BLEND IN IS WHAT THEY SAY …

I cannot stand snakes. I hate them so much that even a picture of them makes me sick in the stomach. Lizards are very close in resemblance to snakes, but I somehow developed an interest in them. I might have been very young when I started reading articles and watching national geography documentaries. They can stick to any surface and crawl. Lizards are very interesting to me 🙂 

Lizards are the most common species on earth, found at every possible place including our houses. Antartica is an exception. They live in rain-forests, deserts, ponds, rivers, and even on trees and shrubs. There are more than 6000 varieties of lizards. Of all these, I am very fascinated by Chameleons. Chameleons are the variety that changes color in a jiffy. pink, red, orange, green, blue, black, brown, light blue, yellow, turquoise, and purple. If you won’t get scared of watching lizards, then please watch this.  

There are certain interesting facts about lizards. Broadly, lizards are characterized into three color groups. I believe they are yellow, blue and brown/black. Each of these colors means compassionate, playboy, loyal. Interestingly the females mate with the species that are low in number in their vegetation to prevent extinction. By doing this, they preserved all three species successfully for the last 200 years. 

Lizard is the species which has the highest tensile muscle among all living species. It’s their tongue. Like snakes, lizards also smell with their tongue and do not have ears. To catch the prey, lizard lets out a small portion of its tongue to smell the surroundings. Once it finds the prey, it releases its tongue at a speed of 225mph. I would recommend watching that in slow motion 🙂 Lizards come in various sizes. The ones that are larger in size are the ones considered to be harmful to humans otherwise lizards are harmless. 

I can go on and on writing about them, but, let me tell you a funny encounter with lizards. I am not sure if it’s funny because it is going to have a sad ending. End of last year I went on a holiday for two weeks. By the time I returned home, there were not one, not two but three lizards in my kitchen. I was not scared when I saw them, somehow it felt very weird to be cooking in the kitchen where lizards are moving freely. How many days can I go without cooking? I had to find a way to get rid of them. I have no idea how to get rid of them. What’s the one thing that usually saves us? Google. Yes, I started googling to find out how to get rid of lizards. There were several remedies like peacock feathers, camphor etc. After failed trials for two weeks, I had no option but the forcefully send them out. I cleaned up the entire kitchen counter, placed back all jars into the cabinets. I tried using the broomstick and duster, but it was another failure.. 

Unable to find out any remedy, I contemplated if I should kill them. This fight went on for two days. I had no clue how to kill them either. Trust me, I tried various cleaning solutions, sprays possible. At last, what worked was cockroach spray. It worked but I had to see the lizard suffer. The tail portion of the lizard separated from its body and just like octopus tentacles it was moving even after it was separated for more than a minute. Trust me, it wasn’t easy killing those. I couldn’t sleep for a few days but I had no other option. 

If any of you are petting a lizard, please excuse me for killing them. I feel sorry for them as well. As much as possible I am not going to do this again. From next time I would be careful to not let lizards than having to get rid of them later. Any ideas for this would be appreciated. I like lizards but I don’t think I would ever pet one. Though what I could learn from them is to adapt to situations around. It makes a lot of sense considering how bad the world around is now-a-days . Either we should stand out or blend in. By this, I do not mean that we have to do bad things to fit in. Lizards only do that to not get noticed and become prey to their predators. 

“The trick to not being discovered until it is too late is to become part of the expected surroundings. Stealth is more the art of blending in with the background than sneaking through dark shadows.” 
― Raymond E. Feist

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WISER, GREENER AND PEACEFUL CREATURE – FROGS

From my childhood whenever I think of the biology class, I remember the time I learned about the Amphibians. Interesting it was to learn about the famous amphibians -Frog. Little did I know then, that one day I would end up writing about them as a life lesson giver.

Yes !! You read it right, – they are indeed one of these creatures, who will overwhelm us, with their incredible teachings through their simple lifestyle.

Every night during the monsoon. in my native, I was kind of accustomed with the lullabies of these frogs all nights while I was put to sleep. Then as a child, I used to wonder, what exactly they might be saying or discussing. It was indeed a soothing way to sleep then, better than the honking sounds of the cars.

