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From Here To Eternity

From Here To Eternity

Author: Bittu Sahgal

This image by Muniswararaja Palaniappan won a Special Mention Award at the Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards 2013.

There is poetry in this dream-like vision of birds stretching all the way to the horizon. There is poetry too in the mystery-world of algae and tiny shrimp-like creatures that blossom underfoot in the animate ooze.

Learning honed by 30 million years of natural selection and evolution taught these delicate, long-legged flamingos to purposefully stir mud with webbed feet, then grab, filter and swallow edible matter, using mouthparts that share design parallels with baleen whales 20,000 times heavier.

With relentless regularity, something mind-bogglingly new keeps hitting those whose childhood curiosity about the natural world remains undiminished. After years of investigation and debate suggesting that flamingos belonged to a slew of waterbird families including geese, herons and stilts, for instance, DNA studies now conclusively place the birds in splendid isolation in a separate family all their own, Phoenicopteridae.

And how blessed we are to have them.

Countless incremental, evolutionary iterations involving adaptation and convergence gifted us with an auto-correct planet. Nothing wrong stays wrong too long on Earth. As the newest (very smart) kids on the block, what we perceive as perfection in nature is really the result of the random interaction between species and resources that create an impression of smooth harmony. Flowing water wears rough edges away to create rounded pebbles and grains of sand in much the same way.

I marvel at how fortunate we are to be alive at a time when we can experience the flamingos of Pulicat, the wildebeest of the Mara, the frog and pit viper drama of Amboli and the Amur Falcon phenomenon of Nagaland.

Would that the child in us endured longer through our lives. If it did, then those questions we abandoned in favour of the mundane might continue to preoccupy us: Who are we? Why are we? What will be?

The search for answers would probably keep us closer to the poetry of the earth and safer and happier for eternity on this our only home.

First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia Vol. XXXIII No. 6, December 2013


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Jennifer Scarlott

February 7, 2014, 02:11 AM
 Bittu, I wish the child in us endured longer through our lives too... and I think that child could, if adults would encourage kids to value and cherish their child-like awe and wonder at the world.