This Women’s Day…

The Grown Girl

“The world is a dangerous place for little girls. Besides, little girls are more fragile, more delicate, more brittle than little boys. ‘Watch out, be careful, watch.’ ‘Don’t climb trees, don’t dirty your dress, don’t accept lifts from strange men. Listen but don’t learn, you won’t need it.’ And so the snail’s antennae grow, watching for this, looking for that, the underneath of things. The threat. And so she wastes so much of her energy, seeking to break those circuits, to push up the millions of tiny thumbs that have tried to quelch energy and creativity and strength and self-confidence; that have so effectively caused her to build fences against possibility, daring; that have so effectively kept her imprisoned inside her notions of self-worthlessness.”

― Robyn Davidson, Tracks: One Woman’s Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback.

Never have I been more aware of being a woman than when I travel alone. It begins with which train or flight to take, what time does it start and what time does it reach, which always has to be much after sunrise and much before sunset. If that’s not an option, a whole lot of logistical coordination and planning becomes necesssary.

My parents were non-discriminatory. No matter how much the world used every opportunity to point the differences between me and my brother, they never made me feel I am less because I am a girl. They didn’t tell the others off, perhaps realising the futility of it and being mild mannered, but they did not change their ways of treating their two children, and all other boys and girls, the same.

The first time I realised I was differently vulnerable was when one late evening, my mother and I took a cycle rickshaw to a wedding. There were stretches on that road which were not lit, empty and unknown. I was loving the quiet and excited to be at a wedding. At the most my fear was what if there are thieves! But as soon as we reached, I heard my mother tell someone, sighing in relief, how scared she was since she was with me, that am a grown girl now.

Since then, the grown girl concept made an appearance all the time, almost in all occasions and all decisions that required me to be on my own. Travelling to Bombay to study, unearthly hours of the trains, someone to drop and someone to pick. All the usual unsolicited advice and suggestions, someone should accompany her. How many times one heard it’s a bad world outside?

What makes the outside world bad? Who does it? And how is the inside world? Is it better or is it worse?

One time when I was abroad in a university town and truly enjoyed staying at the library till way past mid night, walking back alone in the rain and chill, listening to music, thinking how much I would miss this back home. A woman acquaintance had said “you won’t need to be in a library till 2 am back home!”

She perhaps meant well. But that certainly is not the point.

We are so overwhelmed by the possibility of assault, that we are not even able to imagine what it would be like…to be able to walk a forest alone, walk a city alone, travel the world alone…just the possibility, the option, the choice!

I have worked in the development sector all my life. It gives me many opportunities to travel to interior areas of our country. I love it. But the grown girl concept is always there. Not just at the back of our heads, but at the front, all-over actually. There are very few hotels in these remote areas so we have to take what we get. Even in cities, we are so fund crunched and so little money to cover overheads that we end up staying in cheap hotels. I have never wanted fancy, but what I have realised over the years of travel, is cheap also means cheap fixtures, the latch is of poor quality, the windows without railings or panes, bathrooms with an open square for ventilator. Unsafe unsafe scream the grown girl. So many of my women colleagues and friends have shared our notes on how we have pushed chairs and sofas and our suitcases all piled against the door and have spent sleepless nights when on our own. Taxi rides, auto rides, taking a bus in the night with a man in the next seat, tell us about it! Safety pins, red chilli powder, pepper spray or even a kitchen knife…and all kind of “real” travel tips!

This fear that we have to live with is a creation and responsibility of every one.

So this women’s day, can we even attempt to visualize a world of true freedom for women, freedom from this fear!

Not many years ago, when I lived in Bangalore, a front page picture of a man laying down with his backpack for pillow and reading a book at Lalbagh made me so wishful! The caption said something about it being beautiful weather outside.

A book and a backpack for a pillow and a grass bed, to look at trees and clouds when I look up. I want that. In this life.

Many women whether by choice, by situation, by circumstances, are single or live and travel alone. Whether we make do with it or we enjoy it, is up to us…but for us to be free of fear and pursue ourselves to the fullest, in this one life…is the real challenge for the rest of the world. Not your hand outs, not your discounts, not diamonds, not the ice-bucket challenge…we want this freedom from fear.

The fear that is created by all of you.

A walk in the rain, a walk in a beautiful dense and aged forest is all I ask.

A walk without fear.

