At the end of a rainbow

Lucy found her diamond sky

Reanimating the world

“Ah! there you are!” I exclaimed to a flat bean and plucked it gently while looking for more. The colour of the beans blends ever so perfectly with the leaves, that they seem to be playing an eternal hide-and-seek with anyone interested in harvesting them. I often lose time when hanging around plants, and trees. In retrospect though, it seems I just temporarily refuse to chase those ticking hands, a mirage of desires that snatch the present reality. Or, more aptly, plants sometimes allow me a peek of their world, where time no longer calls the shots. When I read Sumana Roy’s lament about post-colonial civilization as robbing us of living in tree-time, I could instinctively feel what she meant. Growing up in a typical urban space where movement is the order of the day, a pause is just that – a break from the animation, not a legitimate space of its own. I stare at the earth I dug up to plant a sapling. A few months back, it was a mix of decomposing organic matter. Now, the sweet smell of black humus envelops my senses, and a few moments later I see the heap of soil literally crawl with life. Who said it was “dust to dust”? Seems to me, it is life to life. Perhaps, just not the kind we usually acknowledge. Tiny tendrils quiver in the wind, looking for support that would help the plant climb. Roots search for water beneath the surface. The plant grows, as does the life around it. So much happens, yet we make children classify plants as “non-moving”.

As I walk down a street lined with trees, I inevitably slow down to admire them. The act of slowing down allows me to see some tiny red insects. One, two, many, and then many more. I see their dead bodies strewn across the pavement and feel as if I am walking through some place that was bombarded by violence. That violence being that of indifferent walking. Today, we walk through dead insects, tomorrow it would be axed trees, and then perhaps other suffering beings, all reduced to a fuzzy background one couldn’t care more about. This “psychic numbing” as Arne Johan Vetlesen puts it, seems even more dangerous than active aggression, for the latter still indicates a frenzy of passion which could be rectified. How do you rectify something that isn’t there – the inert vacuum of empathy?

Animism – the idea of attributing life to all things in the environment has been conventionally viewed as backward or childish. Our neat categories and increasingly compartmentalised lives extend the Cartesian duality of mind and matter all the way into our being, till we literally become ‘the ghost in the shell’. But then, we are not. Observe any child’s innocent wonder at a frog hopping by, or their sorrow for having lost a feather ‘gifted’ by a bird, or delight in the wooden rhythm of bamboos knocking each other in the wind, and the world seems more alive again.

I dig the soil, the warmth of its life breathing heavily in my hands. KN, a 13-year-old boy, is digging along with me. A few months back, he didn’t want to touch anything ‘dirty’. Well, how can you admire the flowers without nourishing its roots? So, began his weekly stint at gardening, and when seeds sown by him began to sprout, there was no looking back, only looking in. A few moments later, he unearths a sweet potato, and his face lights up with joy. My thoughts light up with hope.

hands flowers

 

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A cycle of revolution

Since earliest recorded times, humans have been known to make tools to interact with the environment. Tools constitute technology, and today technology constitutes the society. Technical devices have come to engender ways of ‘knowing’ the world and play a key role in embedding cultural practices, as much as shaping them simultaneously. So, the instrumentality of a ‘tool’ has long extended itself into an extension of one’s ‘being’. Political theorist Langdon Winner offers a profound yet simple example by imagining a scene of two people traveling down a street in the same direction. One of them, however, is walking down the road, while the other is a car. The ‘world’ offered to both them radically changes by virtue of a technological device possessed by one of them. While the pedestrian is slower, s/he has the flexibility to gaze at windows of different shops, stop for a small chat and so on. On the other hand, the motorist is faster given that s/he can avoid ‘obstacles’ on the road and focus on the road ahead. Things that invite a pedestrian’s attention turn into distractions for the motorist.

In the words of Winner, “Individual habits, perceptions, concepts of self, ideas of space and time, social relationships, and moral and political boundaries have all been powerfully restructured in the course of modern technological development. What is fascinating about this process is that societies involved in it have quickly altered some of the fundamental terms of human life without appearing to do so. Vast transformations in the structure of our common world have been undertaken with little attention to what those alterations mean.”

