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United Colours of Kabini

Indian Chameleon, Kabini -

We all know of people who’ve been called, not very flatteringly, as chameleons. We tend to find a lot of such specimens populating the portals of Indian polity, and their ability to change colour is legendary; predicated, as it is, to the political power equations at the moment. Surprisingly though, the Chameleon himself has very human characteristics, and his ability to change colour has less to do with camouflage and more to do with mood swings. Just like people can turn ‘pale’ in fear, or blush ‘pink’ in embarrassment, the Indian Chameleon of Kabini wears his heart on his skin. While primarily found in shades of green or brown, he changes colour to communicate with others of his tribe, and his tone is often an indicator of his physiological state. When fearful or agitated, he often becomes a much darker shade. His choice of hue is also influenced by climactic conditions, and he often regulates his body temperature by changing to darker colours to absorb heat. This increase of body temperature is critical to the Chameleon, for, without warmth, he just can’t move, hunt or even digest his food. In fact, Chameleons don’t just change tones, but also change shape; every morning you can see them squeezing their sides together, puffing out their chins, just to flatten their bodies to create more surface area to absorb the sun’s rays. The sun worshippers of Ibiza, Cannes, Cancun and Miami could do well to learn this trick, one feels. Talking of tricks, the Indian Chameleon has another one up his sleeve. He can rotate and focus his eyes separately to observe two different objects simultaneously, giving him a 360 degree field of vision. This, most people will agree, is a handy trick to have, especially on the bikini-clad beaches mentioned some time back. Catch them at it, though, and you’d be excused for thinking they were Chameleons, considering how they turn ‘pink’ in an instant.

Photograph: Amoghavarsha Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy



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