2007/07/22

Animalia

Suspending for the moment the ubiquitous squirrels and crows, and the tusked duo that, after a heated dispute over Linux v. Windows, turned their backs on each other forever in the heart of the institute, and the residential zone's Pomeranians, Pekingeses, Pugs, Poodles and Profs, the exceptional fauna of Chennai-036 deserves an essay in every blog run by its citizens. Allow me to share my sensations.

Ever since I got kicked into this engineering school, I've chanced upon numerous nameless fliers and reptiles, listened to unfamiliar chirrups, beheld fawns leap forth like springs and stags lock antlers. This fever of studying the animal kingdom from close quarters was at its apex in the first few weeks of my freshman year. My eyeballs felt like National Geographic cameras. I pedalled far and wide in the evenings just to ensure I hadn't missed monkeys or blackmoney [some call it blackbuck] in action, or a strange species at perch or aslither. Hence, while I was indulging in rich zoological pursuits as these, when one nature-loving friend of mine, after calling me to witness a 'superb thing' and having me hurry there with colourful visions of a possible doe in labour or a kingfisher riding on a mongoose, ardently pointed his finger at the course of an ant -- an ant -- the natural fallout of momentarily losing two French words, to wit, sangfroid and savoir-faire, may be excused.

Lately, I visited a cave in the campus, amassing piles and piles of dust, throbbing with coloured bugs and beetles and laced with cobwebs in every cranny. It gave me a thumbnail view of the wide spectrum of insects the emerald woods of our varsity gives asylum to. I set out to spring-clean the grime and sweep the poor invertebrates out as it happened to be my hostel room [update: This was during the summer vacation]. While so doing, I saw, for the umptillionth time, a bug-couple Doing It. I had always wanted to know the name of these perennially charged organisms and, like all, had sworn at Google for not inventing Picture Search. Branchmate Raghu slaked my curiosity one day: they're officially called 'sexbugs'. I couldn't wonder less.

Sitting at my table at the far end of the room one afternoon, I was discussing light issues with Jayavel, who was leaning against the door frame. Since I was, as well, sketching an ME112 regular solid on my A3 sheet, I wasn't looking into his face during speech. The conversation reached a pause that wasn't pregnant, and taking the cue, J left. A bit later, out of the tail of my eye I perceived that he had re-entered and was standing in the centre of the room beside the bedfoot. I resumed the chat and kept at it for about 45 seconds, until I came alive to the feeling that J had considerably thinned down from what I had seen minutes back. I turned sharply.
'Jayavaaeell! Jayavaaaaeeellll!'
It was a cry for help. On the rail of the cot stood upright a rhesus monkey. My panic screams neither scared it away nor reached their addressee. I made an effort to strike my calm, with some success. My fright was not zoophobia; it was merely a shock, an abrupt realization of an animale presence. Typical of his race, the primate ignored shooing gestures with disdain, made a hollow mouth and surveyed the shelves. Only when I swayed my rifle (in the form of my mini-drafter in its canvas case) did he scoot.

A year elapsed. Mozart was treating my ears from the computer abutting a bunch of polythene packets. They contained candies of ginger, thulasi, vallarai and thoodhuvalai [the English names of the last three herbs are not in my cranial word-kit]. I was reclining on the wall by my bed. The subtle notes of the sonata completely mellowed me and more than once I caught myself yielding to the sandman. The world stood still, the sinews were limp with fatigue... It was (wink-wink) a moment of inertia...
All of a sudden a hairy hand appeared through the ajar door. I came to my senses with a start, and scampered to my feet. The monkey behind the hand entered. My pulse escalated. In a moment's notice, my precious gingers were in his clutch! Heavens! You could've felled me with a toothpick! I let out a war cry and sprang at him. He did not, contrary to my expectation, drop the parcel. I kicked air. He took flight. I gave chase. However, when the slapworthy tree-dweller's comrades joined him in the garden, ripped wrappers apart and popped toffees in, I had but to concede the triumph of Beast over Man. Inji thinna korangunga!

Fishy goings-on are taking place at the grassfield near S.A.C. Or rather, under the grassfield near S.A.C. Perhaps a bunker of ballistic missiles, perhaps a subterranean vault for unaccounted bullions. I don't know. All I can say is that the establishment has worked out a shrewd way to keep us off those plains by planting a board reading 'BLACKBUCK ZONE. NO THOROUGHFARE.' For I have sighted more fire-breathing dragons in that area than blackbuck. It is, as Prakriti wails in its mails, that their numbers dwindle by the week. And the buck keep coming up with inventive means of dying. Sigh...
Serious things apart, were Al Gore to look at the resource-squandering in the handful of green spots like ours, (I'm tempted to say) he'd be spinning in his grave. Of frogs, the acts of which I've already chronicled, and of the two kittens Raghu, Sriram and I rescued from the teeth of danger, I shan't blog.

Animals, thus, never fail to provide me with amazement, but when such provision comes from the monkey population, I take it with a pfoot of salt.



6 Obiter dicta:

Anonymous author of the post couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

I decided to write this after reading 'Close Encounters Of The Animal Kind' in Sayan Ganguly's blog.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Unni couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

Well written. Monkeys....my encounters with them have been only a few...nothing interesting, apart from how they jumped from tree to building walls with consummate skill.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Saumya couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

Pugs, poodles and profs, eh? Well, well, well!
"Inji thinna korangunga"? What does that mean?
Insects are fascinating. Ever seen a luna moth?
Plenty of monkeys in my campus too. In fact they're such a nuisance that the univ. has a couple of tame monkeys of another species on its payroll to scare the wild ones away.
You write well. I'm sure you don't need my advice so I'd keep it to that. All the best for future encounters.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Durga couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

well written as always.. as far as my encounters with monkeys go, there have been a few, including one where we had to use crackers to drive them away, but i managed to single handedly drive one out by giving a high decibel cry at the crucial moment when it almost jumped onto the laptop on my table :)

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Nirmal couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

Unni and Durga,
Thanks. We have encroached upon their property; they simply like to visit their foreparents' places.
Saumya,
'Inji thinna korangu' is an expression used in Tamil as a simile. It translates to 'Monkey that ate ginger'. Haven't seen a luna moth except in Google Image Search. Thanks for the compliment as well as the 'All the best'.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Poornima couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

hehehehe :) Yes.. Interesting read.. especially for all IITians who have, I'm sure, been through such and more weird, nerve-racking experiences.. You talk about ecstacy?? Well, then perhaps you haven't been on the verge of stamping a scorpion by foot!! :) I had another gross time.. Actually cried out of shock too.. A cat came into our room with a dead rat and began eating it... Pratyu actually thought I was going to faint :) What I also like about our campus is the beautiful view we get while sitting on the terrace :) And.. since I'm scared about insects.. the lesser said about them, the better!!! Just one more thing to add. The English equivalent of "thulasi" is basil

2:57 PM  

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