As an enthusiastic cyclist, the clash of ‘worlds’ on the perennially busy roads of Mumbai take a very literal turn. The effort put in climbing an uphill contour can’t be felt by a motorist who are literally transported in vehicles rather than using it. They can also be blissfully unaware of most topographical nightmares provided by badly maintained roads, as well as other sights and smells that any urban place is endowed with (Mumbai is especially rich in the latter). As a technology, the automobile, and the velocipede perhaps occupies opposite ends of a spectrum in terms of involvement and agency. As poet Christopher Morley writes, “In a car, you are carried; on a bike you go.” Many car enthusiasts describe a feeling of exhilaration while driving at top speeds across highways, but it seems to me the feeling can hardly be embodied in the way a cyclist feels the wind resisting the raw force pedaled into action by every muscle in the body. The speed achieved on a cycle does not rob one of the time needed to immerse oneself in the changing landscape. A cycle rides only as fast as it is pedaled, barring the downward slopes for occasional fits of giddy excitement. Even then, a balance ensues when one has to wrestle the way up again. Indeed a cyclical harmony. How can any car provide a similar sense of agency, when it uses what never belonged to us in the form of fuel, gas or electricity? It is energy devoid of feeling, and can thus only perpetuate movement without purpose. This is not to insult motorists, but to invite imagining the structure of a society in physical, and cultural dimensions if cycling were the predominant means of transport. Sue Macy describes how cycles became tools for the emancipation of women in the 19th century. Perhaps, now we need to be freed from the Faustian bargain made with automobiles and reclaim our bodies once more.

cycling

 

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A World ‘Rat’tled

In the 1920s, there was war, hunger, a few rich people and poverty. Today the situation is the same, except that there are many more people at war, hungry, rich and poor; not to mention the gazillion animals and plants who have died while we figure out better ways of killing each other. Anyway, while our questionable path to the even more questionable progress requires urgent counter-measures, I am trying to figure out some personal mess. My analysis led me to trace the substantial source of my mental unhinging to the 1920s, in particular to a tribe of scientists called ‘Behaviourists’.

These misdirected, well-meaning group of people thought that mind was a useless thing to study since we can’t see it or measure it; instead, one should focus on how different prompts can result in desired behaviour and measure these quantities. Voila! The mind goes out of the window. Their experiments were lauded as a success as they could make pigeons play table-tennis, make rats walk a tight-rope and do many other circus tricks by giving rewards for the right move and punishments for the wrong one. Well, that’s okay, but the act remains a reaction to environmental stimulus as the pigeons weren’t thinking of winning the table-tennis grand slam or the rules of the game. Scientists eventually moved on, but the behaviorist story seemed too attractive to let go, after all, who doesn’t want to be a control-freak? So began the cultural appropriation of an idea, in the form of schooling and parenting through a series of rewards and punishments; from chocolates to slaps to obsession with degree certificates. Humans are predictably more complex than pigeons and rats, and this form of mind twisting only allowed kids to figure out the rules, instead of understanding why they were there in the first place. It also made ‘things’ synonymous with happiness, and so here we have a hyper-thingified world with everything up for grabs.

By the time I was born, it seemed too late to save the world, and instead I was already one of the rats scampering along with other rats to find that extra tidbit of good grades and nods of approval. Unfortunately, my parents weren’t too good at doing these reward/punishment schemes. Sometimes good marks meant a treat, and sometimes bad marks also meant a consolation treat where they would generally do a good cop interrogation. Well, that meant they were open to reason, and that meant I could talk my way out!

Well, not always, but the idea remained. Now, look at the trouble it got me into. Neither here nor there, the metaphorical chimera of romantic ideas and peer pressure. I am not looking for the cookie but apparently, those are the only things one is supposed to worry about. I got jostled into an engineering degree, finished it and left the field altogether; walked into a PhD degree, walked out of it, later walked into another one and now contemplate being a farmer. People confuse introspection for whimsicality, and the courage to risk a fall by stepping off the perpetual treadmill as laziness. I am only learning to shrug off the labels. Looking around, I see many other rebellious rats too. If culture is a form of collective imagination, maybe we could bring to life a new culture of freedom; and we need be rats no more.

(Image credits: 1996 edition of The Wizard of Oz, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger. Sourced from http://www.brainpickings.org)

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I’m wheel, thank you

The first time I saw a bicycle, I was simply amazed to see the grace and speed a person could acquire by mastering the art of maneuvering a pair of wheels. Naturally, I wanted to own one badly. However, like most Indian parents with limited financial means back in the 1990s, they had to be convinced that I was going to use to for eternity carefully . After all, they had to consider scrimping enough to buy a hyperactive seven-year-old what they considered a perennial accident voucher on wheels.

