The sting of a scorpion on a dark night is a reminder that nature overpowers us and the illusion of a modern man who can predict nature is nothing but the representation of a misplaced ego.
Anamika Pandit is a Writer and Environmental Activist – based in Dehradun, India.
It would not be wrong to say that nature meets you at moments when you least expected it. Just like a rainbow after the days of continuous rain, like the new planet that you spot in the vast sky from a mountain top, the splendour of a butterfly you haven’t seen before, the sudden glimpse of a magnificent snow clad peak on an unexpected curve of the Himalayas, the old man whose tea shop you find amid nowhere on a cold winter morning- just like these miracles of nature, there are some shocks that nature also offers you.
You go on thinking amid the luxuries of modernity, through its no-suspense monitoring systems of health and wellbeing, it techno-gadgets which monitor everything from the air inside your car and home, the temperature of your water for bathing, the steps that you have walked the entire day and the calories that you have failed to burn to the patterns of your sleep and the groceries that you have to buy- you go on thinking that life is a predictable affair, everything can be monitored, measured or controlled.
It is then that nature catches you, shattering your fragile ego. I wish to narrate the story that I will not forget for the rest of my life as it became part of my life, with a purpose of destroying the ego and making me understand that we are dust before the magnificent nature. I got gifted a splendid gadget- the Fitbit. What for? It would tell me the number of step that I have walked, whether I have met my fitness targets, if my blood pressure and pulse rate should be worrying factors, the amount of extra calories that I need to compensate for and so on.
This little wrist watch sitting on my wrist, would supposedly predict my body’s vital statistics, make me aware about health related disorders and scream in caution when my blood pressure or pule rate are not adequate. Often when I have gone for long walks, listening to the sounds of nature, observing the shades of leaves and mindfully speaking to my inner being, I have been suddenly disturbed by a fellow jogger wearing a headphone listening to a ‘workout track’, with an arm band or a fitbit displaying for the world how much has already been covered and how many calorie have already been burnt. This person is unaware of the chirping the the birds, the changing season and the altering shade of leaves, the freshness of the air, the beating of the heart making a contemplative sound. Exercise is nothing but a mean to achieve a ‘fit’ body, to reduce weight and to gain stamina.
Exercise become only physical and loses its existential nature, it does not build a bridge between the mind and the heart. For many people there is no difference between running on a treadmill and running on a sunlit track in nature because both are mechanically done activities that are utilitarian, measured and without the soul.
I also wonder whether achieving physical fitness goals ensures inner wellness. I can have a mascular body, wonderful stamina but I can be a restless and rude person, it I possible that I am not at peace. In fact each time I run if I look back at the screen of my smartphone to check what I have achieved or whether my blood pressure has drastically improved or the calories that I intended to burn have been burnt – there isn’t a doubt that this would make me restless, dissatisfied and ultimately narcissistic.
It is crucial that I understand my body, relate to it deeply, and understands what kind of foods suit me, what my temperament is and how I can include exercise to keep myself fit.
These steps do create a consciousness that transcends immediate goals and makes health a continuous concern that no external device has to dictate me towards but I internally become so aware of it that I lead a discipline and healthy lifestyle. When I got gifted with the Fitbit it didn’t make me excited, it made me bewildered at what we have reduced wellness to. I packed it in it attractive box, and kept it as far away as I could afford to. I don’t think I am going back to it. That very night, I climbed down the stairs of my house and entered the kitchen to drink water when something bit my toe, in what seemed like an eternity of stings. I was in immense and growing pain as I saw a black, poisonous scorpion walk away pleased.
I knew that I had been bitten by the feared scorpion about which poet Nissim Ezekiel had written a poem’ Night of the Scorpion’ describing the level of pain caused by the scorpion’s bite and the stigma associated with it.
I remember the night my mother
was stung by a scorpion.
Ten hours of steady rains had driven him
to crawl beneath a sack of rice.
Parting with his poison-flash
Of diabolic tail in the dark room-
He risked the rain again.
The peasants came like swarms of flied
And buzzed the name of God a hundred time
To paralyse the evil one.
May he sit still, they said
May the sins of your previous birth
Be burned away tonight, they said.
May your sufferings decrease the misfortune of your next birth, they said. May the poison purify your flesh.
My mother twisted through and through,
groaning on a mat.
My father, sceptic, rationalist
Trying every curse and blessing,
Powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
He even poured a little paraffin
the upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame
the poison with an incantation.
After twenty hours it lost its sting.
My mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.
(Source : Poem Hunter)
The poem describes the scene after a scorpion bites the poet’s mother in a village where there is fear and apprehension that the mother may not survive. The times have changed and we have begun to believe that we are in control of nature. It is paradoxical that man continues to think like this despite the fact that nature is unpredictable and break our ego in seconds.
I realised that the scorpion came as a reminder that there are surprise elements in life, there are sceneries and there are tragedies- we have to accept both the elements. I yelled in pain, my body felt fragile and the scorpion left me unable to walk for several days but as I recover from that dangerous sting, I wake up to an awareness that I am a tiny fragment of nature and I cannot determine its rules.