Letter from a daughter

Seems like everybody writes to daughters (or grand-daughters). Is it because the relationships with daughters are more emotional? Or is it because daughters value letters? Or is it because they are special or is it because they need to be protected, cautioned, prepared, coached for a life to come? Or that they need reassurance, to dream, to live and to not bother with the world. Assuming sons do not need any emotional connecting or advice of that kind. They have their lives made as soon as they are born. They do not need a letter on dreams and inspirations or length of their knickers.

We have had a tradition of this. From mothers, fathers, grand-fathers, politicians to corporate leaders to actors, they write to their daughters, grand-daughters. It’s well intention-ed. It’s a lot of dos and don’ts. Its life’s learning made crisp for a quick “do-not-reinvent-the-wheel” crash course.

I am a daughter. And I used to be an avid letter writer. Am known in my family for writing letters. When I went to study from a small town to a place as big as Mumbai over two decades back, I missed home, I missed friends and I wrote letters. So much so that the despatch section would tell people who complained their disappointment in not getting letters, “write like her. Then you will get letters like she does.”

So here is a daughter who wants to reply, to all those mothers, fathers, and grandfathers.

Thank you for writing. I may not have seen all your struggles when you were bringing me up and am grateful for you so eloquently, poetically, writing to me. And publishing it, youtube-ing it, letting the world know that you wrote a very important letter.

When I look back at my childhood and what I struggled with while growing up, I could have done with some more conversations. Some topics which you, and only you could have spoken to me about. This is not a complain, but an honest request. I am old enough not to blame my childhood upbringing for anything.

I know, for most parents their daughter is the most beautiful. Princess, we are often nicknamed fondly. While that was lovely, it would have been good to know that the world wears different lenses to scrutinise beauty. That the world follows a different standard of measurement to judge you by your skin colour, the built of your body, the length of your hair, the shape of your eyes, nose, teeth. You were wonderful as parents, to never discriminate or make me less in your eyes, but I could have known what the world thinks. I could have known how to handle how the world thinks.

It’s likely that you would have figured out my academic and other strengths. You were wonderful to encourage me to work hard, study hard, reach for the stars. I would have liked to know that am average. Am good at some things, great at some and just average in some others. I can and I must always try my best. Instead of discovering later that am not the brightest, we could have talked about being average and to make the best of every opportunity that comes my way. I may try very hard, but there would be failures. I would not get everything I want in life. And that’s not a very bad thing. That am still very privileged. There would always be people much better off than me and much worse off than me.

That honesty, truthfulness in its absolute sense would not work. While I must be honest with myself, and value honesty in others, I could have known honesty is often not appreciated, and it’s often not necessary. That there is a need to gauge a situation and its requirement of the truth. Somebody stole and ate a friend’s chocolate and I saw it, or a parent lied about her child’s achievements, or a relative’s discriminatory attitude, or someone’s anti-minority communal views. All of these require different levels of honesty and truthfulness.

To apologise for a mistake I made, is a must, you told me. You could also have told me that most people would not think of it as a great thing to do. They are likely to make use of that mistake and that apology and cite it as an example forever.

And that I will be misunderstood. No matter how much I try and what methods I try, written, vocal, or by doing things to clarify a point, there will be times when all these efforts will fail and there will be misunderstandings. I could have known that’s okay too. It would be a sore spot but it is not the end of the world.

That I would be able steer my own life. Whether in my education, or my work or my relationship, I must have the confidence to take it in the direction I want to. That I could live some bit for myself and that is not being selfish.

That I would evolve as a person. My understanding must always be open to layering as I grow, I see more, I travel more and as I comprehend complexities, my sensitivity must always grow and not decline. I must never give in to “that is how it is.”

And now a most delicate one, since for many of us our parents are infallible, you could have told me about times when you were unsure, told me that you thought it was a mistake, that your judgement of a person or a situation might have been wrong. Being able to say that is a victory and not a failure of a parent.

In your attempt to present a world to me in the binary of black and white, I could have done with some grey. Which I later found out, in bits and pieces, through my struggles that a large chunk of life is about grey.

