The Sparrow and The Peacock

Whesparrown I was growing up in Delhi, house sparrows were very much a part of our lives. They were everywhere, and by the dozens. In fact, most children of those times got their first nature lessons by watching sparrows—the sex differentiation, how they built their nests, the eggs hatching and the parents feeding the young, their mud-bathing etc.

Everyone loved them, but that is not to say they did not give us some headaches. In the summers, they would fly into the house, and it was a mad scramble to switch off the fans and shoo the birds out before they were hit by it and died. And mothers would keep long sticks handy to chase them when they showed signs of making nests in the fan-cups.

For many years now, sparrows are not to be seen so easily. Now, the recently published ‘State of India’s Birds’ assures me that I need not worry because the population of sparrows has been stable in India for the last 25 years. I believe it, because the report is the result of a collaboration among ten of the most respected research and conservation organisations in the country. But I do know that the population has significantly declined from say 35 years ago. And I do wish I would see more of chirpy little birds.

The report also says that the population of peafowl has increased manifold. This may be attributed, it is being said, to the spread of aridity in the country. This is not all good news, as peacocks come into cultivation and eat up growing shoots, causing harm to crops.

The report identifies 101 bird species as needing special efforts for conservation, including specially raptors and water-birds.

The report is a landmark in Indian conservation efforts, because it provides good quality baseline data, which can help shape conservation efforts and their monitoring. It is also unique in that it is based on data collected by citizens across the country–10 million observations collected by over 15,500 birdwatchers across the country. Truly participatory and truly large scale. And the fact that hard-core research organizations are guiding the effort, gives authenticity to the data and findings.

Knowing is the first step to acting. Now we know to some extent what we should worry about. Time to act now!

–Meena

One Man, One Mission

Last week we wrote about Uncle Moosa and his single-handed mission to take books and reading to the remotest parts of North East India.

Here is the story of another man with a similar mission, one that he has been pursuing with undiminished passion and fervour for over 70 years! He is Mahendra Meghani. And this is the story of Lokmilap, the bookshop that he started, and which became a symbol of all that he has devoted his life to. And one to which I too have old links.

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Photo credit: Ajay Desai  

In the summer holidays when we used to go to Bhavnagar, our ancestral hometown, one of visits most looked forward to, was the one to Lokmilap. For us this was treasure house from which we were allowed to select a few books.  More precious, because it was perhaps the only one that stocked English language books, in addition to some of the best literature in Gujarati. We often met Mahendrabhai there, who was also a family friend, and he would show us the new arrivals including the beautifully illustrated children’s books from the Russian People’s Publishing House.

In those days this was as much as we knew about Lokmilap. Over the years as we grew, we learnt more about Mahendra Meghani and his tireless mission to take literature to “the people” in every way possible.

Mahendrabhai’s own lineage in literature goes back to his father, the famed Gujarati litterateur Zaverchand Meghani, who was given the title Lok Shayar or People’s Poet by Mahatma Gandhi. It is said that while Zaverchand took literature from people’s tongues to people’s hearts, Mahendrabhai took literature to every person, home and society.

Born in 1923, Mahendrabhai, graduated from high school in Mumbai, and joined L. D. Arts College in Ahmedabad for further education. It is said that when he was getting ready to move from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, his father advised, “It gets very hot in Ahmedabad, so make sure you cover your head with a topi”. Complying with his father’s suggestion, Mahendrabhai started wearing the khadi cap which became an integral part of his attire, and remained so through the years. After two years in Ahmedabad he returned to Mumbai to join the Elphinstone College, but left that to join Gandhi’s Quit India movement. He did not return to college, but instead helped his father with his journalistic work.  After the death of his father in 1948, Mahendrabhai went to the US to study journalism at Columbia. Living in the International Student’s House in New York, he would, every day, buy two newspapers and peruse the many pages. It is here that he also discovered Reader’s Digest.  And he found his calling! He decided to return to India and start a similar magazine in Gujarati. And so, on 26 January 1950, India’s first Republic Day, was born Milap, a monthly journal in Gujarati which set high standards of language and literature, and yet garnered a wide and faithful readership.