Often now, I do think the same- as I have never learnt their language…  It just goes Ribbit …Ribbit…Ribbit…Ribbit…

It seems that those little creatures have a lot to tell us. Let me put a quite few of them here:

Adaptable 

Being called amphibians, born in the water, swimming across in the water like tadpoles and then becoming a toad and leaping onto the land and living without any hesitation. Don’t’ you think they are brilliantly adaptable. Put them in the water they swim, put them on land, they just hop on. Being Adaptable to any situation whatever it might be the situation, is something one needs to learn from these slimy green toads.

Patience 

Frogs – Whenever we think of it, the first picture that comes to our mind is a hopping one. But to catch a prey, it just stays still for while access the surrounding and then waits for the right moment to catch it. It is not easy. Trust me, winning over with patience is the hardest thing one can ever do. And here also frogs excel us.

Enjoying serene space

Most of the time they just wait and be calm. It looks like as if they are relishing the serene beauty of the surrounding- like the mirror-like still pond.  We as humans prefer all the hustles and bustles of the city and we forget to appreciate the beauty of stillness. The frogs, step on to the lotus leaves and watch the beckoning stillness of nature.

Cherishing the simple joys

Gone are the days, we see kids playing in the rain and enjoying it. Look at the frogs, when it rains, it just doesn’t stand in the shade, but take a leap into the pouring rain. Relishing the simplest moments in life is something we need to do, and it stays forever.

Observant

Frogs stay still for a longer time and then observe the surroundings quite well. One can see, with the slightest movement, frogs tend to jump away from the leaf into the waters. Their observation power is far more efficient than the radar system I believe.

Even though they seem smaller just fitting into our palm, they teach us lessons worth a lifetime.  If you bound to explore the hidden nature, then you get to learn many obvious things to learn from it. Spending some time with nature itself makes life worth living.

Walk away into the luscious greenery and be bound to the fullness of being one among them. Let the creepers recite you the tales of their bonding with the trees they are creeping on to. Let the birds teach you the virtue of flying and let the ants teach you the efficiency of teamwork.

Keep your eyes and ears open, let nature communicate with you. 

APPEARANCE CAN BE DECEPTIVE

Earthworms – Ketchuain (Hindi), Vaanapaamulu (Telugu), we used to call them. Have seen a lot of them during my childhood and their sticky, slippery, slender structure sent jitters and made me go Ewwww 😖. I have a few memories too associated with them.  My mother used to compare noodles (not the instant ones) to earthworms, especially when we used to demand during the rainy season. Creepy isn’t it? And when we kids used to spot them in parks we used to huddle around them just to ascertain the direction they were moving – coming or going 🤣🤣. Their bodies are such.

That was some nostalgia. Nostalgia because now it seems as ages have passed when I last saw them.  Not enough time for me to spend outside as well as no more open spaces available for them to thrive (at least in my knowledge). Connect the dots please 😁. So when the weekly topic was tossed I thought why not remember “Earthworms” in this week dedicated to “Creepy,Crawley creatures”.

Some Wikipedia Information as to what are Earthworms:

An earthworm is a tube-shaped, segmented wormfound in the phylum Annelida. They have a world-wide distribution and are commonly found living in soil, feeding on live and dead organic matter. An earthworm’s digestive system runs through the length of its body. It conducts respiration through its skin. It has a double transport system composed of coelomic fluid that moves within the fluid-filled coelom and a simple, closed blood circulatory system. It has a central and a peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system consists of two ganglia above the mouth, one on either side, connected to a nerve cord running back along its length to motor neurons and sensory cells in each segment. Large numbers of chemoreceptors are concentrated near its mouth. Circumferential and longitudinal muscles on the periphery of each segment enable the worm to move. Similar sets of muscles line the gut, and their actions move the digesting food toward the worm’s anus.[1]

Earthworms are hermaphrodites: each individual carries both male and female sex organs. As invertebrates, they lack either an internal skeleton or exoskeleton, but maintain their structure with fluid-filled coelom chambers that function as a hydrostatic skeleton.”