Whatsapp groups: The agony and the ecstasy

You get a message “+91………. added you”. Followed by a flurry of welcomes. And then you slowly, very slowly realise what have you gotten into. You mute, you stop it from blinking, but there is no stopping. More or less, everything gets discussed, everything happening around us, in the world that is, in every group! if its a Rajnikant joke, you are doomed. not just the groups, every contact may just send you that. Jokes, videos, election, wildlife, selfies, selfies at meetings, selfies at exotic locations, selfies with famous personalities at airports. Food, roads, signboards, flowers, pets, clothes, after all, all cameras have a phone and have internet and have whatsapp, and pictures speak a thousand words, so why not?

I am currently part of about eight whatsapp groups. I successfully, without guilt, left three.

I believe there were questions, hurt, sentiments expressed. Like when someone leaves the groups am still in (+91…….has left the group messages pops up, followed by: who left? Why? Get her/him back? We are having so much fun?). Sometimes there is also “is she the only one so busy?”

The day begins with “good morning”, a most unreal looking electric blue rose wishing you a wonderful day. A namaste. Or a quote “every day is an experience. This is life…enjoy your day”. Right. We begin as early as sunrise and morning tea. We talk about who likes which tea. Then we discuss when would we have tea together, when is so and so inviting everyone to tea. Followed by smiley faces.

Some of the groups I left (sigh), even though I was advised “just clear the messages, you don’t have to read them all. Stay in the group.” Those were early days of whatsapp grouping and I either felt bad that am not reading and responding, or annoyed, even after muting the group, keeping mobile data off and seeing 42 messages when you switch it on, bothered me. So I left. But looks like that should not have been a big deal. You don’t miss much if you did not read. It’s something like our saas-bahu serials, you can stop watching anytime and when you resume, you would still understand the story. Easy. they are made to accommodate, you see.

A simple statement like “I have a little cold so skipping office today. At home watching cricket match.” Results in “please take care bhai”, “drink ginger tea”, “go see a doctor”. “am praying for you”. And am like, he is well enough to watch the match, ask for the score buddy!

One group that I was excited when it started was the primary school group; we were all 12-13 years of age in that school. Changes happened after that, schools, places, no education, such changes were made and decided mostly after that crucial class seventh since it meant going to another (high) school. Someone started that group. And then the nightmare, I was trying to put faces to names and names to faces! On my defence, we were a class of 60+ students in one section, at least 4 sections and I was only 12 then. I left.

Groups with a purpose. The groups that am still in:

My apartment group, leaking pipes, common facilities, maintenance, parking space all gets discussed. No choice. They may just decide to paint the campus the new 2000 rupees pink, so I better stay in if I don’t want that.

A group that discusses access to organic food/ grocery. All exciting people (some may say eccentric, hippies) each following their passion.

A large group of people who are recipients of a specific fellowship. Very large. Some may know each other if they were together for that fellowship. Most don’t know most. But it’s assumed that the fellowship has tied us together like a multi coloured beaded necklace of the Queen. People are tapped from remote corners and added to the group. Flurry of welcomes everyday. Followed by flurry of thank yous. The purpose is to share ideas and enable each other, the brilliant people, chosen few of the prestigious fellowship. We could together change the world.

One common challenge. To focus on the PURPOSE. Political issues come in, right or wrong or left or centre comes in, views and opinions on what is happiness (or something as challenging as that) and then begins the yes and no. Most of us in these groups do not know each other, at all, and we expect to connect on very difficult or very trivial topics. We don’t even know whether something trivial for one is most challenging for the other or vice versa!

I have been termed class monitor in some of these. Am not proud of it. But I don’t want to exit. I want to stay and listen and contribute. Yes I do.

My post-graduation group. That time when you finished formal education and hopefully got a job after that. Shared hostels, shared food, shared campus, many love life blossomed, many heart breaks, many close friendships. Every now and then someone shares a sexist or racist joke and gets butchered. We never agreed then, we do not agree now. But that’s understood.

Work group, good gossip, some work some general, some debates, plans for movies, restaurants etc. Nobody takes up any serious argument. All contentious topics are posted. You may choose to respond or not.

Few small groups of friends. Either because we did a fellowship together and got to know each other over a period of time, travelling, laughing, walking cooking, planning visits together, discussing the course and found ourselves honest with each other, and have stayed in touch, even without whatsapp.

Another group where we have worked together, typically first jobs. We share the experiences of first job, a common place, shared nostalgia. We have stayed in touch from a time when computers were making their debut, followed by mobile phones, and even though everyone is now scattered all over the world. We would tease and annoy and love and care, the same way!

Whatsapp just happened to happen here!