Tired of the hectic life in Mumbai, Mahendrabhai moved to Bhavnagar in Gujarat where the journal Milap engendered the publishing house as well as the book shop Lokmilap (meeting of people). It is through these that Mahendrabhai lived his passion to take good literature, at affordable prices, to as wide a reading public as possible. The bookshop, as he said, “included books from all publishers, but not all books from all publishers.” Lokmilap’s vision was not simply to sell books; they wanted to open windows to the best in world literature, to give people a perspective about life, and how to live life. They published hundreds of original Gujarati books, but also translated and abridged versions of classics of world literature (many of them translated by Mahendrabhai himself). More critically, the books were very nominally priced, to suit even the shallowest pocket. They introduced “pocket books”, initially to take poetry to the people, but later diversified to include a vast range of literature. Priced then, as low as 50 paise, the books sold in lakhs.

In 1969, the Gandhi Centenary year, he compiled a special collection of 400 books that celebrated Gandhi’s life and message, and a booklet titled Discovering India Book Exhibition. The books were exhibited in many countries across the world with the condition that the sponsoring organisation would buy the set, and donate it to a local library or community centre.

Mahendrabhai himself has travelled far and wide, always clad in his simple khadi attire, sharing his love for language and literature with wide and diverse audiences. In Bhavnagar he was a familiar sight, riding his bicycle no matter what the weather. His tireless quest to share the best with everyone had many facets—at one point hand grinding wheat and baking bread which he distributed, to starting a film club which screened some of the classics of world cinema, and to which he would bring people who had never before been exposed to such experiences.

The man and his mission have inspired and touched millions across generations and nations. Last month, on India’s 70th Republic Day, Lokmilap also marked its 70th anniversary by announcing its closure. Expressing the sentiment that everything that has a start will have an end; what better than the end that is brought about by the ones that made the start?  For all of us whohad taken Lokmilap as one of those comforting points of stability and continuity in lives and cities that have changed so much, it is a sense of losing moorings. But secure that the seeds of the institution have been planted deep and strong.

A man whose mission has brought the love of letters to millions, Mahendrabhai, at age 97, carries on with his writing and reading, somewhat frailer in body but indomitable in spirit.

–Mamata

Monkey at My Window

Yesterday, the results of the Delhi election were declared. Aam Aadmi Party romped home with a thumping majority.

And this is a piece about monkey business, not politics. (This is a statement of fact. Nothing tongue in cheek).

If so, then why start the piece by talking about politics?

Because monkeys taking over parts of Delhi including Parliament and high government offices is often in the news. And there was a statement made by an AAP MLA that “Monkey problem never became a poll issue”! In spite of that, the issue was serious enough that before the Assembly elections, the Delhi government planned for a census of monkeys in the city, for area-wise identification and tackling of the issue. They have roped in Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the country’s premier research institution on the subject.

So it is not like monkeys and elections don’t have a link. How could I resist the temptation?

monkeyAnyway, to get to the matter on hand. For the last month or so, a group of Rhesus Macaques has been visiting our small office in Bangalore every once in a few days. The first reactions were of course ‘so cute’, and ‘shall we give them biscuits’. But as days went by, and the visits became a regular feature, they became bolder. They sat outside the door and snarled when we went to shoo them away. Several times they entered the office. And a few days ago, one of them snatched a tiffin box, went out, enjoyed the contents, and threw away the box.

The erosion of natural habitats is pushing wildlife including monkeys out of their homes. Where do they go except to cities? And our cities are very conducive for certain species. For instance, in the case of monkeys, our unorganized disposal of food and organic waste, and lack of garbage system lead to plenty of food being available, and they thrive.

