Aren't All Bangaloreans Homo Sapiens?
"What’s a 'Bangalorean'?" I am often asked.
"We're neo-humans," I always reply.
"What's a 'neo-human'?"
"We're new to the human race."
There are two sorts of people who are new to the human race - those who have just experienced the maternity ward and those who have recently experienced Darwin.
Typically, the follow up question would be, "Huh? How can someone 'recently experience' evolution?"
All along, scientists have believed in Darwin’s theory - that the modern human is the result of evolution and all humans barring none are homo sapiens, i.e., representatives of the current stage of evolution.
But only a brief observation of the Bangalorean will tell you that it is not true and evolution is an ongoing thing and we are all doing it now.
Being accused of evolution can be hurtful.
I overheard one kid in my building yelling at a younger kid who was a little slow to nuance the rules of street cricket, "You can't even catch a ball. You're a monkey."
I half-expected the kid's parents to slouch past at that very moment, dragging their knuckles on the ground, baring their gums and making little high-pitched Bob Dylan like noises and chattering in gratitude for earth and bananas.
"I’m a monkey?" the younger kid yelled back, "You're not even prosimian (pre-ape). You are primordial ooze!"
Score one point for the science teachers of Bangalore, I told myself, these kids know their evolution. (Or maybe score one for Tata Sky set top box.) But this pre-teen anthropomorphist debate led me to an existential conundrum.
Are all Bangaloreans equally evolved?
Or are there are some among us who have only recently acquired the appearance and traits of evolved species?
In "Men in Black" it is revealed that aliens live among us, but you cannot tell them from humans unless you wear sunglasses. The kid made me realise that such might be the case with Bangaloreans.
Take Bangalorean drivers.
Some are stampeding dinosaurs, and they cannot come to a halt. Folks believe that the world's only know record of a dinosaur stampede is in Lark Quarry, Australia, where fossilised footprints reveal that about 180 beasts ran helter-skelter with no fear of danger to life and lymph node. Palaeontologists would do well to leave Australia and observe the traffic on Hosur Road, where coelurosaurs and theropods stampede similarly.
Closer to the Darwinian order, some drivers are monkeys. They will swing from idea to idea like a monkey will swing from branch to branch on a whim. You might leave a thin slice of air between you and another obstacle but with the keenest judgment of time and distance, the monkey will squeeze through; the more expensive the motorcycle, the more whimsical the monkey.
And other drivers are xenathrans – five-toed sloths that look nothing like Xena, the warrior princess. They burden us with their inattentiveness. They don't get out of the way and they are slow to embrace the simplest human tendency of politeness, courtesy and - a trait known to exist in most other human settlements of the world - the sense of common good.
These are all Bangaloreans who are still in the early stages of human evolution.
And there are others who are different. All in all, it's great that we can live in the midst of change. And be able to interact with people who are in these different stages of human evolution.
Ramapithecus was a small made person, who walked barely upright. I know a dude who lives around the corner from me who fits that description. When he is sober, he is two feet taller and seems ok. When he crawls out of the pub, he is first from left on the evolution chart. Ironically, his name is Lakshmana.
The Australopithecus Robusta ate like a garbage disposal machine and yet was thin. He was the envy of all weight watchers. You can see them in Koshy’s. They put away an entire steak with potatoes and stand up looking thinner than before.
Homo Habilis - beasts of burden - use rudimentary tools to forge an existence. Last week, when a tree fell in our office garden, a group of homo habilii showed up and, with bare hand and blunt stone, hacked, hewed and hefted at the tree. The homo habilii of Bangalore believe that power saws have not been invented yet.
Homo erectus. Also called Neanderthals. Yes, there are many people in Bangalore who have already evolved to this stage. It is at this stage of evolution that they flex their fingers and become computer programmers and pick lice from each other. Or they are models, and big companies pay good money to have them display their evolutionary skill at standing erect and walking up and down a ramp to the applause of the many who cannot.
Homo Sapiens. The word "sapien" presumes wisdom. Only a few Bangaloreans have made it this far. They construct buildings, which they name variously, but usually beginning with the words, "Centre For...".
Inside these "centres", they speak softly and give enough latitude to their fellow homo sapiens to express their opinions. They are gentle because they don’t have to use aggression to fight for food, as there is a campus canteen. And because of arranged marriage and the limits of gotra, they don’t have to compete for sex.
But on the Bangalorean streets, the tipping point between peace and violent response is a fine line; and Chicken Little (Tata Nano) must run from T-Rex (BMTC OK Tata). Or be made extinct.
And the day will come when all Bangaloreans will evolve from being homo erectus to being homo sapiens and find peace.
And free canteen food.