Let me stop at that, the agony and the ecstasy. And post good night to all those eight groups with the picture of a bright sunrise.

And quickly switch-off the phone 🙂

When the eyes swell up…

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tearing (/ˈtiərɪŋ/), lacrimation, or lachrymation, (from Latin lacrima, meaning “tear”) is the secretion of tears, which often serves to clean and lubricate the eyes in response to an irritation of the eyes.[1] Tears formed through crying are associated with strong internal emotions, such as sorrow, elation, emotion, love, awe or pleasure. Laughing or yawning may also lead to the production of tears. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tears)

One emotion not listed here is anger.

Yes, anger causes some of us to burst into crying, tears roll down from our eyes. It often surprises the other person or group of persons. “What is there to cry” we are asked? (Likely to be women, because men don’t cry you see! I cringe every time I hear a parent tell the male child, why are you crying, you are not a girl? Why are you scared, you are not a girl?)

Anger has many causes. Not all of them cause tears. They manifest in other forms, violence, argument, stamping your feet, banging a door etcetera etcetera etcetera

Crying also is a manifestation of anger. Anger combined with frustration.

It is a different kind of anger. When your close family members, most trusted friends, do not understand you. Or say something most insensitive. That anger when you get unsolicited advice to be brave in the face of a life altering situation. It’s when you were expecting unconditional support from your closest friend or partner and she/ he gives you a flimsy excuse.

It’s when you see partiality at work place. The subtle biases at workplace, those tiny but visible issues that do not have a platform to talk about. They exist nonetheless and continue. That frustration turns into anger.

It’s when your integrity is questioned.

A clichéd example, but Ram asking Sita to undergo the agnipariksha. Is that how much you understand me? Is that all that matters to you?

It’s when you see how people pity the differently-abled. As if pity is still better than indifference. It’s when you ask for fair wages for men and women and you are told, women are still getting something right, as against nothing? It’s when you see rich and educated serve their house-help food in plates kept separately for them. We are still giving them food right?

It’s when you have to keep saying things over and over and over again over decades. It’s exasperating, frustrating.

It’s sometimes an anger of helplessness. Not to be confused with weakness.

It’s when with all forms of modern communication, there are these things that one finds it hard to tell.

So don’t simply say “why don’t you tell me?” The deeper a person feels, the harder it is for them to start to explain, what to them is the basis of understanding, the basics, the foundations.

As I write, I expect “what a vague piece of writing.”

And I know that few people will be nodding in agreement.

The Changing Faces of Social Work

Had written this about three years back for an Odiya magazine of a local library, published where I grew up, Rourkela. Remembered it in some context and so sharing.

There was a time, when working with a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), I also handled Human Resource (HR) functions for a while. The Organisation was going through a process of visioning, re-defining what it wants to focus on and how it wants to work and achieve its objectives. We wanted our HR practices to be more employees friendly, which were inherited from a semi-governmental Organisation. Long story short, I once got a leave application for approval. Typically, there is a space saying ‘reason for applying for leave’ and the person had written “social work”. Since we were looking at systems for improvement and out of curiosity, I asked him what social work he was going to do. Turns out, he was attending a relatives wedding!

The concept of “social work” includes a very broad spectrum. It varies from helping someone, donating food and money to the needy, organising blood donation camps, organising relief,  to working towards policy changes, working on issues of minority communities, and overall, working on shaping and designing development of our country, region, city and village. For a complete understanding and perspective, it is necessary to classify these various acts of generosity, fearlessness and courage in order to frame the larger context.

We grow up hearing and reading about stories of kindness. People helping those who need help. All religion teaches acts of kindness. We are told about our karma, that what we do to others would ultimately reflect on how we live our life and what happens to us. We are inclined towards Giving. From giving alms, to giving food, clothes etcetera to your house help, to giving money to orphanage, schools, hospitals, donate blood; donate towards relief of victims of natural calamities. This feeling of munificence stems largely from a sense of pity, a sense of empathy for the one who are suffering. We would call this CHARITY. Many people have found their calling of compassion in taking up many diverse acts of charity, being of immense help to somebody in need.

The ones who do this selfless act are encouraged by the society. People praise them. They are blessed, and derive satisfaction from helping.