(Source: Google.Inc)

That was some basic information, anatomy you can say.  Now coming to the point that out of innumerable tiny little creatures what made me choose this literally two-dimensional reptile – my choice was simple considering the amount of good they do for the ecosystem, in short for us.

  • Earthworms help improve the drainage system of soil. When they burrow deep into the soil, they aerate the soil thus helping it to retain more water and hence enriching it.
  • Earthworms eat the dried up leaves, dead roots and break down the organic matter leaving behind the casts that work as natural fertilizers for the soil.   They are rich in minerals like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, calcium. They are farm friendly, to say the least.
  • Their digestive juices and even dead bodies are a rich compost for the soil.

That was a bird’s eye view of what enormous amount of good these tiny creatures do. And I hope there’s no need to explain how soil is related to plants and farm and how they, in turn, are related to the balance of the ecosystem.  Basic science folks that we all have learned in school 😁😁.

What Earthworms have taught me? Looks are not at all in relation to the good qualities and character embedded inside – this was basic and cliched but a truth nevertheless.  Well, that reminds me of one particular incident where I misjudged and feared a person, though just for a few seconds but I am guilty, no shame in accepting that. As I have already mentioned so many times in the past that my son is autistic and meltdowns are our daily visitors. I was out with him along with my daughter in a crowded area. And BAAM, meltdown knocked my son and he was lying down on road throwing his legs and hands here and there, not letting me get a hold of him and was very aggressive.  People were watching me, crossing by me, few stopped to inquire as well but no one lent a helping hand. And I was perplexed and perspiring. A homeless man, with his rugged dirty clothes, a beer can in hand, unkempt hair and nails, all sorts of tacky accessories all over him, swaying to the music walked up to me. I was apprehensive now “Why he is walking towards me?“. I just held my daughter, stood close to my son trying to relax at that moment. But it didn’t take me long to realize that he only meant to help me. He spoke to my son, caressed his hair, his presence calmed down the little one and he stood up and agreed to walk with me again.  I thanked him and left but this incident never left my mind. Appearances can be deceptive, period!

Parallels to be drawn: I always found earthworms repulsive for the way they looked – sticky and creepy, but that’s just the way they LOOK, meanwhile doing so much good for others in their short lifespan. In the same way, I  feared that man solely based on the way he LOOKED but he did come forward to help me. The flaw lies within me, simple.

For me, it’s more clear now – Appearance Can Be Deceptive. Think beyond that. And in the meantime let the earthworms grow 😊.

SNAKE – A REPTILE THAT REFLECTS VOLUMES OF WISDOM

There was a big pond at the backyard of one of our rented houses and throughout the year it was filled with different types of fishes, snakes, and reptiles – creepy crawly creatures. It was the exact replica of the image of the Amazon forest in my geography book. Every time I found venomous snakes gulping something, moving on the ground or in the water. In fact, it was next to our bedroom, so especially in rainy season one of my most regular scary dreams was venomous snakes entering into our house through our bedroom window and skylight holes. It used to be the only place where my great gully cricket teammates won’t dare to go in search of the ball. The only time I would dare to go there is during summer vacation to watch my cousin brother killing snakes with an iron rod, stones and sticks. And I use to scare him saying, the snake has taken your picture in his eyes and its mate will surely kill you one-day. Of course, he is alive today, as it was my reference from the famous Bollywood movie “Nagin” (based on snakes).