Always the smart one (according to himself), my dad struck a deal with me with the twin aims of weaning me out of my new-found love and teaching me how negotiations work (none succeeded). He suggested that I borrow cycles from neighbouring kids for two months, and, if I still felt like I really wanted one, we could buy it. Else I could just continue borrowing a cycle occasionally when mood beckoned. Sounds fair, right? Well, kids don’t exactly belong in the ‘saint’ category to lend their toys to others, especially when they can’t get anything in return. They are also as xenophobic as their parents. So, as a Bengali girl in an orthodox Punjabi colony, my chances of getting a cycle to practice where as much as someone making billions selling imaginary cow fodder(Oops, it happened). The girls wouldn’t allow me to touch their ‘ladybird’, an apology of a cycle just lacking a Barbie head for a bell, and I treated the cycle with equal contempt. One snotty-nosed boy, however, agreed to lend me his bike in exchange for a few cartoon stickers I had been hoarding.

Obviously, my first attempts were a far-cry from my imagination of sailing through the streets and whizzing past the crowd. I bruised myself enough to contemplate if the bike was possessed by the evil spirit of some grumpy old aunt. Never underestimate the ego and stubbornness of a 7-year-old though. I could have rivalled the pride of Edmund Hillary the day I managed a complete ride without falling off the bike. From then, I only wanted more; ride while standing on the pedals, ride without holding the handlebars, race against the wind; basically, I convinced dad that my existence would be useless without possessing a cycle. And, that is how I got my first bike.

Fast forward two decades later,  the mere sight of a cycle would still make my hands itch to ride one but a spate of unending, seemingly rational,  reasons kept me from buying one. I hadn’t ridden one in years. Then one fine day, my partner bought one for himself because, it seems for the IT guys, their increasing skills in coding is only matched by the girth of their belly. A sudden pain of adulthood on reaching the threshold of thirty convinced him that he had to get back in shape. Before his limbs turned into flabby pillows that is. So, began his furious morning peddling while a familiar longing grew in my heart. I still had plenty reasons to pass the idea of riding along, one of them being the onset of the infamous Mumbai monsoons. I convinced myself it would be wise to think about it after the rains. Then, the next day I found myself with a beautiful bike because I couldn’t ‘refuse’ my partner’s insistence on buying me one. Good one, you lying heart, good one.

The memory of our body is magical, for it remembers things we are hardly conscious about. The moment I climbed the bike, my limbs just knew what to do. Only, my nose didn’t. It turns out early morning rides in Mumbai don’t make for a gust of sea breeze caressing your face. For all the speed possible, I was stuck behind a garbage truck, finally overtaking the nostril-torturing machine only to realise that I was cruising past a giant landfill. There is no escaping the all-pervading stench. So much for riding your dream.

But again, a city is only what we make of it. We are forever making choices through our actions or lack of it. In Italy, bicycles outsold automobiles for the first time since WW II. The trend is catching up throughout Europe. Elsewhere, there are drives for local waste management. It seems the metaphorical wheel is turning anyway, and we can always alter the path it takes. As a growing number of cyclists inhabit the city, maybe wheels of change will follow too.

Image: (c) Hulton Archive/Getty Images | via Sarah Goodyear / Grist.org

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Gaps, holes and windows

“So, there seems to be a gap from the year 2005 to 2006?” The interviewer looked at him reproachfully; a look he was rather tired of getting every time he applied for a job. He cleared his throat and said, “Yes, but I did not have any arrears, I just took a drop to prepare for engineering entrance exams.” “Ah okay” replied the interviewer satisfied with the explanation, as if preparing for engineering entrance exams is the only honorable rites of passage for any Indian teenager, and sacrificing a year in that pursuit could be forgiven. The conversation carried on, but for the umpteenth time he wished that he could just sit back and say, “Well, I initially wanted to prepare for exams just like all my peers but I found many other interesting things to do, and so spent a year learning tabla, reading classic novels, and heck! even tried penning a small novel about my insipid life. Honestly, it was quite enjoyable till I had to get back on track and enroll for an engineering degree…”

This is an all too familiar story, but it is incomplete and deserves a better ending. The word “curriculum” is derived from the Latin word curricle which refers to carriage horses on a race course. No surprises that only being on “track” is seen as a virtue, and stepping off it as useless or even dangerous meandering. For the growing Indian middle class, formal education is seen as the authorization for a monthly pay-check, and duh, isn’t that supposed to be the “good life”? However, that certainly doesn’t seem the case when you work to pay bills to stay in a place from where you can work. Roundabout, right? Not just that, it is a downright vicious cycle, and yet we cling onto its empty promises of freedom dutifully shackled by expectations of the society.