When we were growing up in Sector 17, Rourkela, we had an Uncle in the neighbourhood. We, the children, fondly called him Maharaj. One of his biggest qualities was he helped when there was a death in the neighbourhood. He knew exactly how to organise everything in that situation. There was another such person when I lived in Anand, Gujarat. These people have special place in our hearts for their help in difficult times. So many such people exist in this world doing all kinds of things to help people.

Now, the other end of the spectrum. We read in the newspaper about protests, rallies against corruption, displacement, against inhuman treatments etc. We read about people of minority communities, based on caste, class and gender being targeted, marginalised, and harassed by majority communities. Many such issues represent deep seated discrimination and marginalization based on caste, class, gender and ethnicity. There are many such issues which cannot be resolved only by charity, kindness or generosity. Many of them require challenging the systems, questioning deep seated beliefs, superstitions and inequality.

Sharing again another incident from my childhood. We had water supply twice during the day in the area where we lived and the water was stored in overhead tanks or sumps in people’s houses. There was times when the water supply was erratic and it was very hard to manage. We were very young, but it was the women who faced the wrath of the situation as they had to somehow manage cooking, cleaning, bathing the children, gardening etc. So one time, many of them, including my mother, gathered and went to the local office and shouted and argued. This was to register their anger against inefficiency.

This is a very simple example, where existing systems do not work and they need to be challenged. They require a different level of involvement, protest and asserting ones rights. This approach is called the “Rights” based approach in social work.

Our society is based on largely, two sets of assumptions. One, society is assumed to be harmonious and based on shared values. Second, the society is rooted in conflict over power and access to and control over resources. This translates to broadly, two approaches:

  • WELFARE: inefficiencies in society can be taken care of through reforming or adjusting the status quo in a gradual and rational manner.
  • RIGHTS: inequalities can be abolished through transforming society to redistribute power and resources fairly.

As you can see, the problems in our society need to be analysed through different lenses and resolved through different approaches. Besides, many a times, there are no either or, and there are no fixed lines demarcating how to resolve an issue.

For example, let us take Education. While generous donations to public or private schools, may meet the need of resources, the method of education, the need for integration of differently-abled in mainstream education, the need for children who are poor to be able to access education are many facets of education and they need different approaches.

The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai where I had studied Social Work, was established in 1936 with an objective to cope with the problems of a newly industrilised nation. There were four specialisations offered, Family and Child welfare, Criminology and Correctional Administration, Medical and Psychiatric Social Work, Urban and Rural Community Development. Though initially part of Social Work stream, Personnel Management and Industrial Relations was later separated to a different section. TISS, over the years of engaging with the complex issues in rural and urban India, realized the inadequacies of having only 5 specialisations and is now offering many other specialisations.

The idea that Social Work is charity is only partly correct. Our world is so big and faced with so many kinds of issues, that there is place for all, generosity, kindness, and fighting for the Right of the human beings and the many other life forms. When environmentalists fight for preservation of the Western Ghats, they are not only fighting for all the life forms in that area, they are also asserting the need to preserve ecology which is the life support systems of all living beings on the earth.

When one compares, it is possible that being generous is sometimes easier, as against fighting for a just and equal society, which challenges established system of power and discrimination.

To conclude, we live in difficult times, with new challenges around climate change, governance and poverty. We need to develop a sound understanding on the root causes of a problem, and what role we can play in helping to eliminate that problem and to make this world a better place for all of us, that we can leave behind for the many generations to come.

 

Serendipity

I had a temporary house-help when my regular one, Aruna was going away for four days. This happens quite often. When it’s more than 2 days, she knows she has to get me a replacement. So one evening Aruna got Fatima to introduce and explain the work. The issue was she would not be able to come before 7:30 am and we leave home by 7:45 am for work. My husband said he could stay back, work from home and go later after she finishes work. Biggest plus of Fatima was she spoke hindi though the first three days of work, I almost never met her. I left breakfast and tea on the kitchen platform and would be leaving when she enters the house.

On Saturday I was home. She started telling me that she works at another apartment in the same housing complex where we stay. And the other family who left for America. When I asked her whether she has work in the morning and is that why she comes late. She started to talk about her husband who had a heart operation. Both of them have never attended school, so she could not even communicate what really was the illness.