Snakes are elongated, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes. Like all other squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales and with highly mobile jaws. To accommodate their narrow bodies, snakes’ paired organs (such as kidneys) appear one in front of the other instead of side by side, and most have only one functional lung. They range in size from 4 inches (Barbados thread snake to 393 inches long (reticulated Python). 70% of them are oviparous (lay eggs) while the rest are non-oviparous but they do not go through the larval stage. Isn’t it so amazing? There are approximately 3,600 known species of snakes in the world, out of it only 375 species are venomous and harmful for humans. Snakes are found in every continent except Antarctica and other small land masses such as New Zealand, Ireland, and Iceland. According to their evolution snakes have orders and suborders. All the modern snakes are grouped into the suborder Serpentes, again the suborder has two infraorders; Scolecophidia which comprises of 5 snake families mainly of the blind snakes and Alethinophidia which include the non-blind snakes. Scolecophidia comprised of about 305 known species while Alethinophidia is made up of over 2,600 species and sometimes split into Henophides and Caenophides. Caenophides consists of Colubridae – the largest 19 snake families (51% of all known snakes), Colubridae snakes comprise the largest 1,866 species, Viperidae (341 species), Elapids (359 species), Lamprophiidae (314 species), Biodae (60 species), and Uropedltidae (55 species). Infraorder Scolecophidia is made of 5 snake families mainly consisting of blind snakes. The largest family Typhlopidae consists of 266 species, mainly the typical blind snakes. The family Leptotyphlopidae is made up of 139 species, mainly the slender blind snakes. The other three families are Gerrhopilidae (18 species), Anomalepidae (18 species of primitive blind snakes), and Xenotyphlopidae which consist of only One species; the round-nosed blind snake of Northern Madagascar. This is just an overview or can be counted as a micro set of information about the snake species.

Snakes have a wide diversity of skin coloration patterns. These patterns are a tendency to flee from predators, it is also their hunting strategy, as their pattern allows them to send little information to prey about motion. The blotched snakes usually use ambush-based strategies, it helps them to blend into an environment with irregularly shaped objects, like sticks and rocks.

Snakes also go through a molting process. The younger one goes 4 times in a year and the older once or twice in a year. Before the molt, they do not eat and hides or moves into a safe place to shed their skin. Molt keeps the snake young and helps to get rid of parasites such as mites and ticks.

Talking about snake without mentioning their venom! Oh, it doesn’t complete the talk. Snakes are a symbol of venom. Cobras, Vipers and closely related species use venom to immobilize or kill their prey. The venom is modified saliva, delivered through fangs. Snake venom majorly preys specifically whereas their role of defense comes secondary. Venomous snakes are classified into three taxonomic families:

  • Elapids – Cobras including King Cobras, Kraits, Mambas, Australian Copperheads, Sea snakes, and Coral snakes
  • Viperids – Vipers, Rattlesnakes, Copperheads/Cotton Mouths and Bushmasters.
  • Colubrids – Boomslangs, Tree Snakes, Vine Snakes, Mangrove Snakes, although not all Colubrids are venomous.

Out of 725 species of venomous snakes worldwide, only 250 species are able to kill a human in one bite. In India every year 2,50,000 snakebites are recorded and out of them, 50,000 recorded as initial death.

Snake venoms are also used in Medicines and much other healing and powerful aids after going through many kinds of’ medical filtration processes. Alongside, for an evil purpose, snake venoms, blood, skins, meat are used as a kind of too expensive injectable drug and starter food with wine. One of such, globally known places is “Snake Ally” located at Taipei, Taiwan in Japan.

Now, let’s take a look at Snakes in Business – In some part of the world, especially in India, snake charming is a roadside cultural show performed by a charmer. It has also relevance to Hindu mythology. It is a game in which the charmer plays the flute and the snake dances according to the tune. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1952 in India technically proscribes snake charming on the grounds of reducing animal cruelty. Snake meat is also served as a Japanese cuisine especially in Taipei, Taiwan. Snake venoms are used as an expensive injectable drug and also medicines for arthritis, cancer and many deadly diseases. Snakeskin is also used as the most expensive leather garment, house decoration accessories, and handbags.

Huh, my goodness! This is just a glimpse on the scariest creepy crawling reptile – SNAKE, there are endless volumes to discuss. Snakes are symbolized as the wisest of all animals. The Bible tells the human to be wise as a snake.

Learning from a snake, a wise reader at the end of his reading always looks for a takeaway, in other words, AN ANALOGY for life. What’s that here?

Snake is just one among those many creepy crawly creatures which reflect the strength of being wise, wisdom on how to survive in opposing environment and contributing to others’ need. What a creature we have in our creation!

An English proverb says, “CREATION WITHOUT A CREATOR IS IMPOSSIBLE TO EXIST”!

Indeed! There is no single amount of doubt that the Creator of Snake is – God, The LORD. He deserves our praise for such a beautiful creation of His’. A reverse of our thought is all that we need – Worshiping the Creator instead of His creation.

