As a little girl staying with my parents in Kanpur, I was brought up in a typical Punjabi cosmopolitan family thanks to my father's career in the Services. As an Officer and a Gentleman, he was posted to various Indian cities, a piece of which we seemed to imbibe in our lifestyles. So, after a four year stint in Calcutta, my mother began to devour every part of the fish - eyes, fins, tail et al like a true blue Bengali. My Dad spent a sizeable time in the heavily British influenced Ambala Cantonment as a bachelor with an Anglo-Indian caretaker and Khansama taking care of his personal needs. The Khansama spoilt my father like hell and presented a veritable feast on his supper table night after night. So much so that my father had refined culinary tastes that my mother had to live upto and present, in her capacity, the best of mughlai, Indian and continental cuisine to him without fail. Thankfully, because Mum was an avid cook, this remained a happy demand on her and didnot turn into an ugly domestic battle between the two sexes.
But lets get back to my days in Kanpur, the heart or atleast the lung of Uttar Pradesh, if you really must argue that Lucknow (Kanpur's neighbouring and legendary city) was the real heart. Like I said, we soaked in the diversity, the culture, the habits of the locals and took away some in order to internalise them as our own. So, in Kanpur, we began going to the weekly vegetable Haats (weekly markets) and bought the fresh produce, meats and fish and ate a stomach full of our favourite Chaat - Aloo tikkis, gol gappas, papri chaat dished out from the chatwala's busy cart in the most unhygienic fashion. We also sat on tongas and Ikkas, celebrated Goburdhun in our large courtyard and enjoyed pre-diwali festivities with our dolls in a mud house built by Mom in the yard.
The other very-UP thing we did was getting attuned to the Crow's cry as he sat on our parapet announcing the arrival of a house guest. And if our comb fell to the ground after getting entangled in our tresses, we were bloody sure that the crow was a harbinger for the guest, who actually turned up on our doorstep the same day or the next.
And this brings me to the moot point of my discourse. These days I keep waiting for the crow to sit on my courtyard wall, to either steal some grains or cry hoarse about an impending visit of some distant relative. But the crow and his gang seem to be busy elsewhere. Mind you, I stay in a very green colony with the house surrounded by parks and overlooking a thickset of trees. But the sight of the crow eludes me. I don't think it is just me. I am sure you have noticed it too.
And then there are the mynahs. All through the school and college years, we used to go .......... one for sorrow, two for joy, three for letter, four for boy! Now, either we replace it with another bird or dump the routine entirely as the mynahs are not easily spotted.
Its monsoon time and anybody who comes from hill stations or valley stations like me, would say that we are or were used to spending our rainy seasons with frogs and toads. They stealthily trundled into our house hiding in corners or behind cupboards or under the beds, croaking at all odd hours and stubbornly resisting all our efforts to oust them. Cut to today and forget about Delhi, even in Dehradun, my hometown where I cohabitated willy nilly with these amphibians, I must admit that I miss them.
In my mother's home in Doon, I remember throwing grains out to the house sparrows - those lovely brown birds with their streaked backs. They perched themselves on the myriad trees in my mother's orchard-like backyard and scooped onto the pucca area where we had strewn the grains. Until a couple of years back, I found these friendly birds enjoying sunshine even in the tiny courtyard of my Delhi home. Alas, I haven't spotted them either this season or the one before or the one, a year earlier.
These are just some of the personal examples. A net search offers a report that featured in The Guardian and states; I quote, "Climate change over the next 50 years is expected to drive a quarter of land animals and plants into extinction, according to the first comprehensive study into the effect of higher temperatures on the natural world."
Another search throws up a mindboggling list of endangered species - tigers, walruses, polar bears, certain kind of fish, African penguins, butterflies, Musk deer, rhinos and a host of flora such as the prized orchids.
Another report talks about the horrific disappearance of glaciers and rivers, land mass and mountain ranges and forests .........
So what's happening? Is the man eating not only the crow (pun intended) but also everything else? Is the human gluttony devouring everything in sight? Is everything non-human being sacrificed on the altar of commercial greed at the hands of utterly selfish short-sightedness?
Perhaps until such time when Nostradamus' prophesies ring true and this Kalyug (bad era OR the fourth age. One in which there is lot of violence and falsehood. The current age is Kalyug. It started with demise of Sri Krishna) according to Hindu mythology comes to an end.
So who remains, when the big scale tips? Just man and cockroach or only the latter???