Aye Aye and I by Gerald Durrell

When I picked up this Gerald Durrell book, I realise it was yet another book about his expeditions into the wild to collect mostly the animals who were on the brink of extinction. I have written many book reviews about his expeditions so I was sure I would skip this one – afterall even though I enjoyed his writings and I would (in my thoughts) invariably pack my bags and tug along with him to breathe in the tropical humid air, witness the most pristine surroundings, meet the rare and endangered species around the world and learn techniques to catch them and breed them in captivity but nonetheless it was getting repetitive!!

But after I read this book I could not stop myself from writing about one main aspect touched upon by Gerald Durrell. In this book, the author time and again writes about his heart wrenching feelings when he witnesses the deforested areas of Madagascar. He was on a trip to catch the elusive Aye Aye there.

On the the way to his destination, everywhere he notices patches of deforested areas. Needless to say he was disappointed to see the forest cover shrink to accommodate paddy fields and agricultural land. He was of the opinion that if such destruction of forests continues, we would loose many species of flora and fauna and it would be detrimental for the whole world.

This book was written way back in 1990. And in these 30 years, the human race has not stopped itself from self destruction. We continue to cut forests and the governments continue to look away from the problem at hand. They do not intend to find a long term solution to the problem or frame stringent rules. No wonder we have lost so many invaluable plants and other creatures. We are experiencing global warming too!

I hope that we put a full-stop to our self destructive habits and minimize our carbon footprint.

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In the best interest of my students…

It’s been eight long months since we last met in the school premises. ‘We’ here means only the teachers. The students had been home for a forthnight more because they had finished with their final exams. They had been enjoying their break after the exams when the Corona outbreak took the world by storm.

This break from the school premises has stretched far too long. When a rubber band or an elastic is stretched for days together, either it snaps or it uses all the elasticity to stretch and with the passage of time takes on the new shape. It changes forever.

Something similar has happened with our kids and it is scary. Initially when the schools closed down there was a wave of euphoria amongst them. Simply because there was no need to wake up early, the school hours were reduced, they didn’t have to fret about the home assignments and for once they were saved from the wrath of the teacher due to the physical distance separating them.

After this wave of euphoria passed, they entered phase two. There was a realisation that the new normal wasn’t fun anymore. They were confined to their homes and under the constant surveillance of parents. No wonder the kids detested being home-bound. Afterall kids are the most free spirited individuals. For them schools is not only about studies. It is also about meeting friends, interacting with their peers, learning new skills, playing games, meeting teachers and numerous other individuals throughout the day. And most importantly they could be their true self. They could be naughty. Play pranks and have fun. Though in phase TWO, while they were staying home, they had free access to the gadgets. Nonetheless they longed to be with their friends and in the bargain, they didn’t mind taking on the wrath of the teacher too.

But unfortunately, this pandemic has stretched far too long. The rubber band is loosing it’s elasticity. Thankfully the band hasn’t snapped. Alternatively it has settled for a new shape which is equally unnerving.

In simple terms, I call it phase 3. I am using simple terms because the obnoxious virus has left an impact on me too. I am yet to get over with the after effects of COVID19. I am fine on the surface but my brain continues to be sluggish. So, bear with my simple words and not so coherent thoughts till I get back to my ‘old’ normal!!

During the THIRD phase, the children have started to prefer the gadgets over their friends, family and school interaction. Every child you notice, is slowly being possessed by the virtual world. They are encapsulated in a world that looks enticing, feels intoxicating and seems far less stressful because they do not have to work to maintain relations. They have curled up in their own cocoon. I think I better rephrase it as ‘they have curled up in the (false) warmth of the cocoon provided by virtual world’.

What’s worrisome is that they are slowly alienating themselves from the real people, real-time activities and the real world and slipping into oblivion. They do not wish to be bothered with a warm hug or any kind of human interaction. The only place they find solace in is the virtual world. Numerous studies over the years have asserted that the screen-time/virtual games have same impact as the drugs. So, no wonder our kids are getting addicted. And what hurts me more is the fact that we blame the kids for going into this cocoon. Aren’t the elders or the Corona virus to be blamed for this rather than the kids?

Some people may argue that it was this virtual world that came to our rescue during the pandemic. I won’t give these people a chance to argue, simply because I agree with them. When the country stepped into the lockdown, we Zoomed into the virtual world to meet our students. Even though the parents and the world at large was anxious and the invisible stress was being felt by the kids, we did not leave them alone. This virtual world gave us the platform to stay connected and to get accustomed to the ‘new normal’ with ease.

But at the same time we can’t deny the detrimental effects of the virtual world. I have seen my students move from one phase to the next. And it bothers me to watch them become listless and serious. They are loosing out on their ‘bachpan’! The repercussion of the virtual world can be far more severe than the Corona virus.

The only option we are left with is to pray for this pandemic to end soon. Let’s pray with all our heart and soul to find a vaccine at the earliest.

And I am also chanting that the children go back to their ‘old’ normal. They should not live this ‘new normal’ a day more.