Categories » Zara Hatke

Mother Keeps

Be. Do. Life seems to be constantly switching between these two modes. You would be hard-pressed to choose between the two. If activity is what makes life ‘life’, you can’t perform if you don’t survive. You can’t however rest easy just by surviving. What’s the point of living if you don’t do anything good? And to just survive also, you need to ‘do’ things – build shelter, find food, participate in the ritual of reproduction, etc. Survival and activity very much go hand in hand. And none is more important than the other. That’s life. An intelligent mix of survival and activity. Of be and do. Of maintenance and project. Of upkeep and progress. Of reproduction and metabolism.

There are different scales and perspectives at which we witness life’s survival and activity. One may go on to generalise the dominant role of plants in the ‘survival’ of life and of animals in the ‘activity’ of life. Animals after all have the attribute of motility which takes them around to perform. Plants on the other hand are literally rooted to protect life. Sure it does not mean that plants only ‘be’ and animals only ‘do’. It’s the dominant role we are talking about here. And remember neither of upkeep and progress is more important than the other.

In a similar vein, the nature appears to have conferred upon females the generic role of survival and upon males of making changes. Female body is equipped with ‘inward’ strength and male body with ‘outward’ strength. The nature has relied on the solidity of female’s inward strength and given her the principal role when it came to reproduction. The male’s contribution is restricted to providing sperm for fertilization. Even his mitochondria are not allowed to pass on to the offspring. In most plants too only the maternal mitochondria and chloroplasts are inherited by the offspring. Viewed this way, the heritage of life lies with the female. Mind you, life survives through reproduction only. Women are the true carriers of ‘vansh’ in that sense. Glad we have a festival that celebrates a female deity.

Is Predation Nature’s Trick?

We naturally feel empathetic towards living creatures in the lower ranks of the pecking order of food chain – usually the animals. Not many feel about the plants and fungi they eat. The imagery of cruelty of killing the animals however evokes a deep sense of sadness. We also feel sorry for the animals predated on by other animals. In the end we kind of accept it all as Nature’s law.

How about thinking a bit differently? Statistics point to in-sync fortunes of preys’ and their corresponding predators’ populations. And while the average longevity of chicken, goat, sheep and cattle have declined, their population at any point of time has grown extraordinarily because of mass consumption by humans. Tremendous proliferation of plantations of seed grains by humans has prompted the popular author Yuval Noah Harari to say that it is actually the wheat that has domesticated humans and not the other way round.

Does Nature then trick us into believing that we predators manage the future of the preys whereas actually it is the so-called preys that ‘use’ us to proliferate their gene copies? The prey species otherwise would be very vulnerable to the Nature’s fury.

Predation happens on many levels. When a cell ingests a bacteria, it’s called phagocytosis. A close example is our white blood cells which predate on harmful bacteria entering our body this way. The earliest such predation is supposed to have created us eukaryotic types when the purple bacteria and cyanobacteria entered the primitive cells to form mitochondria and chloroplasts respectively – organelles so important to the machinery of eukaryotic life. And again I ask the same question: Did that eventually prove beneficial to the cells or to the cyanobacteria and purple bacteria? Maybe to everyone involved.

Reverse Swing of Societal Norms

The other day in a near empty car park, I carelessly parked my car across the marked lines covering a few parking spots. I knew that my daughter was waiting to be picked up and that it was only a matter of a few minutes. That might have been a good excuse for a parking officer. Not for my teenage daughter though. She vehemently disapproved of my action.

Stunned by her rebuttal, I remembered another “rule of the road” issue that bothers me often. My experience on roads tells me that most drivers tend to go a bit over the legal speed limits. That ‘a bit’ was a bit too much when I drove in Spain earlier this year with most cars speeding past my car at well over 130 kmph on a 120 road. I have this dilemma. Should I be legally legitimate and drive within the prescribed speed limits? Or be legitimate by societal norm and speed up that little bit? To me the latter option feels safer as I have to negotiate less traffic.

These matters might be trivial but the news I heard on car radio was a bombshell. Steve Smith had admitted to a ball-tampering ploy. The cricketing world was shaken. I went on news hunt overdrive to check the reactions from all over the world.

A news item in a leading Indian newspaper carried this line: “Where Smith and the ‘senior’ group slipped up was that they did it so blatantly with so many cameras in place. And Smith’s admission made things worse.” It then went on listing leading cricketers from many countries who had performed the act of ball-tampering at times and admitted to it later in their lives.

People are tempted to take advantage of a situation to the level of unfairness permitted by the rules. Not justified by any means, but it’s in human nature perhaps. We see all the time soccer players fouling others and feigning injury to gain advantage.

Morally-wrong-yet-politically-correct ways have been accepted by our society for a while now. This had to burst and it’s only a start. The results are not going to be pleasant. Strange political leaders are gaining prominence all over the world. They are mostly by-products of people’s gradual rejection of mainstream politicians’ political correctness – a system where we all know something is part of our lives and yet twist it to suit our game at a time appropriate for us.

By inadvertently being part of this course correction, Steve Smith has unwillingly done us some favour. For there lies a criminal in all of us and this regime of political correctness encourages us to go ahead with the crime. It tells us that the whole problem is only when you get caught. Until that moment, you are perfectly fine in the eyes of the law as well as of people in that business.

Somewhere sometime our inner voice prompts us: In this age of competition, everyone does it. The trick is to fool the system a little bit more than others and yet a bit less than the point where you can be caught. It is that point and not the legal word, which in reality defines the line everyone says you should not cross. Your correct judgement of that line at the appropriate time is a measure of your smartness. If you do a Steve Smith, you are an idiot. If you do a Steve Smith minus one, you are a genius.

We may be leaning towards organic food, but are losing out on the organic ways of life. We are letting marketing drive our values and lifestyles a lot. We need a marketing campaign (#MeToo) endorsed by celebrities to destroy a well-marketed celebrity image. We ingest television shows, media headlines, brand promotions knowing fully well that it is money and only money that is driving these. We ridicule the concept of arranged marriage yet enjoy Married At First Sight. Money matters may well determine the outcome of this entire ball-tampering saga too. The problem will remain and build up further… till someone gets caught again.

Let’s not fool ourselves. Let’s not pretend adult celebrities are role models for our kids. Kids who are yet to grow up to the twisted ways of us adults are the real role models. It’s time we seek a better way of life by looking down to them. Let’s kid ourselves, literally. And yes, I did take my daughter’s disapproval seriously and have decided to not park car illegally even for a moment.