Mar 5, 2010

Which comes first- the chicken or the egg ?

This seems to be like one of those unanswerable questions. If the chicken came first, then didn’t it hatch from an egg? And if the egg came first, wasn’t it laid by a chicken.

Still, there are answers and it depends on what you believe in. If you believe in God and the Bible, the first chapter in Genesis says that on the fifth day, God created chicken with every other fowl. So, the chicken came first.

If you believe in science and the theory of evolution, eggs, those miniature incubators of life evolved more than 1 billion years ago, in the oceans of the earth. When land animals evolved about 250 million years ago, the eggs had a tough covering to retain moisture on dry land. Now, genetic material does not alter during an animal’s life. It does, however, change in the egg. Therefore, the first bird that evolved into what we would call a chicken, probably in prehistoric times, must have first existed as an embryo inside an egg. So, the egg came first.

However, which came first is not my concern. As you can see from the title of this piece, I am interested in how the chicken comes out of the egg. I mean one way or the other, the egg has to break for the chicken to come out. Now, it is risky for the mother hen to stamp the egg with its feet or break it with its beak. The chicken may be forced to undergo emergency surgery immediately after birth. The chicken itself is too tiny and helpless inside the egg to try and break it from inside. The question is who will break it.

I found my answer in a standard fourth science book. The solution is so neat you want to salute the love and care of God if you believe in one or the practical intelligence of the power that drives us all.

Just before a chick is ready to hatch, a horny growth called the “egg tooth” develops on the top of its beak. The egg tooth is hard enough to cut the shell. The chick turns its body within the egg and chips the shell with the egg tooth until the shell cracks from the inside and finally breaks open at its broadest part. Parent birds just watch in fascination and do not help to break the shell, but they often carry away the pieces of shell when the chick is free. The egg tooth drops off a day or two after the chick hatches! So, you are provided with a built in tool just for the period when you need it most.

By logical extension, this intelligence of the creative force of existence would definitely take care of each one of us and provide us with whatever we need at the right time for our own good. So, maybe the best strategy is to just surrender and relax.

However, the hen does not have any idea about the future of the egg. Whether it will get life or tawe pe fry hoga!

Feb 28, 2010

I have always envied many of my friends who work late into the night. Typically, they go to bed by 2 or 3 in the night presumably doing more work than someone like me who dozes off latest by 11 p.m. Even office colleagues who play dandiya all night appear fresh the next day morning. I am wondering whether I am lazy or whether there is some genetics at work.

It is not that I never slept late. In college, last minute studying invariably meant studying till 3 or 3.30, by which time you don’t know whether you are asleep or awake. This night long study was often interrupted by endless cups of chai and often, a visit to the nearby 24 hours shop where they would start their first batch of fat samosas floating in oil at 12 in the night.

In one of my previous jobs, I often reached home after 12 but still had to be present the next day at 9.30 am sharp. I noticed that whenever there is external pressure to stay late, there was no option but to do so. However, given a choice, I would like to retire to bed by 10. Once, I was watching a movie on a video and while the night wore on, the screen became hazy and I completely lost track of the proceedings. Thankfully, no one asked me about the movie the next day.

Recently, I got a chance to check my capacity when I had to sit late and work. By the time I switched off the light, it was 1 a.m. In the quiet of the night, the work had gone very well and I was happy and peaceful. There was no feeling of sleep deprivation.

The next day I had to go to office. I dozed off in the bus in the morning. In the office, I walked around semi conscious. I couldn’t concentrate. I had become dysfunctional. My boss, while speaking to me was able to see the inside of my mouth as uncontrollable yawns forced my jaws open. I had no appetite. On the way back, my eyes started watering and became red. I was feeling nauseous and irritable.

After a sound sleep, I did some research and found that there are night owls and early-morning larks, sound sleepers and light ones, people who are perky after five hours of sleep and others who are groggy if they log less than nine hours. It explains why I can start work at 5 a.m without much problem.

Nevertheless, many factors can affect how a person sleeps. Aging is the most important influence on basic sleep rhythms — from age 20 on, it takes longer to fall asleep, you sleep less at night (!). A person who is 20% sleep deprived has the mental acuity of a person who is legally drunk. By the way, CEOs often brag about how "hard" they "work" and how little sleep they get—4 to 6 hours is common. Now you know why layoffs happen—a bunch of drunks run most of our corporations.

So, maybe the best strategy is not to lose sleep over more sleep…yawn.. but  to just let sleep…sleep…slee…zzzzzzzz