Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Not all those who wander are lost...

Sometime, around 7 million years ago, human beings began the journey to today. As forests thinned out and the ability to climb a tree for survival was no longer so important, one primate species - that shares a common ancestry with chimpanzees and gorillas - gradually evolved to became a bipedal about 4 million years ago. The erect posture, while having its own flaws, was more efficient as the two forelimbs could now be used for foraging for food, using tools, and carrying food and other things over longer distances. Other important human characteristics - such as a large and complex brain, the ability to make and use tools, the capacity for language, etc., would come by over the next 2 million years.

pic courtesy sciencemuseum.org.uk
There are many theories of the origin of the modern human, but this is the most commonly held scientific one. Even the time-frames might change as more and more emerging evidence of early human life is examined. As everything in pre-history, our understanding of this far-back time is based on fossil and DNA evidence. The groundbreaking Human Genome Project tells the story of all human beings linked to a common ancestor that evolved in Africa around 2 million years ago, and emerged out of there only 70,000 - 80,000 years ago. That was the first step for humankind out of its cradle, and into an exploration and settlement of the whole wide world - something that continues even today.

Humans have since migrated for all sorts of reasons. Moving just that much more ahead to find food and shelter. Nomadic travelling all over a known area as in hunter-gatherer communities, some of which survive even today. Getting away from an area that has been affected by natural or man-made disasters. Finding new land to settle in when population exploded as an indirect result of the discovery of cultivation and establishment of agriculture. Exploration of new territories - either for conquest, expanding kingdoms, in the name of religion, in search of different cultures, for adventure, for trade, or just to plunder. Exoduses as a result of war or religious persecution. In fairly recent times, it has been exploration for trade, settlement and colonization. Mass movement of populations as in the slave trade that has been one of the biggest blots on humanity. Over the last century, technological advances have meant that the world has become a global village, and moving to another place, another culture, another country isn't a very big deal - something that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago. People migrate, put down roots, and maybe, some of them re-uproot themselves and return to their origins.

The long ago movement across the world first created the differences and discrete cultures that evolved due to many topographical and climatic factors, and then led to the melting pots of these cultures and gene pools. Those travelling across the world on business, backpackers, and jet-setters are today's nomads, often living at a series of hotels out of suitcases. Migrations across the rural-urban divide can often tear asunder families - many of these people might have left behind their spouses, children or parents - these may be forced migrations as seen under apartheid laws or voluntary ones in search of a better future.

So all of pre-history, and history as we know it, is the story of migration. Before the humans came, it was migration of animals and birds - essential for the very survival of the species, as we know today. Maybe some extinct species would have survived if only they had migrated. Siberian cranes, already a critically endangered species, would not survive the harsh winters of their homeland if they did not migrate to more salubrious climates. The humble swallow is found in many parts of the world, and its migration has been immortalized in Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince. Arctic terns make impossible journeys between the north pole and the south pole every year. Fish and other aquatic animals migrate to find food, on account of ocean currents, to spawn - these can be long, arduous and often fatal journeys as they become prey in the food chain. Migratory behaviour of land animals like the wildebeest, elephants and reindeer is mostly seasonal and (literally) in search of greener pastures. There are so many more - it would be beyond the scope of this post to name them all.

Today, human activity has made irreparable changes to the environment. Drastic changes in the climate are the order of the day. Conservationists and scientists are already debating on the possibility of the relocation of endangered species to prevent extinction. If we do not look out, and take steps for environmentally friendly lifestyles, this could become a journey straight to disaster. And no, technology hasn't made enough advances yet to make migration to another planet possible, even if space is being explored as the new frontier, and even if we have a wonderful lot of sci-fi books making it sound plausible.

Migration, exploration, moving in search of a better life, across histories, geographies, cultures, setting down roots in a new habitat - it is a all way of all life. Why not, then, look at stories of these migrations? Surely a movement across cultures would produce challenges that fiction and non-fiction would thrive on? Fiction, after all, reflects life to a large extent. We, at the Saffrontree family, have handled many such moves in our personal lives; some of us multiple times, even across continents. Even a move out of one's locality into the adjacent one means a lot of logistical changes. This is surely a theme that would resonate with our readers - so many of whom might have their own stories of migration. As we brainstormed on the idea, we came up with a multitude of children's books that deal with the topic. For every age group.

So there it was - our theme for this year's CROCUS. Migration and Exploration. Illustrated beautifully by our in-house artist, Lavanya Karthik.

Presenting
*
*
*
*
the CROCUS 2013 flyer...
*
*
*
*
DRUMROLL...
*
*
*
*


Join in this celebration. Enjoy the journey with us. Spread the word - let it go far and wide! As Anna Quindlen has said in her book, How Reading Changed My Life, "Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home."

Come, let's go home. 

10 comments:

Choxbox said...

Yoohoo!

Now where is that 'like' button?!

Vibha said...

Perfect to set the mood Sandhya.

Sheela said...

"Migration, exploration, moving in search of a better life, across histories, geographies, cultures, setting down roots in a new habitat - it is all a way of all life."


"So all of pre-history, and history as we know it, is the story of migration. Before the humans came, it was migration of animals and birds - essential for the very survival of the species, as we know today."

Wonderfully said, Sandhya! Excited to read the many children's books on this theme during CROCUS 2013!

ranjani.sathish said...

Wonderful introduction to our CROCUS theme of this year !

Praba Ram said...

Mighty interesting to read your thoughts. And to me, this CROCUS "resonate" is going to be the keyword. We always look for a universal connection in choosing our themes each year for CROCUS. I love how this thread connects us all. I am all the more excited for animal migration that we will start with on the first day. Thanks, Sandhya for an amazing share-and-tell. And as always we are totally proud of Lavanya's poster, and how she captures the details of the topic in her own unique way. CROCUS won't be CROCUS without her poster! :)

Thanks guys!

sandhya said...

Thanks, all!

Choxbox :)

Now looking forward to CROCUS!

utbtkids said...

You had me at the title my lady!!

Sangi said...

I am biased towards ST but seriously, you guys come up with the best topics for Crocus! Looking forward to it!

Sangi said...

I am biased towards ST but seriously, you guys come up with the best topics for Crocus! Looking forward to it!

sandhya said...

utbtkids : Thanks. It is quoted from JRR Tolkien. :)

Sangi : Thanks. Do help spread the word. :)

Related Posts with Thumbnails