Her husband is a daily wage labour who loads and unloads heavy stuff for a living. He complained of chest pain and they went to few doctors practising in the neighbourhood in their clinics. From being gas to chest congestion to several such diagnosis were made and medicines given, until one doctor said “go to a bigger hospital and go right now”.  From her descriptions I gathered something with the heart and an operation was done and vein was taken from the leg for grafting, that the hospital is a tall building right on the main road, the doctor’s name and that they had not have to spend any money on the operation. On the basis of their ration card, BPL status they were given free treatment under the Arogyashri scheme and the first round of medicines were for free.

The problem was they had no money for further medicines and so have not gone for check up in the past two months.

One of those times, when one is thankful for serendipity. The hospital she mentioned was CARE hospital. We could get her an appointment, consultation and bought the next round of medicines.

There is no doubt that we need better Public Health policy, better government hospitals, follow up check-ups to be made free of cost as well and this should not have been left for serendipity. But here is a corporate hospital, and doctors who listened to their calling and did their duty to treat and save a less privileged life.

Fatima is still the only working person from the family, struggling to send her two children to school take care of her husband and provide food, clothing and shelter to her family.

I do not always like the fact that my husband works with a hospital, 6 days a week, examples of illness and disease make me sad, discussions on methods of operations and treatments give me the nightmares. I am personally petrified of hospitals.

But these are some of the times I feel happy, and proud.

 

 

Reading books: The Curious Incident of the DOG in the NIGHT-TIME

The deadpan matter of fact writing of this book, I who otherwise loves the complexity in expressions, found this so engrossing.

And who could have imagined what a title of a book like this would lead to!

Christopher, the narrator of the story is a fifteen year old boy with Asperger’s syndrome. He loves maths and his pet rat Toby, he hates the colour yellow and brown, and being touched and people telling lies.

(excerpts from the book in italics)

I do not tell lies. Mother used to say that this was because I was a good person. But it is not because I am a good person. It is because I can’t tell lies.

…I do not always do what I am told. And this is because when people tell you what to do it is usually very confusing and does not make sense.

Mr. Jeavons said that I liked maths because it was safe. He said I liked maths because it meant solving problems, and these problems were difficult and interesting, but there was always a straightforward answer at the end. And what he meant was that maths wasn’t like life because in life there are no straightforward answers at the end. (How lovely, though Christopher goes ahead and explains that life can really be straightforward!)

My memory is like a film. That is why I am really good at remembering things.  

And when you look at the sky you know you are looking at stars which are hundreds and thousands of light years away from you. And some of the stars don’t even exist anymore because their light has taken so long to get to us that they are already dead, or they have exploded and collapsed into red dwarfs. And that makes you seem very small, and if you have difficult things in your life it is nice to think that they are what is called negligible which means that they are so small you don’t have to take them into account when you are calculating something.

And then I thought I had to be like Sherlock Holmes and I had to detach my mind at will to a remarkable degree so that I did not notice how much it was hurting inside my head.

And this means that time is a mystery, and not even a thing, and no one has ever solved the puzzle of what time is, exactly. And so, if you get lost in time it is being lost in a desert, except that you can’t see the desert because it is not a thing. And this is why I like timetables because they make sure you don’t get lost in time. 🙂

People believe in God because the world is very complicated and they think it is very unlikely that anything as complicated as a flying squirrel or the human eye or a brain could happen by chance. But they should think logically and if they thought logically they would see that they can only ask this question because it has already happened and they exist.

And there is life on earth because of an accident. But it is a very special kind of accident. And for this accident to happen in this special way, there have to be 3 conditions. And these are

  1. Things have to make copies of themselves (this is called Replication)
  2. They have to make small mistakes when they do this (this is called Mutation)
  3. These mistakes have to be the same in their copies (this is called Heritability)

And these conditions are very rare, but they are possible, and they cause life. And it just happens.

And people who believe in God think God has put human beings on the earth because they think human beings are the best animal, but human beings are just an animal and they will evolve into another animal, and that animal will be cleverer and it will put human beings into a zoo, like we put chimpanzees and gorillas into a zoo. Or human beings will all catch a disease and die out or they will make too much pollution and kill themselves, and then there will only be insects in the world and they will be the best animal.

Note: Asperger’s syndrome is a type of autism, and autism can be difficult to explain. Reading Christopher’s story can be a good way to begin understanding. Autism is when something goes wrong with the development of the brain and the nervous system. People with Asperger’s syndrome find it difficult to imagine the thoughts and feelings of others. They can be very literal and find it difficult to understand complex languages and jokes.