Of Lions and Human Beings, Countries and Differences

I went to Bhubaneswar last winter to take my daughter to the open zoo at Nandan Kanan. Bhubaneswar is a city where I had previously worked, made a lot of friends for life and had some wonderful experiences. So it feels like a second home to me and everytime I am on a train that passes by Bhubaneswar I make sure to get down from the train and step on the railway platform even if for a minute, it sends me on a happy trail down the memory lane.

I do not have such emotional bonding with the zoo though. Most of the time I was in Bhubaneswar, I was outside the zoo. But still it amazed me when we visited it this time. A full-blown white Royal Bengal tiger is a beauty to watch if you are sure that it cannot reach you. One strong growl from it and even the most lion-hearted amongst us will immediately start calculating the distance and analysing whether there is any chance that it can jump over the wall and come over to this side to personally meet and greet the spectators. Talking about lions, the Asiatic Lion next door was no match at all and looked more like a dog compared to its neighbour. A few weeks back I had seen a movie filmed in Uganda and the African Lion shown there was a different beast all together. Yes, captivity does make a difference but then it should have been true for the Bengal tiger as well.

That prompted me to have a look at the periodic table of animals. I learnt that apart from the Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica), there are almost about 6 to 7 variations of the African Lion itself (Panthera leo leo, Panthera leo nubica, Panthera leo krugeri etc. etc.) and the main differences between them are just their sizes and mane appearances. But still they are considered to be different sub-species with different scientific names. Okay, so then what about a human being from Africa and another one from Asia? Don’t we have several marked differences in size, shape, colour, hair, physical ability and overall appearance? What is the reason behind these all? Genes of course ! Plus there are loads of other behavioural differences as well. And not only continents, that’s also true for many of the countries across the world. For example, it will almost become a book if I try to list down the differences between an average Britisher and an average Indian – in addition to the stark physical difference the other things like perceived purpose of life, the approach towards it in general, the thought process, the actions and reactions, the hindsight analysis etc. all are very very different, not good or bad or better or worse, just “different”. Yet, we are all still just Homo sapiens, the universal “wise man”, and so there is no serious endeavour to officially accept our differences as they are and hence we try to forcefully fit ourselves into the globally accepted norms of thought processes and actions thus marginalizing the recessive ones.

So why will the lions be more privileged than us? Should humanity remain only as a monolithic virtue? Can we also have Homo sapiens indiana and Homo sapiens britannia some day?

Food for a chuckle .. 🙂


My Approximate Life

I went to Park Street last week, to be precise on the last day of the Mayan calendar. During the day Park Street is no different from the other streets but at night it’s truly fascinating. With the glittering restaurants filled with gleaming patrons, seems there is not much agony left in anyone’s life.

We met for a close friend’s birthday or that’s what I had initially thought. Our organiser had legendary organising skills and had given different timings to different people. As usual, or I would rather like to think that as a result of this, I was late in joining and when I reached the Mocambo restaurant all others were already in the swing and some had their glasses refilled twice or thrice. It seemed it was a get-together of old friends but not everybody knew all others since some were from a common college and some were from past organizations and some were common to both these sets. It was only after a while that I discovered that the attendees were not aware about the fact that our organiser had his birthday on that day and since most of the people were TUI (talking, holy shit!), hence even after it was disclosed it didn’t take much time to forget whose birthday it actually was and soon the table was full of birthday boys each greeting the other with happy birthday.

Amidst this utter confusion, one person commented that the biggest agony of his life is that mathematics is mostly approximate and has failed to live upto the expectation of being the ultimate resort for getting a definitive answer in case of need. At first he mentioned about some heavyweight issues concerning a thousand cross thousand matrix or something like that which simply went above my head. The common college for them being IIT Kanpur and the common department being Mathematics, I thought I should have apprehended this kind of trivial kitty party discussions beforehand and instead should have raised a more cerebral and nationally important topic like deciding and finalising Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement date from the arena of international cricket. After all, throughout the history of mankind people were known to have either shared their problems or blabbered about their likings after filling in a glass or two to some like-minded folks who may or may not be in a stable state of mind to comprehend all that is being said. But just when the food arrived, this guy came down to the brick and mortar topic of measuring the area of a simple circle of diameter 10 centimetres and announced that nobody in the world can say exactly how much that area will be. Since it was coming from the class topper, everybody thought that the last shot has probably gone directly to his head and the guy from Oxford was the first to put forward his counter-argument. But since it was nonetheless quite absorbing, there was a commotion to make the original speaker drink more to get some more chunks of enlightening thoughts from him. But then he grinned and explained that the calculation and the result will totally depend on the value of Pi assumed and that Pi is an approximate number correct to only those many places of decimals as you allow it to be. So if you base your answer on an approximate number, your answer is bound to be approximate since after all Pi is irrational in this life as well as the life after. He said he can cite many such similar examples but since it was becoming late and approximately everybody wanted to head towards home, we had to cut the discussion short.

Only while I was going home, the idea or rather the analogy of it struck a chord with me. It dawned on me that approximately everything that has already happened in my life or is about to happen in my life is to an extent approximate, all our expectations and goals are either approximate or vague and more so are the fulfillments. Who on earth has ever seen an absolute entity unless when the reality approximately matches the expectation etched in the mind and hence gets perceived as absolute or exact ? My life is approximate, so is yours and so it is for everybody.

So my friend, do you agree to it ? At least approximately ?