 

Many means have been tried to keep monkeys away. In Delhi, Langurs were actually employed by the government to visit offices turn by turn and scare the Rhesus monkeys away, till this was stopped as it raised concerns about cruelty to animals (i.e., the Langurs being put to work). Following this, the government is hiring people who can mimic Langur sounds, and they go around doing this, with some success in keeping Rhesus away. A few days ago, there was a news item that Ahmedabad Airport was deploying a man dressed in a bear costume to keep away monkeys. In Bangalore, vegetable and fruit vendors often have large stuffed tigers on their carts for this purpose. (This is what we are going to try in our office too!).

Delhi has also tried translocating monkeys to forests and protected areas. But that obviously has its limits in how many can be accommodated. Himachal Pradesh has spent large sums on sterilization programs, but experts question the efficacy. Now, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has launched a programme with the help of National Institute of Immunology and Wildlife WII to develop a new immuno-contraception technique which will inject a vaccine to prevent female monkeys from getting pregnant. Some experts feel this is the way forward. But when this will be ready, how it will be deployed at large scale across the country, and whether it will ultimately work at scale are questions that remain.

In the meantime, the fundamental solutions remain the age-old ones: (1) vigorously prevent the destruction of natural areas, forests and habitats, and (2) manage waste better.

Not like we don’t know the answers. But …

-Meena

 

 

Uncle Moosa

When I saw the name Sathyanaryanan Mundayoor on this year’s Padma Shri list, a recognition for playing a ‘seminal role’ in spreading

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Photo credit: Bapenlu Kri 

education in Arunachal Pradesh, I was delighted. He epitomises for me a true passion for books and reading, and an inspiring story of a lifetime devoted to this mission. I first heard of him and his library mission, over a decade ago, from my old colleague and friend Ambika Aiyadurai. I sent him some of the books that we had developed in CEE, and over the years we corresponded sporadically. I have not yet been able to meet him in person, but truly hope to do so sometime. In the meanwhile I feel that his work needed to be shared. What could be better than a first-hand account from Ambika who has known him and seen his work over the years.

Thank you Ambika for sharing this!

–Mamata

I first heard about Sathyanaryanan Mundayoor, way back in 2006 when I started my research work in Arunachal Pradesh. School teachers, students, engineers, administrators, doctors and local villagers in Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh suggested I meet him. In Lohit and later Anjaw district, where I started my field research, every one fondly spoke of ‘Uncle Moosa’, a name that people of Arunachal had given him. It was only after two years, in 2008, that I had a chance to meet him at Wakro (Lohit district). My accommodation was in the Circuit House, and he had come there to meet someone. With a pleasant smile, a gentle, fragile-looking man greeted me with a ‘namashkaram’. What struck me was his dress. That evening, in the chill of October, all Uncle Moosa had over him was a sweater and shawl, and a cotton veshti. In fact, I have only seen him in a veshti all these years.

Uncle Moosa invited me to visit Bamboosa library the next day. The days were short, so I decided to visit the library at 3 p.m. A group of children was in the library, sitting on a carpet on the floor, reading books. Few sat on chairs placed along the wall. Soon, another set of students arrived. With an assortment of books neatly arranged on the shelves, this single room is a wealth for local children. Students were free to choose any book, read on their own, or in groups. This library in Wakro is a result of Uncle Moose’s mission to inculcate reading skills and promote a reading culture among children in Arunachal Pradesh. And he has spent the last 30-odd years on this mission to connect rural children of Arunachal Pradesh with books. Starting with the Bamboosa library in Tezu, followed by Apne library in Wakro, and Hutong library in Yatong in Anjaw district, by now 13 libraries have been set up in the state, as part of the youth library network.