I LOVE TO WORK WITH A SNAIL PACE

Oh man, Aaii (Nani)… Look at this… there are so many snails invading our verandah…” I screamed when I saw 20 odd snails climbing on the verandah at my maternal grandparent’s home. And it happens only during the rainy season. I was a little boy then. If you see that scene I am describing, you will feel exactly as if you are watching a sci-fi movie with sluggish aliens invading your territory.

The snails are one of the ugliest looking creatures that we find around us. I always had a curiosity to hold them in my palms but never got that courage to do so. And these days when I have the courage, I don’t see them.

The snails are Invertebrate (Animals that do not have a vertebral column), Exoskeleton (External skeleton that protects the body of an animal) and Hermaphrodites (A living organism that has reproductive organs of both sexes) creatures.

Usually, there are different types of snails around the world which are mainly categorized according to their habitats – Land snails, Clean Water snails, and Sea snails. Some edible snails are reared for the purpose of different delicacies. There are some French cuisines prepared especially made of snails. I would love to taste them one day. There is an interesting fact that I found about the snails which have been used as famine food in historical times. Wikipedia mentions, a history of Scotland written in the 1800s recounts a description of various snails and their use as food items in times of plague.

The snails are also found in different sizes. They are as tiny as a bee or wasp and as big as the size of a rabbit. Unbelievable!

Giant African Land Snail

See the picture above. It is a Giant African Land Snail, a pet of that woman. But it is better not to keep them as pet as it’s considered one of the most invasive pests in the world and is believed responsible for carrying a parasite (in its slime, no less) that is responsible for a form of meningitis that is harmful to humans.

The shells of snails have been used as ornaments and decorative items. They are very popular among people around the world.

A snail is usually symbolically denoted to laziness – the sin of sloth because of their slow movements. But unless we crush them to ground, they are invincible and persistent in their journey which they start with a pace which the world never appreciates.

Sometimes, when I look at myself, I relate to it. Many things I am unable to do with the pace usually the world expects from a normal person. I do it slowly and calmly, without any hurry. I get annoyed when someone asks me to do things quickly which is beyond my ability.

The laid back (not lazy) people are happy people like me despite my struggles, I feel.  Therefore, I would conclude that it is better not to fall prey to the sin of sloth but it is also important for not to fall prey to the rat race of this world. I would prefer to be a snail, rather neglect my loved ones by running around money.

Stay Blessed!

VALUABLE LESSONS FROM THE SPIDER

You must’ve seen me around you some time or the other. In case you haven’t, you must’ve at least heard about the encounter of the valiant king Robert Bruce with one of my brethren. Let me remind you about that encounter in brief. The king of Scotland, Robert Bruce had been defeated six times in battle by the army of England. He was dejected and was in hiding in a cave. That’s when he spotted one of my brethren trying to spin a web – attempting again and again till success was achieved. King Bruce was inspired and got up to attack England again. This time he was victorious!

We spiders don’t have lofty ambitions. But, we are pretty much target-oriented. Whatever target we fix, we make sure to achieve it. We don’t leave any work undone if its within our capacity. Take for example, spinning our webs. At times we face external hindrances while spinning our webs. Gusts of winds blow them away, rains wash them away or humans brush our webs off to keep their houses clean. But, we start all over again. We do not give up! Well, yes, we create nuisance for humans by finding a space for ourselves in the corners of their houses till we are discovered. But, then that’s how we survive. Think of it human readers – don’t give up till your targets are achieved. Don’t get discouraged by hindrances. Keep working on your goals with focus, and you will attain success in the work of your hands.

Do you know why we spin webs? To trap prey for our food. You would’ve observed the fine threads of a spider’s web. Let me tell you one secret about the threads. They are our unique gifts. These are not ordinary threads. The threads we spiders use are fine silk threads produced by our silk glands. Again, there is no uniformity in the type of silk that we use to spin the web. The threads can be thick or thin, dry or sticky, rough or smooth. We use the type of silk depending upon the prey that we are planning to trap for the meal. After all, like human beings, we too have our meal moods and varying tastes! We are grateful to our Creator for gifting us with such special silk glands. Our Creator has gifted something special to each of His creation. Discover the special ability you have been blessed with and use it to proclaim your uniqueness.

