"An unexamined life is not worth living" - Socrates
A couple of events occurred last month that inspired me to write this piece. The first was an appearance of a turtle that force feared me to take a detour on my daily walk. Yes, you read it right – it was a turtle! The second incident that helped realize this article was the arrival of my new laptop. The notebook was a reward to myself after a grueling couple of months and the successful launch of my new venture in India - details at www.hujum.com! I wish I could claim that the laptop is one of those sleek, fully loaded, hyper powerful mean machines that a geek like me dreams of. Much to my chagrin that’s not the case. My new baby is an indistinct, conventional “work oriented” laptop that no one bothers to give a second look. However, it serves its purpose perfectly. It’s subtly impressive yet nondescript features make it unattractive to my kids! They are not compelled to sneak into it – to browse or play when I am away from my seat! Anyway it wasn’t the notebook that excited them; it was how it was packaged. When the UPS guy dropped it on my front porch, he ringed the doorbell as is customary. My kids noticed and ran to see what was in it. It had arrived in a huge box. For a moment I thought it was a prank because the kids effortlessly carried it into the house from the porch. It was deceptively light and felt as if it was full of hot air! When we eagerly dismantled the carton we found the object that would keep us occupied for the next hour and some. The laptop box was wrapped in the fluffiest bubble wrap we had ever seen! As is customary my six-year-old laid the wrap on the floor and started to pop those irresistible “bubbles”. He was able to do so without much effort and that delighted him no end. There was no need to perform a high jump landing to rupture it. A gentle tap and the bubble would crack with a loud pop. My older pre-teen joined in the fun as well. A cacophony of sounds followed. It was Diwali inside the house - loud and relentless but without the smoke and the chaos. The celebration lasted a while - seasonal and totally rapturous. I too joined in the fun and we were all amazed by the amount of pops we were able to conjure. My older one then pointed out that it was due to the uniquely designed sheet. He had observed that each bubble had two compartments and could be snapped twice! I tell you now, this kid is going to be a Scientist when he grows up!
While on the topic of snapping let me describe the turtle incident that I had mentioned earlier. On that morning my wife and I had just crossed the tiny bridge that leads to the walking trail behind our community, when a woman stopped us. “Do not go near it! It hissed at me and is blocking the path”. The path blocker that she had run into was a rather ordinary looking, mid-sized turtle. It was a “Snapping Turtle”, named so because of its propensity to bite any intruder that dares cross its path. We ignored the threat and walked towards it. We could see its outline a few feet away. My better half wanted us to turn around and not go near it. I could not for the life of me understand what the fuss was about. Aren’t turtles supposed be harmless and awfully slow? “We could easily walk past it and if it tried to jump at us we could run”, I thought aloud. I encouraged us to get closer to it and I also took couple of pictures. We realized it was not worth us arguing about or to disturb its peace and retraced our steps. We took an alternate route that allowed us to be with each other longer than we would have otherwise been. It was a good decision in the end!
Chelydridae is the scientific name of the species we encountered, but Snapping Turtle is what they are commonly known as. Like most types in their genus, they are largely docile. It’s only when they wander out of water that they feel threatened by all and sundry. The hissing and biting is a defense mechanism they deploy when they perceive themselves in a dangerous situation. That’s no different than us, humans. We hiss out at people to show our displeasure. We too sometimes like to get into our shells when fearful, or snap when threatened. Don’t we wish that there was some way for us to be always safe so why blame the turtle for feeling so? I started to think of various ways I could keep myself and all what I hold important safe. Being a Star Wars fan, the first thing that came to mind was an invisible force field, one that I could deploy at all times. As I started to delve into it I saw a problem with the solution immediately. A force field will keep us safe but destroy anything that tried to get close to us. We would need to build a very sophisticated detection system that would know when to deploy and/or lower the shields and as my mind wandered……. a loud pop from the other room startled me! Surely the answer was right there! I could bubble wrap my life! Couldn’t I? Then the engineer in me started doubting my instinct. What material would I use? What color and texture? The more I thought the more I realized that life is too complex to be secure wrapped. Life’s unpredictability makes it unsuitable to be bubble wrapped with anything other than blind faith. Unless, of course you are a cute little 6-year-old and it’s your doting Dad’s you are trying to wrap around your little finger! As I started to ponder over the topic I realized one could endeavor to wrap one’s work though. To secure it, make it invariable and predictable. I jotted down a few of the professions and the materials for securing them: -
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