Uncle Moosa’s first visit to Arunachal Pradesh was in the year 1979 as part of a Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalaya mission. He took this up after quitting his government job in the income tax department in Mumbai. Till 1996, he worked with VKV, dedicating his entire time to the library movement, and never went back to Mumbai nor to his home state of Kerala. In addition to running libraries, Uncle Moosa would invite scholars and other visitors to give a talk in the library and interact with the students. Uncle mentored senior students to become reader activists and there are several events organized during Gandhi Jayanti, World Environment Day and Independence Day where students affiliated with the library movement would perform plays, skits, reading sessions and poem recitals. Those who have known him for several years tell me that Uncle Moosa would carry books in small trunks and suitcases to remote villages to set up reading camps. Hopping onto state transportation buses, and in places with little road connectivity, he would walk for several kilometers to reach a village.

Not many know about Uncle Moosa’s frugal living. A small single room with a bed and a shelf was his accommodation in Wakro. His day begins at four in the morning by doing yoga and meditation. His favourite breakfast is upma, and he prepares his own food himself every day. Full of energy, and with a kind, ever-smiling face, talking with him is a joy. His dedication to the library movement and helping students with their education has earned him love and respect, both from adults and children. He continues to live in Arunachal Pradesh, and is now based in Roing. Many years have passed, and I have completed my PhD, but every time I go back to Arunachal Pradesh, I look forward to meeting Uncle Moosa!

Uncle Moosa has dedicated his life to promoting education and fostering a culture of reading in the remote areas of the North-Eastern state. May his tribe increase!

Ambika Aiyadurai

 

 

 

 

Swollen-headed

CBCA14C8-CCB2-4EE8-BE0A-E137CB978119At 11.11 by the clock, on the 11th of November every year (pretty palindromic, isn’t it?), at Mainz Germany, the Fools’ Constitution is proclaimed from the balcony of the Osteiner Hotel. This marks the start of the City’s Carnival, which is characterized by people wearing oversized papier-mache heads roaming around the crowds. It seems that this practice started about 80 years ago, but I could not find references as to why “schwellköpp” or ‘swollen-heads’ are an integral part of the festivities.

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Equally mysterious to me is why shops these days have “schwellköpp” mannequins. I really can’t see why anyone would want to buy garments modelled by such weird looking dolls. I know it is all about attracting attention, but surely, there could be better ways to do this than having swollen-headed guys with multi-coloured hair? Fortunately, all the schwellkopp mannequins I have seen have been male. I fear female versions would be really too much.

The practice of using mannequins to model clothes goes back to 15th century France, but those were miniatures. The use of full size dummies started in the 18th century, and these were made of wicker. Later, mannequins were made of wire-work. In the mid-19th century,  papier-maiche dummies took over.  Today most of these figures are made of fibreglass or plastic.

Mannequins are also used by artists (lifeless figures hold a pose much longer than live models!). They have sundry other uses, for example in crash-testing and in testing defense equipment.

The use of these dolls in medical education dates back to the 17th century where ivory manikins were used by doctors as a teaching aids. Even today, medical simulation mannequins are used extensively in education and for teaching first aid.

I can only hope these mannequins are normal-headed. I would hate my doctor to have been trained on a schwellkopp!

–Meena

Wisely, Towards Spring

D268048C-DD39-4287-B9B7-279D6073FAE4Basant Panchami went by last week. The mustard fields of Punjab must have been a riot of yellow, but my own little shrub was beautiful too!

Basant Panchami falling 40 days before Holi, marks the transition towards spring. As always, the festival is celebrated differently in different parts of the country. In some parts of India like Bengal, and even as far afield as Indonesia, it is marked as Saraswati Puja. Apart from the fact that it is the time of flowering of many plants like the mustard which has yellow flowers, the colour yellow marks this festival because of its association with Saraswathi, Goddess of Learning.

I could not really find what the exact association of Basant Panchami with Saraswati is (being a Tamilian, I celebrate Saraswati Puja during Dusshera). But I did come across one very interesting story linking the two.

The story of Kalidasa is well known. He lived in a country with a princess renowned for her intelligence and wit. The princess set the condition that she would marry only the man who answered a series of questions she put to him. Many a man—king, prince, warrior, commoner—tried and failed. The people of the country were fed up (and a lot of male egos probably smarted). A bunch of them decided to teach her a lesson. They set up the village idiot for this. They knew the questions, and tutored him as to how to respond to them—basically not to open his mouth and exhibit his ignorance, but simply show hand signs.

