What’s in a name?

A few days back I came across this lovely creature for the first time, Trapelus agilis or the Brilliant Ground Agama. This guy was basking on one of the boundary posts that mark the Desert National Park as we drove past. Our guide, Musa Khan, spotted him and we screeched to a halt, the tyres of our Gypsy throwing up the loose desert sand as we stopped. Oblivious to this, the male agama held its position on top of the post. As I focussed on him through the view finder I observed a change in his colour – from a sandy, speckled appearance I saw him take on some hues of blue on his body while his tail turned yellow. It was intriguing enough for me to take a couple of pictures.

When I looked up this species later I learnt a few interesting things. Many species of agama’s, commonly called Dragon Lizards, are capable of limited change of their colours to regulate their body temperature. In some species, like the Brilliant Ground Agama, colours play a part in signalling and reproductive behaviours. This particular specimen belonged to a sub-species (or race) called pakistanensis that is seen in South-Eastern Pakistan and adjacent Western Rajasthan.

That got me wondering if these agamas would have any appreciation of national boundaries. We (humans) are continually drawing boundary lines while our experience of borders has, historically, been contradictory. In the sense that we are continuously trying to transcend boundaries established by people who came before us while constantly drawing new ones of our own. This is true both physically as well as psychologically. And while browsing through some concepts on this front, I came across this philosophically deep statement by Georg Simmel, the German sociologist and philosopher…

‘Only to humanity, in contrast to nature, has the right to connect and separate been granted, and in the distinctive manner that one of these activities is always the presupposition of the other.’

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