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Sunday, September 27, 2009

The story of light and darkness

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In the pre-industrial era days and nights were characterized by sunlight and darkness, respectively. These have been regulating lives on this planet and processes of nature since the emergence of life. When the sun, the ultimate source of light and energy goes beyond the horizon, the world for us becomes invisible. Since man cannot see in the dark, he can not do anything at night and the only activity he can do during this period of darkness is to remain inactive and go for a sleep. So do different types of organisms with light receptors inhabiting the earth.

Not all the animals and human beings remain inactive in the darkness of nights. Some who remain active during these hours have either specific works to complete that have not been completed during the day or have to do certain works that can only be done in the darkness of night due to some or the other reasons. It is all about human business. On the other hand many birds and animals remain active at nights. They have well developed senses, rather more powerful than those of human beings that help them do most of their activities at nights. Migratory birds continue their journey to far off places during nights also and move through sky in a peculiarly disciplined manner. Owls catch rats as they can see in the dark. Insects and most of the rodents remain busy in their business at nights, and hence their predators too have to remain busy in keeping eyes on them and in searching ways and moments to gain the result of their work.

Migratory birds
[Marra PP, Hobsonka & Holmes RT.(1998). Science 282: 1884-1886]

Many plants too show some sort of sleeping behavior at nights. Folding of leaves by many plants show such type of tendency after the sunset. All the food synthesized during the day has to be distributed properly to all the parts of a plant. In spite of prevailing night attitude in animals and plants, the major internal life processes have to be continued to keep up the existence. Plants respire and breathe out carbon dioxide at nights that is why it remains warm under the canopy of a tree during nights. Most of the birds roost on branches of different trees wake up early in the morning and fly away for different destinations. Most of the work planned and discussed during the meeting held at early night, have to be implemented and performed now during the day. Some birds bring their favourite fruits with them as per their carrying capacities and eat them at nights while resting in the particular area on the particular branch of the particular tree. Some predators like snakes identify these areas and do their best to attack the roosting birds. Once an accident is faced by some one in a particular tree, the whole group leaves the tree for ever.

Not all night actors complete their remaining works at night, though many of them really pass through a situation like this. Tailors often wake up at nights to finish their work, as they remain under pressure to deliver the finished clothes to customers the next day during busy periods of festivals.

Days have gone when thieves had to remain active at nights and attack the houses spotted during the light of the day. Dogs, in those days played important roles in helping human beings in catching the thieves or in chasing them away. Loud barking of a number of dogs together at nights which was heard from a neighboring village used to remain as a confirmed signal of such an incident. With the development of science and technology, thieves of today have developed new technologies of stealing things in the broad daylight. Now they don’t have to bother and to remain awake at nights. On the other hand modes of theft have been transformed and the money is taken directly in the broad daylight from its keeper in many offices, treasuries and court- compounds. There is no need of theft or hiding from anyone as the money keeper himself pays it with great humbleness. Now, the situation is such that nobody can call it robbery either.

Now, in olden days groups of men used to be formed by villagers and the tern for each one of the group used to be fixed to guard and speak loudly – jagte raho (remain awakened). Those virtual night guards were potential threats for lovers who used to meet at nights deceiving their family members. In the today’s world they have a number of artificial sanctuaries to meet and talk for hours and light has no longer remained an enemy for them. Yes, police in certain areas is playing the role of their enemies, if members of some religious organizations are not considered here. Owls remained whole night witnesses for these nocturnal lovers. But the bird has probably gone extinct due to human intervention by lighting every backyard and background at nights or due to the curse of nocturnal lovers. The misuse of energy at nights has wiped away the tradition and culture that remained indigenous in particular areas and can only be seen now in some old black and white Hindi / Bhojpuri cinema in India.

Travelers and traders in olden days used to travel at nights even during cold seasons, through their defined routes on the backs of camels. The caravans of camels used to pass through barren and un-populated areas during dark cold nights and people sleeping in their houses could hear their peculiar songs and imagine about the row of camels passing through the barren land bearing their riders bending forward and going backward with the jerk created by walking of camels, and some one out of those riders singing loudly, stretching his breath longer and longer. But the days have gone with most of the camels. The remaining members of the genus have become endangered here due to gross negligence; trade in their body parts and reduction in their utility potential.

A camel caravan moving on its way at during night

In the pre-industrialized world a unique type of sound wave used to travel in the air of some rural Indian villages in the complete darkness of nights usually during winter seasons. Almost similar to the singing notes of travelers on the backs of camels, the melody used to reach to the ears of sleeping human beings, floating in the air after emerging out of some house from the mouth of a lady grinding wheat between two heavy pieces of stone, by pushing the upper one round and round with a great force, tirelessly though bathed in the sweat of her own body in the freezing nights of December- January months; extracting energy from the responsible emotions of feeding her husband and children in the morning overhead, and after the sunshine- not a less endangered individual, member of the human species.

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