face from inside the dustbin to see what the barking was all about. Realizing the case, she ducked inside again to continue her surfing.
The lion pack the documentary was following was resting under a tree. Dominant female had just made a kill and all the family members had had their meals. Warthogs now sure of their safety were busy grazing. Wildebeests were at a distance however. They were cautious. Any noise or suspicious movement and they all go berserk. It takes one Wildebeest to push the panic button. All others join in to start running as a herd. It is a reaction that has evolved over the years to give them the benefit of collective attention.
A male lion walked towards the tree to join the pack. Powerful masculine features, fearless eyes, canines that can rip apart toughest of the flesh and instinct that can effortlessly bring down six times their own weight. Life force in purest and strongest of its forms. Documentary showed how the pack made the kill, controlled their territory and how they brought up their offspring. Two plentiful months passed by before the grasslands faced a severe drought. It found many animals fleeing the grasslands. The wildebeests were the first to leave. They were shown lingering crossing the dry river. Some of them who tried to drink the last drops were being mercilessly dragged by the crocodiles waiting all covered up in mud. Many other herbivores followed. The lion pack was panting due to excessive heat. There were fewer animals to eat now with so many leaving the grasslands. There were no signs that the lions would leave however. One could have thought it to be a beautiful opportunity to leave with thousands of wildebeests, moving with them and eating them as they move along. The Lions thought otherwise.
The conditions were becoming more and more severe. The last drops of water were drying. Call it propensity or instinct the lions didn't leave. Canines were still sharp, eyes still fearless. I could still see the elegance as they walked across and ruled the grasslands. I prayed for the conditions to improve. Then I thought if the wildebeests were right or if they were wrong or if it is that lions are lions. The capsule before the advertisements appeared again-"Humans and rats have more than 98% similarity in their genes. That makes it less than 2% that makes us humans from rats. Think about it."

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