We don’t hesitate to enter into lofty towers or kings palaces, though we are negligible, tiny and unwanted. We give priority to our survival tasks. A wise writer writes about us, “The spider skillfully grasps with its hands, and it is in kings’ palaces.” We want to encourage you not to be taken aback by the gigantic personalities in your lives – but, to be clear about your tasks and prioritize them even if it would require you to barge into unwanted terrains and face difficult people.

You may have observed another thing about us. We walk on our ways alone. You will never see clusters of spiders together spinning a web. We don’t hesitate to walk alone on our paths. Teamwork is good, desirable and essential in certain circumstances. But, in our lives, we walk the way on our own. A message to our human readers, don’t be afraid to walk your path alone. You may not always find favourable company or the support that you desire. But, that shouldn’t stop you in your tracks. Keep on moving ahead by yourself knowing that your Creator is close beside you.

I believe I have given a brief peek into myself and those belonging to my clan. You’ll find us everywhere – of course, the type of our species depends upon the climatic conditions of the place. Antarctica is the only continent that remains unchartered for us. But, now with the global temperatures increasing, we’ll be there soon too.

So yes, fix your targets, discover your special inner abilities, prioritize your goals without being afraid of people or circumstances and lastly, never hesitate to walk the path alone.

Next time, you spot one of my brethren, be sure to recall and strive to practise these four lessons!

THE CRAWLIES WHO LIVE IN DARKNESS BEFORE GETTING WINGS

Eew! Eeks! Boo! Spooky! Scary! Aaa…!

We usually utter such words whenever we spot a creepy crawly around us. As I start writing on this topic, I feel the tickling sensation as if a bug is going to hop upon my arm or I am going to step on those wiggly worms!

In spite of the petrifying feeling these little creatures give, they are fascinating, at least for the kids. That’s why there are so many children’s books written on these creepy crawlies.

Lio Lionni’s Inch By Inch depicts the story of an inchworm who tries to measure the world around him and avoids being eaten by predators.

There’s an interesting book by Jane Yolen, Bug Off which is a collection of creepy crawly poems, which in fact are very inspirational, eg.-

An army of ants, in their working class pants,

They don’t sop for movies, they don’t stop to dance.

The Very Greedy Bee by Steve Smallman is about how the bees who apart from sharing the nectar, share the load also.

The crux of the matter is that there is a lot to learn from nature, even from the teeny-weeny organisms.

One of the favourite books of children is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. My kids love it so much that I read it to them almost every day, especially to my 3-year-old. It describes the journey of a caterpillar who starts his journey from an egg and transforms into a beautiful butterfly. It is such a fascinating book in which the caterpillar eats so much that he becomes big and fat from tiny.

That’s one of the most important jobs of a caterpillar- to eat. They eat as much as 27,000 times the weight of their body during the life cycle. Also called the eating machines, caterpillars have the fastest growth rate than any animal.

(Preeta, with her tiny friends)

Another distinct feature of caterpillars is that it may have upto 4000 muscles in its tiny body. No, I am not kidding. It’s really strange that nature has made us such- we humans with just 650 muscles in a huge body might suddenly start feeling so small!

Caterpillars outgrow their skin and also shed it 3 to 5 times. After the final detaching, they stick themselves on a tree branch and enter the pupa stage. After the process of metamorphosis, they become moths or butterflies.

Sometimes, I also wish I could develop a cocoon around myself so that I can have a “me time” and transform myself, shedding all the pessimism inside me!

One typical trait of caterpillar really surprises me is that despite 6 pairs of eyes, it has poor eyesight and relies on its antennae for searching food. In order to be safe, caterpillars group themselves in a row, mimicking a snake and fooling the predators.

Some caterpillars also associate themselves with ants in order to seek protection and provide them food as a reward. Now, that’s I call business!

We all are vulnerable, yet unique. We feel inferior, yet are beautiful inside. So, keep the faith, just hold on and fly high.

“Just when the caterpillar thought “I am incapable of moving,” it became a butterfly.” 
― Annette Thomas