The Waltz of the Black Ants It is only on Sunday mornings that I do my usual research about The Hindu while sipping a heavenly cup of Coffee Day. What is it that makes this paper, that is just about as glamorous as a nonagenarian lady who has forgotten to put on her dentures, ward off competition from glossy, glamorous newspapers that keep flooding the market from time to time? What has been sustaining it for over a hundred years despite the fact that the style of news reporting has undergone a sea change? I do this research week after week but can never find an answer to this vexatious riddle. When I was about to throw the paper down this morning after an unsuccessful two hour attempt to unravel this mystery, I saw two tiny black ants (affectionately known as Pillayar Erumbu in this part of the country) making a beeline to a small piece of Gokulashtami sweet that had fallen on the ground. The ants went around the sweet tentatively before deciding that it was fit for formic consumption. Then they did a few incomprehensible movements and after a few seconds, hundreds of black ants descended on the scene from nowhere! A few enterprising ants tried to lift the piece of sweet while others stood around clapping them and encouraging them. Many waltzed around the them aimlessly and the whole scene was reminiscent of the Dahi Handi breaking ceremony (uriyadi is how it is known in the south) of Janmashtami. It was just a rollicking, fun filled day for the ants when the maid came armed with a broomstick like one of those English witches who always predict gloom and disaster with blood curdling chants like “Fair is foul, foul is fair”! She swept the happy ants off the floor in one mighty sweep which made me wonder how many would have survived this calamitous intervention. I have often heard that all good things come to an end but bad things last forever but this was the first time I was privy to a disastrous end to some unbridled fun. Whenever we are in the midst of some joyful action and a sticky guest arrives at that point, we always refer to him as a ‘bear making his entry while we are offering our prayers to God’! I really do not understand the significance of this statement. I do not deny that offering Pooja to God is a pleasurable activity and logically more people coming in to participate in it should mean greater happiness. You know what I mean. The more, the merrier kind of stuff. But what is implied in this statement is exactly the opposite. So I am led to think that it is not the guest’s entry per se` at the time of Pooja that elicits such a hostile comment but the possibility of his staying on beyond the Pooja to partake of the mouth watering ‘prasad’ that makes him unwelcome. I am mentioning this particularly here to make you understand how brutally critical we can be about guests who put in their appearance at inappropriate moments. I want you to think of the servant maid who walks in and sweeps away a bunch of ants while they were having the revelry of a life time. But then all these rules apply only to humans and we are least bothered about what the lesser lives think of us! The other aspect of it is the mystery that awaits us at every turn. I would say that the fear of the unknown is unique to humans. We never cease to fear the future unlike the animals and insects. We keep prying into the secrets of future more and more just to worry about them more and more. That’s why the doomsday prophets have a whale of a time. Just think of all the predictions made about the total solar eclipse that occurred recently. Eventually nothing really happened but how many people were clutching their hearts in fright as the moment of eclipse approached! Had those black ants known or even suspected that some giant sweeper would come and cause abrupt cessation of their revelry, would they have enjoyed that moment as much as they did? “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He, to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” said Albert Einstein. What a great paradox he talks about with such ease! The man who thinks he can see far into the future is really dead but the one who holds the mysteries of future in great awe is the one who bubbles with life!