Tuesday, August 9, 2016

July23 Camping at a Serengeti watering hole...

 This night is interrupted by a lion near the water hole not more than a hundred years adrift of the tent. Dad awakes in a panic but cannot find his voice loud enough to wake me up. So I sleep on and dad panics on! Monkeys are chattering as they do when they anticipate action, the single old buffalo that is rejected by his herd is somewhere in this mix... possibly the victim and there is obviously a carnivore or two on the prowl in the moonlight. In the morning we find out that a herd of elephants passed by not to far away and we breakfast as we watch zebra and wildebeest graze past the watering hole. This is surreal. 
Today is a rest day for some of us like Pat, Dad and I only take one short game drive. Ali, Susan, Jim and Nahid have gone back to the Kenya border to try their luck at photographing the elusive river crossing. 
Later in the day we witness real drama. As we approach several cars parked near an acacia we see a leopard sleeping on a horizontal tree limb about 20 feet off the ground, its legs and paws hanging down toward the earth. Looks to us like it might have just consumed its kill and was resting. However, even as we watched, it awoke, gracefully descended the tree, walked a few hundred yards and crossed between our cars to the other side of the road. And with a dozen zoom lenses trained upon it, it ducked in the short grass and disappeared. Up ahead in the distance we watched a lonely antelope pick up its head to smell the air as his eyes darted from side-to-side and he stood deathly still while the wind whipped everything around him. The hunt was on. For five very slow minutes leopard spots faintly appeared and disappeared in the grass as we tracked the predator, who tracked the antelope. After a complete stillness in which we (and the antelope) worried about where the leopard was, it pounced from the undergrowth and leapt at the antelope. The antelope was alert and he kicked into a flying start. The chase lasted all of ten seconds and the antelope got away. Soon after, the leopard walked back to his tree, found another nice branch and lay down for part-2 of this nap!

As we lie in our beds the winds whip up in the Serengeti as they do every night between 10pm and dawn. Travellers across the endless plains, they are here and knocking at the door of our tent. Zippers taut and the fabric flapping loudly the tent strains to hold its shape as gusts finds passage thru openings in the structure. 
I go outside to bring in the wash off the clothesline after dad tells me he doesn’t want to search the camp in the morning looking for his safari clothing. Hmm…I wickedly wonder, how hard will it be to find camouflage clothing when it blows off into the woods! Probably harder than finding the  American Indian sniper dude who spent three days camouflaged in the Vietnam countryside without moving or eating just waiting  for his target!  Fern told me about this hero of his during our morning game ride! As I fold the fresh dried clothes, dad mentions that its been a little under a hundred  years since his mother (dadiammi) was born a few miles from here in Kenya!  Coincidentally, dad was able to visit his mother’s land earlier today during the afternoon game safari with Fern and Phillips.  
’The claim of belonging to’ and the 'right to belong to'  a place and a culture and to adopt it and call it your 'own' or you ‘home' …has in my opinion become one of the fascinating questions for people of our time.  Increased mobility of people across the globe and human migrations with no return has displaced people and their descendants.  While immigrants like Dad who came here as adults self-identify as ‘Indians’ or ‘Hyderabadis’, the next generation is not Indian. They self identify as Americans. However, there are other families where global educations, jobs at multinational companies and frequent family migrations have left the young ones trying to answer the question of where is home for them. I have a close friend who has spend his entire professional career working in Europe and Asia all the while raising his children. These children have not spent a substantial part of their lies immersed in any one culture or country to call it their own…comfortably. What do they call home? How do they self-identify? Do they feel as strongly about their ‘home’ and what is means to them as they parents did?
There are  Middle eastern counties where many of us work for years and indeed entire lifetimes without earning  the right to settle down there and call it home. Our kids in these countries have to be schooled and educated elsewhere giving them insufficient years and immersion in any one place to call it home. This maybe an age old issue that migrant labor has always created.

While the immediate and smaller question is about what one calls home…
the larger question asks, Is there a need for a human being to have a home-town or home-culture? 
Is this a strengthening, nurturing and inspiring influence or a psycho-social construct that is rendered irrelevant with the advent of social media, globalization and mass migrations?


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