The ruse worked and Kalidasa married the princess. (Actually, he was not called Kalidasa then, but acquired the name later). It did not take the princess long to figure out that her husband was a dolt. She threw him out.

Depressed, he wandered about. In most versions of the story, he went and prayed to Kali in a temple, and she blessed him with brilliance and wit and eloquence (Maybe on behalf of Saraswati? Or asked Saraswati to bless him with these attributes?). There is however a lesser known version of the story that he was kicked out of home and hearth around Basant Panchami, and on the day of Panchami, he tried to drown himself in the Ganga. Saraswati saved him and endowed him with her blessings. Thanks to which he went on to become Sanksrit’s greatest playwright, giving the world such gems as Abhijnanashakuntala , Vikramorvashi , Malavikagnimitra,  Raghuvamsha, Kumarasambhava  and Meghaduta.

So happy journey towards spring! May Basant Panchami bring wit and wisdom to all of us, as it is said to have brought Kalidasa.

–Meena

From A to …?

Imagine an alphabet that ended questionably with a Y? rather than a reassuring Z! Well there was actually a time when this familiar tailender was removed from the alphabet!

The English alphabet we know today took its modern 26-letter shape in the 16th century. But the origins of most letters of the English alphabet can be traced back to Egyptian hieroglyph symbols of 4,000 years ago, with a sprinkling of Semitic, Phoenician, Greek and Roman influences thrown in.

As with many letters of the English alphabet, Z also has an interesting history. Three-thousand years ago the Phoenicians used a letter called ‘zayin’, meaning ‘ax.’ It was in the form of a vertical line, with horizontal lines at the top and bottom–like an uppercase ‘I’.

The Greeks adopted it as ‘zeta’ around 800 BC. By this time the vertical line had become slanted, and the top and bottom lines had become elongated. Zeta took on the shape that we know as Z today.

But around 300 BC, the Roman Censor Appius Claudius Caecus felt that this letter was not being used frequently and decided that it had become archaic, and this letter was removed from the alphabet. According to some biographers he simply did not like the sound of the letter, and felt that when it is pronounced by pulling the lips over the teeth, the speaker looked like a smiling corpse!

Two hundred years later, Z was reintroduced to the Latin alphabet. At the time, it was used only in words taken from Greek. Because of its absence and reintroduction, zeta is one of the only two letters to enter the Latin alphabet directly from Greek.

So Z returned to the 26th place, but it was not always the last. For years, the ‘&’ symbol (now known as the ampersand) was the final letter. The symbol was pronounced as “and” but always used together with the Latin ‘per se’ meaning ‘by itself.’ So when rattling off the letters  “X Y Z and per se“ these rolled into being recited as ”X, Y, Z, ampersand.”

Early English did not have a Z, but used S for both the sibilant sounds. Even today the letter is relatively less used in ‘British English’ spellings as compared with ‘American’ English; (it is sometimes an irritant to find all these words underlined by Spellcheck if spelled with an S!)

It is also interesting to browse through the Z letters in tz cartoon.jpghe English dictionary and discover that the majority of the words listed there have their origins in a variety of other languages and cultures. Who would have thought that “ze leetle zee” would have such had such an adventurous history!

I for one enjoy the letter Z. It’s zippy, zappy, full of zest, and helps to create the right buzz!

–Mamata

Year of the Rat

This month has been one of the start of the New Year for several different communities, especially in India, as I wrote earlier. Every culture has its own calculations, myths and legends associated with the annual cycle of time. rat.png

Last week was the Chinese New Year, and the start of the Year of the Rat. The year of the Rat signifies the first year in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac. The years of the Rat include 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, and now, 2020.

