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The Hitchhiker

The Hitchhiker

By Bittu Sahgal

Tiger and frog. Photo: Saran Vaid.

“Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life? What do I mean by who I am?” Such were the mind-boggling questions asked by the sperm whale that Douglas Adams brought momentarily into existence through his ‘Infinite Improbability Drive’ in that all-time cerebral adventure classic, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Of course, this adventurous hitchhiking frog has never once contemplated its ‘purpose’ in life. Nor has the tiger the faintest clue about the frog’s maintenance-engineer services that keep its life-giving water sources functional and clean.

How did it get there, did you ask? Well, Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis, better known as the Indian skipper, or skittering frog often basks on the edges of ponds, reed banks and marshes, where this tiger probably arrived to lap up some water. The tiger spooked the frog, which took a great leap… right onto its unique feline perch!

The frog and its ancestors were born in this very pool that slaked the thirst of generations of tigers… in the company of frogs, checkered keelbacks, dragonfly larvae and more.

Everything gets protected when you leave nature alone! In the words of Kailash Sankhala: “Project Tiger was based on the sound scientific principle that no species can be saved in isolation. To protect the tiger – at the apex of the biological pyramid – we had to protect entire ecosystems. So we chose to cover as wide a variety of biogeographic provinces that harboured tigers in India as possible. Our guiding principle was to repose confidence in the power of recovery of nature.”

Like the frog on the tiger, Homo sapiens is just another hitchhiker on a planet whose mysterious systems conspire to keep us alive. Pure etiquette demands that we desist from trashing our host, but etiquette seems lost on us. Which brings me back once again to the redoubtable Douglas Adams whose Guide to the Galaxy intuitively hones in on the distillate of our on-going climate change negotiations:

He was staring at the instruments with the air of one who is trying to convert Fahrenheit to Centigrade in his head while his house is burning down.

Author: Bittu Sahgal

First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia Vol. XXXIII No. 5, October 2013.  

 
 
 

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