Trust not-so-young Indian parents to show off their "general knowledge".
Whether this "trivia" was put to good use in school and college and directed into useful channels of quizzing, or not, it certainly serves as a trustworthy irritant for reasonably young nerves. Not to talk of the poor, incomprehending child that is caught in the midst of all the ostentation.
"What animal is that?" Loud, clear, ringing tones.
"Tiger?" Meek, nervous, terribly unsure.
"The King of the Jungle?! Come on, you know it." Incredulous, coaxing and threatening.
Silence. A moment or two of the heavenly bliss that one craves for and finds in the most unexpected places. Oh, how much enlightenment can come from three-quarters of an hour of inane talk thankfully endowed with those blessed pockets of silence! From the silence, by the way, not the talk.
"It is a lion." The other parent. Defeat, submission, a tinge of embarrassment. The child isn't learning much. Let's send him to school earlier than we thought we should. And tuitions, too.
Before I leave you craving for a pocket of silence, let me also tell you that this is just a sample. The other things I was forcefully, unwillingly taught that Saturday night was that fawns are the young ones of deer (or deers, as our young Tamizh Maami insisted on calling them), tapirs have sharp noses, zebras have stripes, and those thick-skinned animals that wallow in the mud are bisons. There, now that I have dutifully shared my knowledge, let me explain what triggered off this whole rant. It isn't fiction at all; not a bit. It is based on a conversation which I cannot say I eavesdropped on (ugh! not the most obsessive-compulsive voyeur would choose to eavesdrop on something of this sort), or overheard (this, because it was carried on as audibly as possible). I was on the Night Safari with three of the girls, and we were ensconced comfortably in our seat, ready to lose ourselves in the mysterious wonders, habits and habitats of nocturnal creatures, when along came this couple with a very young son, and just our (or is it my?) luck, they plonked down right behind us. So for the entire duration of our trip through the park, in the lovely darkness with the breeze carrying the breath of the forests and some not-so-enticing natural odours, we were forced to put up with the agonising coaching of the parents, a most uninterested child squeezed between the two wildlife enthusiasts. (I cannot think of a more sarcastic term.) The mother, we came to a unanimous decision after the trip, was the most excited of them all, almost jumping out of the tram in her excitement to see the Indian buffaloes in their incongruous Singaporean setting, the prowling lions and the sleeping tigers. (Digressing: the guide on the trip said tigers are natural energy conservers and sleep a lot, upto 20 hours a day. Indeed? Um...can we have something more interesting than that, because we know enough human beings who do that, and that fateful night, I was actually in the midst of them. Lucky me, my flatmates don't read my blog.)
The trip, setting aside the unwanted presence, was soothing and enriching. When you see animals in their natural settings and watch them in their power and glory, you are awe-struck and want to see them flourish. The importance of conservation hits you harder when you see for yourself how nature abounds in wealth and how cruelly we are destroying it all. The gentle eyes of the elephants and the deer seemed to tell a story of immense suffering, and you just felt the urge to go stroke them and tell them that you'd be able to set things right.
Hope is a good thing to have. Almost as good as being single.