Note: You can read my previous blog, What Stories do your Kitchen Windows tell?, to understand the source of the names of the squirrels ('Katum Kutum').
Those who’ve read my previous blog, What Stories do your Kitchen Windows tell?, would know that I encounter ‘Katum Kutum’ (I’d named the squirrel pairs 'Katum' and 'Kutum') outside my kitchen window every day. But I seldom get to have a chat with them as they always are in a hurry…
Today I got to chat with Katum as he was gobbling up some rice left outside in my backyard for birds, pets, and other animals (like our Katum).
[And no, the food is not left outside every day as it is not good for animals to have a habit of human food]
Me: Hello Katum.. How have you been? It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen you sitting at a single place for so long so that we could have a chat! Now that you have some ready-made food, you can relax and eat.. Isn’t it?
Katum: Hello Bri… I’m doing okay… It’s not an easy life for us you know!
We are not an intelligent species like you all..so food occupies most of our thoughts and actions.
We’ve to constantly keep foraging for food and storing food as we fear we may not get enough food or any food every time we go food hunting, especially here, in the cities. Those are the times we use our stored foods to feed our hunger. Many a time those stored foods get ruined due to the weather and all our efforts go waste. But that's nature and we do what we have to do to survive..
Thankfully, since there’s prepared food in your backyard today that I’ve to scurry a little less.
Me: Despite being a city, you find lots of trees here. So, I guess it’s still not that tough finding food here with all the trees around and also you get to eat some ready-made foods on some days (like today).
Katum: Oh no..it’s not at all easy… We can’t afford to be complacent you see… Also, it’s not in our nature… It’s a constant fight for survival for us against the changing weather, against predators, and competition for food with the birds and other animals..
Moreover, we can’t trust the lot of you..
You cut off trees (our main food source) whenever it seems an obstacle for you, or for no reason at all..
You occupy more space than you need and leave very little or no space for trees or any other living species for that matter..
You start killing us whenever we seem to be a hindrance, or even without reason..
Me: Oh… it can’t be that bad!
Katum: Just hear me out….
Just the other day, my brother and his family, who had built a house on a Peepal tree (Ficus religiosa) on the side of the main road just next to your lane, had lost their newborns and had to build a new house and start afresh at another location.
Do you know why?
It’s because in the name of beautification you’ve concreted the pavements and left very little space for the trees (that line the pavements) to spread their roots. And since the Peepal tree could not spread its roots to get a proper grip on the soil, it toppled over carrying with it my brother’s nest which had four newborns. The kittens got crushed under one of the broken branches. It left my brother and his wife completely heartbroken but life has to go on and they moved on ….to a new location.
Me: Oh my! I’m so so sorry to hear that… I’ll pray that they stay safe and start a family again soon.
Katum: Oh we can’t be safe when you humans are around! You are a fickle-minded lot. One day you pamper us and the next day if you face the slightest inconvenience from our side, you’ll be ready to chase us away or even kill us. You won’t even give a second thought as to why we caused any inconvenience and find a sustainable solution to the problem.
Me: Oh no no… You are wrong my dear… we would never kill such cute creatures like you…
Katum: You are very naive… and you probably haven’t heard what happened to our ancestors in New York in the early 1800s. Our brothers used to roam in herds in New York in the 1700s. But in the early 1800s, as the city began to grow, our ancestors lost their homes and feeding grounds due to massive deforestation and many of them lost their lives. The ones who remained were pelted or killed for food by the citizens. And New York City lost its squirrels.
You, humans, are good at getting rid of things from the world….
It was only when the greening and beautification of the city started, that the squirrels were brought back through various sources so that the citizens could feel nature’s liveliness with our presence…
If you want to know more about our New York ancestors you can read the article: The Forgotten History of How Cities Almost Killed the Common Squirrel
Me: But not all of us are the same. There are and always will be some amongst us who will understand you, care for you, and will fight for you...
Katum: Yes, of course, there are people who care for us, otherwise we wouldn't have existed to this day..
Take, for example, the indigenous Irula tribe of Tamilnadu... They are people of the wild (uncivilized according to the civilized/urbanized town and city people) with a vast store of knowledge about nature and wilderness. They are famous for snake hunting, venom collection, and conservation.
To them, we are not just any rodent, we are alarm systems whose alarm cries help them spot a snake. We co-exist peacefully helping each other out, fully aware of the balance of nature...
I hope there were more people like the Irula or people who think like them. But it's them or the likes of them (i.e. indigenous people throughout the world) who are becoming endangered. They want their children to grow up in mainstream society away from all the traditional knowledge.
But I fear - the more urbanized you become, you lose your touch with nature, forget the natural world and stop caring for the same.
So it's up to Mother Nature to save us and herself..
Me: Umm... I don't know what to say!!.. But I'll try to spread awareness about you and nature to my best possible ability...
Katum: I can understand... Well, I'm full with all the rice... and it was nice pouring my heart out to someone for once ..
Thank you for being a good listener....