The Chinese zodiac is based on a repeating 12-year cycle, with each year signified by an animal, in the following order–Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Those born in a specific year are said to possess certain characteristics of the animal, as defined in the Chinese belief system; and their fortunes are determined accordingly. For example people born in the year of the Rat are supposed to be intelligent, charming, quick-witted, practical and ambitious. They are also likely to be timid, stubborn, greedy, devious, too eager for power, and love to gossip!

Why these animals and why this specific order?  There is an interesting legend linked to this. The story has many versions, but in essence it tells about a race. This is one version.

Once long, long ago, the Jade Emperor, one of the most important gods in traditional Chinese religion wanted to select 12 animals to be his guards. He sent his messengers to earth to invite all the animals in the world to take part in a race which would end by entering the Heavenly Gate.

Twelve species turned up at the start line: a pig, dog, rooster, monkey, sheep, horse, snake, dragon, rabbit, tiger, ox and rat.

As a reward for turning up, the Emperor named a year in the zodiac after each of these animals, but the race was to determine the order in which each animal would be placed in the zodiac, depending upon the order in which they reached the finish line.

All the animals set off on the course. On the way there was a big river that they had to cross. The Rat had got up and started early, but when it reached the river it felt helpless. But then it saw the strong Ox about to enter the water, so it used its wits and climbed onto the Ox’s head. The Ox was kind and let it ride with him. But as soon as they reached the other side, the wily rat quickly slid down and scampered to the finish line. And so the Rat came first, followed at number two by the diligent Ox.

Tiger and Rabbit were not far behind. Both were fast and competitive, but Tiger was faster and came in third. Rabbit who nimbly crossed the river by hopping on stepping stones and a floating log came fourth.

Everyone thought that the dragon with his magical powers of flight would be in front. But in fact the dragon took a detour to go ashore to help some villagers extinguish a fire. When it returned to the river, it saw that Rabbit was struggling on the log, and so the dragon used its breath to blow it to shore. The Rabbit never found out where the helpful breeze came from, but it finished before the Dragon, who came in at number five.

The Horse wasn’t far behind the Dragon and thought that sixth place was in the bag. However, it hadn’t noticed that the Snake had hitched a ride by wrapping itself around the Horse’s legs to save energy. Just as the finish line was in sight, the snake uncoiled itself and frightened the Horse. The Snake thus slyly slithered to sixth place while the horse came in seventh.

Next up were the Sheep (or Goat in some stories), Monkey and Rooster. They decided to work as a team and made a small raft to help them across the river. When they reached the other side, they dashed to the finish line. The Sheep/Goat reached first followed by the Monkey and the Rooster—ranking at number eight, nine and ten respectively.

That left the Dog and the Pig. The dog was playful and could not help splashing and enjoying itself in the river water while all the others overtook it. It landed up wet and panting to claim the eleventh rank. And where was the Pig? True to its nature, half way into the race it got hungry. So it decided to look for, and eat something to keep it going. But it ate so much that it just had to lie down and nap! When it awoke from its snooze, and made its way to the finish line, all the other animals had long crossed it. The Emperor had almost given up on it, but was happy to assign it the final space in the zodiac.

And so the 12 animals became the Emperor’s guards and were also assigned their place in the zodiac.

There is an interesting Post Script to this story which explains why the Cat is missing from the list. As the tale goes, Cat and Rat were then good friends, and both decided to join the race. But the Cat had a habit of waking up late. So, fearing he might miss the grand race, he asked the Rat to wake him up the next morning. The Rat, however, forgot his promise and left without his best friend.

Alas, when the Cat finally woke up, it was already too late, and he did not make it to the race on time. Hence, there is no year in the Chinese zodiac named after the Cat. And, this is why, until this day, the Cat will always hunt the Rat!

Here’s to the Year of the Rat!

–Mamata

 

OK Boomer!

It is the story over generations—the older generation that cannot help lapsing into the “when I was your age…” line, and the younger generation with their hidden smirks and “here they go again” line. This year there are two words that sum up the feelings—OK Boomer!