By the time one realizes this quagmire of a dream, inertia of a certain lifestyle keeps dragging on. So, there is really no other way to reflect unless one consciously steps off this conveyor belt of an education system and tries to figure alternative directions for oneself. Interestingly, in the west, this is termed as a “gap-year”, and is meant to give an individual time to think, travel, learn or earn according to one’s agency rather than follow dictates of any institution. It is widely accepted as a logical space and time required to get a grasp of the direction one would like to take in life. However, in the Indian context, it is seen as some inconceivable wastage of time that would lead one to start work later than others and they would supposedly always lag “behind”. I have met many people proud of the fact that they finished college a year or two earlier than they are supposed to, and got placed in the usual monotone jobs immediately. I have also met people defying this push into glorified labor and instead choose to travel, write, dream, draw, paint and work freely towards a world they imagine to be better than one they live in right now.

Education, for what its worth should open these windows of possibilities, and gaps need to be seen as crucial to one’s development as a person capable of reflection. Then maybe, instead of being the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, who keeps singing I’m late / I’m late / For a very important date. / No time to say “Hello, Goodbye”. / I’m late, I’m late, I’m late, We can be real protagonists of wonderland waiting to be created.

costume_sketch___white_rabbit_by_aliceinwonderland

 

 

 

 

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I speak fluent Emoji?

Call it the priggishness of convent education or more sympathetically, some love for words that have always left me uncomfortable around the SMS lingua franca. They say language is as much a living organism like anything else; growing, evolving, aging and dying. However, I mostly imagine natural deaths unlike the violent strangulation that words undergo when people find most vowels unnecessary and random exclamation marks sufficient to communicate entire sentences. No wonder divorce is so common nowadays, or more simply I am just growing old and grumpy (Both are true). I am not sure about you, but when kids write, “2b or nt 2b…”, I can only imagine the ghosts of Victorian poets tearing their ghostly white wigs in alarm and despair.

True, this is not the Victorian era, but why should writing increasingly resemble the transcript of a kid trying to talk with its mouth full of bananas? We may be getting smarter, but we seemed to have kicked eloquence right outside the window. Of course, eloquence never helped save any time; time is money; money is a way to buy more time? Things are complicated around that corner. Coming back to violent deaths of language, there is another trend that makes even the scarce typing of words unnecessary. Welcome to the age of Emoji, now so essential that messages sent without one is considered impolite or downright hostile. Indeed, some of you may even find it odd to imagine phone conversations without the range of Emoji available today, but this epiphany is as recent as 1998, and was first developed in Japan (trust the weirdest fads to come from there). It soon became so popular, that serious research went into documenting and drawing expressions that could be culturally universal. That’s perhaps the simple yet profound realization; a smile is same in any language.

As usual, I hadn’t really gotten used to the Emoji affair till my messages were construed as unhappy/curt/unclear unless there was an appropriate cartoon face appended to it. It is interesting to note the widespread use even in official mails, the apparent stronghold of formal language. It has seemingly functioned to ease the tone of official conversations, though left to me “Please report to my desk tomorrow at 9:00 am :)” looks plain creepy with that face in the end. Well, that’s just me of course.

Studies show that emoticons such as smiley and sad faces are changing the way our brain works by triggering parts of the brain usually reserved for looking at real faces. i.e we have different areas in brain to process words and faces. Before the advent of emoticons there was no reason to process a colon followed by closing parenthesis 🙂 as a facial expression but now it does because we have learnt to represent this as a face. So, while the heydays of literature had words evoking a variety of emotions, now we have Emojis standing in for a number of words. The Oxford Dictionary named 😂 (Face With Tears of Joy) its 2015 Word of the year. Welcome to the era of Emoji Dick (yes it exists; the emoji version of Moby Dick). Now, is that good, bad, ugly? Well, in all truthfulness and brevity, it just is. Love it or hate it, it will be around till the Japanese come up with the next global fad. 😉

Emoticons have become massively popular, being used in text message and online conversations, along with art projects such as this Banksy Exhibit

