Let’s care a whole lot!

T’was family movie night. An evening fraught with decisions, and everyone’s voice and opinion clanged over the dishes and sizzled over the noise from the stove.
Suggestions rose, opinions swelled and movies quelled.

“Uggghhh! No way!”
“That again?”
“What are you? A kid? Oh wait! Yes you are a kid! Okay never mind!”
“Nope! Too much for Amma! “
“What do you mean? It isn’t too much for me?!”
“You bawled last time for a movie that wasn’t even a tear-jerker, nope! How about this?”
“Star Wars!”

A collective moan went up. Finally, it was revealed that the youngest member of the family had no recollection of the Dr Seuss movie Lorax. He has read the book multiple times, and so we all settled in to watch Lorax.

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Dr Seuss is an inspiration, of course; but just how insightful his take on humanity is uncanny. From fresh air as a commodity, to a land without trees, to surveillance at every pore, his far sighted vision has so much to nod your heads at.

The Thneeds, created by the Once-ler, in his story are made from Truffle trees. Thneeds were fashion statements – doubling up from head scarves to sweater vests and shawls. (“But even he, it seems, could not envision a future where ripped jeans were fashion trends!”,  I said and drew a grudging chuckle from the teen with the ripped jeans. ) Eventually, of course, the Once-ler’s greed led to decimation of trees, habitat loss and a devastated landscape is all that is left.

“Wow – that was such a good movie Amma – though the movie had scenes that the book didn’t have.” was the verdict of the youngest.

“Really! Humans are impossible!” said the teenager, and discussion turned to conservation, Greta Thunberg and some you-tuber who talks about going green.

“Did you know the Lorax was banned in some schools in California because loggers felt it was not friendly to the ‘foresting industry’. ” I said.

I looked at their agonized faces with awe – how is it children get these things, and adults don’t; and I felt a surge of hope.

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We were walking a familiar route through our neighborhood a few days later, stopping to see some of the felled trees as we do every so often. The rings in the pine trees show they must have been at least 80 years old, and to see the forlorn stumps reminded of the beautiful book, The Giving Tree.

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The book starts with friendships between a young boy and an apple tree. The boy plays and swings on the tree’s branches, but as he grows older demands more and more from the tree. He needs her apples to make money, cuts her down to build himself a house and a boat, and finally comes back tired and spent with life, when all the poor tree can offer is the stump to rest.

The Giving Tree, can be interpreted and discussed in many different ways. Givers & Takers, Need & Greed, Selfish & Selfless, but the most beautiful one is the simple one, the one where your children make a sad face at the end, and say, “Why doesn’t this boy/man/grandpa ever feel sorry for what he’s done?”

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The boy reminds us of human’s relationship with nature. The human species can be broadly classified as takers: from the planet, & from our co-habitants on this planet. You might have seen this video clip of Man’s greed By Steve Cutts:

The Giving Tree too was banned interestingly for sending sexist messages – the tree was female and the little boy continued to take from her without ever giving back.

I just finished a book called Losing Earth – by Nathaniel Rich. The book, deals with the science, politics and action of climate change.

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Despite humanity having the science locked down more than 50 years ago, little action has resulted. The closest we came to getting everyone to agree on unified action was the Paris Agreement where all countries agreed to work towards keeping emissions such that we not go above the 2 degree increase of temperatures world-wide. The largest emission offender for decades, United States, pulled out of the agreement when Donald Trump became President.

I was shocked to find that Climate Change as a topic has been banned in certain schools, skirted around in others and given a miss altogether elsewhere. The science behind Climate Change and the effect of our industries were long proved – as far back as 1970.

This April 22nd is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with a special onus on Climate Action. Maybe this Earth Day, we can renew our commitment to the only pale blue dot that will harbor us. Let’s care a whole lot about our planet before all we are left with is the word ‘Unless‘ like in the Lorax story, or the tree stump in The Giving Tree.

 

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Read also: Are we to become Lab Rats?

 

Mockery Bird In Zenkali

I sat in the garden in my backyard, relishing the mild breeze after a hot day. I looked up to see that my fruit trees looked green, and played host to plenty of animals still, but the fruits were no longer there. Could the trees have lived past their prime? I do not know. My botanical knowledge is excruciatingly narrow for one who enjoys nature so much. I watched squirrels scurry up and down on the very trees I was looking at, with a sense of purpose. How sincere, how single minded in their pursuit and yet, how completely at ease on the trees they were and how beautifully they fit into the complex pattern of life and their place in the food chain?

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As I looked at the little creature who was mildly peeved at finding me in my own backyard, I realized with a shock that in spirit he knows and accesses the fruit trees far more than I do, and he probably helps the trees in my backyard by seeding them elsewhere.  Then I think about how little I do know about the complex interdependencies of species. We all learn, while young, about the food chain and all that, but we need something to remind us about these marvels every now and then.

Sometimes that gentle reminder comes in the form of a marvelous book. Every once in a while you stumble upon a book that you wish you can thrust upon everybody and have them read it. But they don’t.  Do you give up? No! You write about it, you read snippets out to them in the hope that they will relent and read the book.

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Image: First Edition Cover Art by Hanife Hassan

There is nothing quite so lovely as observing nature and seeing how we are all interdependent species within this planet. Mockery Bird by Gerald Durrell is one of the most endearing books I have ever read. It is a beautiful tale of man’s ignorance and greed. Set in the picturesque fictional island of Zenkali, the book is humorous and satirical to the point of wanting to read it back to back again. It shows us how we are all part of an ecosystem – trees, flowers, insects, birds and man.

In The Mockery Bird, I sat amongst the Ombu & Amela trees, and took in the exotic scents of the tropical island, immersed in the world of Kingy, Peter Foxglove, the tribes, the side sweeps at religion, the absurdity of greed, and the twisted aims and means of the media. The book sparkled with laugh out loud moments. Like the one and only newspaper of the Island run by Damiens, that contains so many typesetting errors, it is a beauty it functions at all.

“Poor old Damiens is like that. he threw the nursing fraternity into a rare state of confusion some time ago with his article on Florence Nightingale entitled ‘The Lady with the Lump’.”

The Mockery Bird, became extinct due to the culinary prowess of the invading French colonies some years prior. The Mockery Bird is the God to one of the tribes on the island, and obviously they were not happy with the extinction of the bird. It turns out that the Ombu trees survived only because the Mockery Birds ate the fruit of the Ombu tree and not being able to digest the seed, germinated them elsewhere. Now with the Mockery Birds gone, there was only one surviving Ombu tree on the island. Plans to have an ugly airstrip through the dense forests in the island are thwarted when Peter and Damien’s daughter accidentally see that 30 Mockery birds are still alive deep in the forest amongst a long lost patch of Ombu trees. This throws the island into a state of chaos, and the ruler, Kingy, is stretched to find a solution that satisfies the international community, the locals and the environment.

Zenkali

Does anyone remember Lorax? Written by Dr Seuss, in which he shows us what greed and ignorance can do, and made into a lovely movie? Now imagine a similar theme, written with endearing characters, a brilliant sense of humor and an exceptional setting? That is Mockery Bird.

It is a pity this book was not made into a movie. If you can read the book, please do.

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