Who or what are boomers? This is the name that was given to the generation that was born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s. This was the period marked by a baby boom following World War II. In several parts of the world this generation also enjoyed higher incomes and standards of living as compared to their parents. It was a generation that also had some surplus from their hard earned income to spur a surge in consumerism.

Following the baby boomers was Gen X, the generation that was born in the period between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s. Gen Xers as they were called sometimes called the “latchkey” generation, where both parents either worked, or children of single parents as  more and more women joined the workforce. This generation was perceived by the boomers as being cynical, slackers and drifters.

Then came Gen Y, also called the millennials–a phrase used to generally describe a person who reached adulthood in the early 21st century, and covers the generation of people born between 1980 and 2000.

Now we have Gen Z the generation reaching adulthood in the second decade of the 21st century; in other words those born in the 2000s. A generation also described as iGeneration (iGen), Gen Tech, Gen Wii, Net Gen, Digital Natives, and Plurals.

Today, we often have all the four generations in coexistence and interaction, each with their very distinct histories, experiences and perceptions about life and times. No surprise then that each generation perceives the other very differently, each one articulating the issues of the ‘generation gap’ in their own way. For Gen Z, anyone not in their teens are simply relics from the age of the dinosaurs. For the dinosaurs, the young twenty-somethings are a species apart. The war of opinions and words about the ‘appropriateness’ of attitudes are lifestyles is articulated by the elders in long lectures. But the new Gen needs only two words to sum up their take on this—OK Boomer!  Younger people are calling older people (or anyone who disagrees with their beliefs or are deemed uncool) boomers.

The term “boomer” now represents older people from a different generation that just don’t get it, or anyone who disagrees with their beliefs, or are deemed uncool. A boomer is someone who is intolerant to new ideas and who is ignorant to new ideas.

The term originated as a meme on the social media platform TikTok, and gained popularity throughout 2019. The OK Boomer meme really started out as a fun, light-hearted joke,but soon became viral and was used generally in a humorous and ironic way to describe or dismiss out-of-touch or close-minded opinions associated with the baby boomer generation and older people.

So the next time someone from any Gen preceding Gen Z dares to express concern about the up-and-coming generation as inexperienced or naive, be prepared to have an “OK Boomer” coming at them. And remember that the OK isn’t an endorsement, but just the opposite that means Not OK! Till the next gen takes over!

–Mamata

Welcome Tenants

birdTwo weeks ago that I looked up from the road, I saw a largish structure on my roof. Intrigued, I went up to try to figure out what this large mud structure was. I first thought it was the hive of some kind of wasp. But looking at the parapet below the nest, I noticed some bird droppings. And it did not take too much mental work from there on to figure out it was a bird’s nest.

But ‘which bird?’ was the next question. Using conventional bird books, it is not easy to go from nest to bird, I realized. And since I had not sighted the bird, I could not go through that route. I knew it was probably a swift or swallow, so I googled based on that. And kind of figured out it was a Red-rumped Swallow, but could not be quite sure till a bird-watcher friend looked at the nest and confirmed it.

I haven’t met my tenants yet, but bird books assure me that they will be 16-17 cms in length, with generous amounts of rufous-orange on their wings and underparts, and forked tails. They will feed almost entirely on flying insects, catching them on the wing, at a height of up to 100 metres or so.

The amazing ‘encroachment’ on my terrace must have been built by both adults who would have collected mud as pellets in their bills, and worked for 5-15 days to build the flask-shaped nest with a  tunnel-like entrance. They would have lined it with soft grass and feathers.

I suspect the nest was built in the last mating season—between April and September, and 4-5 eggs may have been laid. They would have incubated the eggs for about 2 weeks, and the chicks would have been ready to fly out of their secure home in 26 days.

I missed all that.

But my bird-watcher friend has assured me that these birds tend to re-use their nests for a few years, so I hope to see them this spring!

–Meena