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Of jelly legs and dry mouths

As a species, ‘we’ are usually outright embarrassed or mildly mortified at the sight or mention of behaviours which remind us our bestial origins and primary identity. Of course, a vast majority take genuine pleasure in toilet jokes and intercourse but would rather not declare the same while introducing themselves. Such are the complexities of human interactions. However, there is yet another phenomena reminding most of us that our brains haven’t come a long way from our savannah foraging ancestors. This happens to constitute sweaty palms, clenched fists, temporary lack of control over limbs and other not-so-comfortable visceral experiences. Yes, it is the all too familiar stage-fright. The range of bodily reactions occur due to the brain’s interpretation of the scenario parallel to a bunch of hyenas cornering the poor little rabbit ‘you’. After all, wired as we are to be concerned about our reputation in the society, the idea that our little performance might damage our mostly imagined stature in the society triggers an evolutionarily robust stress system– adequately prepared to escape the hyenas, except there aren’t any here! So, while your legs wobble in anticipation of a sprint, you have to manage that confident stride up to the dais and while your pupils dilate to cover long range action, you squint at your notes as the last resort of inconsequential help.

Back in college, my now-partner-then-classmate trudged up the stage clutching a few pieces of paper only to realize that the lights were dimmed to project the powerpoint slides (another bane of our society). Unable to bear the torture, he fumbled with the flashlight in his phone and read the text verbatim, making it look more like a ghost drama rather than academic presentations. In my case, despite all possible preparations, the day I am supposed to give a public talk begins with me vomiting empty stomach. So much for gut instincts. Our physiology reveals our closeness to animal brethren to a degree we rarely admit but can’t control anyway. So, what we really manage to do is adapt to the situation through practice, situation and relaxation tactics to avoid a full-scale stress trigger. Heart beats fast, but heck that means you are alive, and probably mean what you say! As aptly put by Mark Twain, “There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.” For the all upsides of being capable for anticipating the future, perhaps it is best to make peace with the occasions when the unwanted clairvoyance backfires (literally), for we are a bunch of nervous idealists aren’t we?

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Compassion management

In a world ridden with apathy and general callousness, this title would rightly seem bizarre. After all, has anyone ever had a fatal dose of compassionate acts? Well, I would hunt for the origin of the phrase “being smothered by love” for that. It turns out that there are indeed people whose concern often oversteps the bounds of societal etiquette, turning it into a case of disaster management for the rest of the family, in order to avoid subsequent glares (and occasional avoidance for a lifetime). Not that family members are immune to such extremist versions of compassion, it is just that they learnt to deal with it by returning the acts of kindness. In my family, our father has bagged the “deadliest kindness of the year” award for quite sometime now. Once, we were visited by family friends, whose young brat of a son was creating a ruckus like most brats do. This was perhaps a novel phenomenon for dad, whose children (i.e. me and my brother) had grown up being showered with a healthy dose of shouts and slaps, such that our ‘brat-iness’ never got a chance to show itself in its full glory (until much later, when it is nicely dubbed existential angst). Now, taking his own adequately weird children as representative of the entire spectrum of child behaviour, he instantly asked the parents, “Have you shown him to a psychiatrist? He may need serious help and medication.” To be fair, he was genuinely concerned; but this was a proclamation about a 3-year-old healthy Punjabi boy. I mention Punjabi, because you might want to take a minute to imagine his father’s nostrils flare and his fists tighten as my father (the puny Bengali guy) carried on breezily about his self-acclaimed experience in handling children and so forth. When my mother’s eyebrows (raised high enough to hit the ceiling) also didn’t work as a signal to stop, she hurriedly offered some chocolates to the boy and lavishly praised his talent for breaking things, before bidding them an abrupt farewell.

Visits to doctors are generally memorable for the fact that one has to cough up money and phlegm at the same time, with nothing but trust that the former will take care of the latter. In our case, along with the sick kid to be diagnosed, came a concerned father who would want to make sure that nothing but the right medicine would be ingested by his child. Fair enough. But for our doctor, it meant defending every punctuation of his diagnosis, along with justification for not considering the other trillion possibilities that father would have read on the internet (or homoeopathy leaflets). I think only the Hippocratic oath kept this doctor from getting violent, though he did ask us to only come with our mother in the future. As a family, we have tried our best to indulge in ‘compassion management’ and compensate for his concern, and over time he does realise that seeing flushed cheeks combined with a puckered face together is a pretty good indication to stop talking, though often it does end with, “have you had your blood pressure checked? You don’t look quite normal.” Well, someone once said, “compassion brings us to a stop, and for a moment we rise above ourselves.” I completely agree, except that the nature of those stops and rises can be quite different.

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100 shades of Grey

No, this is not a kinkier version. Call it a better use of the title. If you have nothing to do but alternate between staring at a laptop screen and a window overlooking a rainy landscape, I suppose you might be more sympathetic to the topic. There is something about the Grey skies that suddenly pushes into view a bright yellow water tank unnoticed for ages. It is as if, myriad objects take on the responsibility of compensating for the monochrome hues in the heavens. Despite all their efforts though, they are but transient distractions in the face of a tempestuous weather. For all the subjugation and domestication that our species is capable of, the weather remains as awe-inspiring and wild as it was for our ancestors a million years back. The torrential rains us a reminder of the fragility and effervescence of humankind, a lesson to be humble about things beyond control but only if we choose to listen.  Trains ply, vehicles fume and sputter, umbrellas knock off each other, people obstinately wade through the muck. There is no stopping the giant cogs of societal functioning. Yet, when things do come to a stand-still there is that palpable relief in getting off the hook of economic drudgery to enjoy unscheduled time that one gets to spend. In that sense, there is little difference between the children who rejoice the unexpected closure of school in the face of calamities and adults who are faced with a day sans monotonous work. Many people have confessed meeting their neighbours and feeling like part of a community only in the occasion of sudden breakdowns that forced them to leave the privacy of their place and interact with each other. Unsurprisingly, an inconvenient incident turns into cherished memories; memories because the moment life goes back to ‘normal’, the invisible hand pulls people back into their shelters and work.  Rebecca Solnit writes in her book A Paradise built in Hell, “The possibility of paradise hovers on the cusp of coming into being, so much so that it takes powerful forces to keep such a paradise at bay. If paradise now arises in hell, it’s because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.” So, if disruptions emerge as platforms to reclaim our humanity, might we not take the audacious step of celebrating these pauses as potential for a new way of life?

(Picture from Outstanding in the Rain)

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A crow for all reasons

Meet eye to eye with a crow, and one can instantly sense the intelligence lurking in that black, beady stare. No wonder crows are regarded with a mixture of fear, reverence or even hatred across different cultures with myths ranging from witches’ incarnation to omen of death. Urban places are a bonanza for these feathered apes where our ever-increasing waste simply add items to their menu, and landfills offer an endless buffet to choose from. We may be disenchanted with myth and legends, but it is hard to miss the avian flock shadowing human settlements. As more and more species breathe their last everyday, at least some have found hacks in human lifestyles and used it to survive. Crows, are undoubtedly thriving within our wasteful abundance along with rats and cockroaches. I noticed one  politely pecking at my window as I was about to place a biscuit in my mouth, as if gently chiding my lack of ettiquete in front of guests. Amused, I placed a biscuit near the widow ledge. The crow waited for me to go back to my place before gingerly placing the biscuit in its beak and taking off. I thought no more about the incident till the next day, when it punctually showed up at tea time. Before I knew it, I had got myself an unlikely companion for tea. Soon, it started coming with a partner and a few days later began cawing “get up” and “hello” if I wasn’t in my usual tea-drinking, biscuit-dunking posture. While I still found their behaviour fascinating, my partner was less sympathetic to their cacophonic greetings which didn’t come with a ‘snooze’ button. Gradually, they even learnt to “coo” instead of cawing if he was around to get some extra tidbit for good behaviour. Near a driving school in Sendai, Japan, crows throw nuts on the road for moving vehicles to crack it under wheels. Now, here comes the mind boggling part–they wait for the traffic signal to turn red and follow the pedestrians in order to go and pick up their lunch lying on the road! Crows learn from their peers and enemies, giving rise to a learning culture very few species can boast about. Most people consider crows a menace, but it is rather interesting to see how we can fear and despise a creature sharing so many qualities with us; an intelligent, resourceful, cunning and opportunistic being. Hacker Joshua Klein recently invented a vending machine for them with the proposal that they could be trained to deposit plastic garbage in return for a morsel of food. It is perhaps time we let go of our prejudices and look at symbiotic relationships to redefine our thoughts about this ordinary yet exra-ordinary creature.

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