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A Tryst with the Jurassic
The deadly velociraptor, with its gaping jaws and menacing features, inches closer to Dr Alan Grant (who slowly recedes holding back Tim, Lex and Dr Ellie Sattler behind him) with every passing fraction of a second. Before anyone could comprehend what was happening, the tyrannosaur appears in the scene and sinks its huge teeth into the raptor, flinging the second furiously across the high-tech visitor center, thereby destroying the construct of an ancient fossilized T-rex, as if to say “I’m back.”
This is how the final scene of Jurassic Park (the 1993 film) goes. I was introduced to dinosaurs when I was four, though I had been watching Barney & Friends from as far as my memory train goes. I guess Steven Spielberg had it in his mind to show what Barney would be like in reality. This is not a movie review, or a book review. This is a story of how I developed a relationship with dinosaurs.
The first Hollywood movie that stuck to my mind (and haunted me for all the eons to come) was, undoubtedly, Jurassic Park. I clearly remember the day I went with my father to buy a DVD of the film as a four-year-old girl. He explained to me all the way home that the movie features dinosaurs – prehistoric animals that long vanished from the earth. Somehow, the film strongly struck a chord in my young mind, sparked several keys of my silly imagination, and I ended up believing that the creatures were real (and continued to do so till I was eight). Of course, I was a long way off from learning about 3D animation and CGI. Surprisingly enough, I proceeded debating with everyone around me that dinosaurs did exist somewhere only the film crew was aware of.
As a kindergartner, I watched my worst fears come alive in the form of dinosaurs. Though the Tyrannosaurus rex is the most fearsome of all the dinosaurs, given the fact that it was the largest carnivore ever to roam the earth till date, I somehow found the velociraptors more frightening. The scene in which the two raptors go after the two kids in the kitchen gripped my memory like stars fixed to the sky, and stayed there for a long time thereafter. Still does. I feared to walk into rooms in the dark, believing a dozen raptors could be lurking inside, ready to pounce on me the moment I enter. Raptors are quick, vicious, vile, cunning creatures. If Red Skull is the most evil Marvel supervillain (not necessarily), then I would say the velociraptor was the Red Skull of the animal kingdom. I wouldn’t have jumped out of my skin if a ghost had whispered in my little ears, after having listened to the sound of the raptors’ 3.5-inch-long claws tapping against the kitchen floor. Plus, the blood-curdling snarls. The very thought sends a chill down my spine.
Next in line stands the tyrannosaur – my classic hero. It is true that we all have, if not many, a few things that we like as much as we hate them. The term “hate” could be replaced by “fear” here, but, it is more of a hate-combined-fear. According to the four-year-old me, the T-rex was mighty, and I loved the way it bellows loudly, and I was a fan of its imposing majesty, despite the fact that it was a bit clumsy and less intelligent than the velociraptor. Maybe this inclination stems from the human tendency to show greater preference towards persons and things that are less pedantic in nature. I always had a soft spot for it, and one of the main reasons was attributed to its colossal size. I was of the firm conviction that the tyrannosaur was too big to barge into my house and find me. Wow. What an intelligent kid I was. The freaking tyrant could bring down the entire house like Lego’s building bricks!
I also liked the fact that the T-rex saved our quartet from the advancing raptors in the last scene. As an 18-year-old, I still find myself screaming, “Go, Rexy!” every time the scene pops on the screen. My little sister double-checks on me to make sure that I have not gone irrevocably crazy. I had to wait nearly twelve years to watch the T-rex return to the silver screen with the fullest energy as the savior of the day, in the 2015-film Jurassic World, directed by Colin Trevorrow. Come what may, Indominus rex or anything bigger than that, Rexy rules it all. The king always is a king. I was so obsessed with the T-rex as a kid that I nagged my parents to buy me a pet tyrannosaur, and I was very disappointed with them for refusing me something that was obviously available.
I was also of the opinion that the calmer species (herbivores) like triceratops and brachiosaurs were too boring to be called “dinosaurs”. More importantly, I despised the dilophosaur, for it spits, and looks like the result of an experiment gone wrong. Only recently did I learn that its spits were poisonous, when I read the novel Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Though there are many differences between the book and the film, I think the movie is perfect in its own way. Personally, I would prefer not the slightest changes to be made to the film.
However, the case is not similar with the sequel – The Lost World. I read the novel in my high school, and I realized the book was a thousand times better than the movie, which was very loosely based on it, of course. Anyone who has read the book would agree, on a comparative note, that the film looks like the director planned for a masterpiece, but abandoned it halfway. Yet, the movie itself was not bad. The scene where the T-rex struts into San Diego “unnoticed” never fails to earn my laughter. I mean, nobody noticed a creature of that size saunter into the city limits, much less heard it? That is quite absurd.
As a kid, I engaged all my friends and the kids in the neighborhood in listening to my descriptions of the dinosaurs. I remember having scared a little girl with my spooky lecture, and she ran away home crying. Though my audience was always super-attentive and responsive, I’m not sure now if they were as excited about it as I was. For, no amount of imagination could bring alive the accuracy of the ferocity and the beauty of it all, as in the movie. You have to see it to feel it.
Additionally, the games that I played as a growing kid were mostly based on dinosaurs. We all grew up playing games where we create stories and settings, and enact them out. Little girls love holding tea parties, with dolls and toy cups. Strangely, in my case, me, my friends, my cousins – we all played my game with imaginary guns and flashlights, where we had to hide in dark places and pretend the dinosaurs were after us. Accompanied by excited screams and fake gunshots, I can assure you it was hilarious and tremendous fun.
There exists another major channel through which the prehistoric creatures communicate with me. Nightmares. I wonder if my mind has created an entire Jurassic Park industry up there, for it has produced voluminous productions of dinosaurs than the Universal Studios did. And, I hate it. Every time I have a hyper-realistic dino-dream (which every time is unsettling and disturbing), I lose my sleep and lay awake for the rest of the night. Eighteen years now, and I still have such nightmares at least twice a year (without fail) in which the raptors and the T-rex are promising participants. They have been chasing me tirelessly all my life, and I somehow feel the time-gap of 65 million years contracted to nothingness.
One could read both the novels of Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park and The Lost World) and reach the last pages with the satisfaction of having learnt enough stuff about dinosaurs. Science fiction is a sneak-peek into the future, and we find Michael Crichton handling it in the most experienced manner. No wonder he is hailed as one of the most popular writers of thriller and science fiction. Maybe I’ll be walking into a real Jurassic Park one of these days. We never know.
Though I am not actually dreaming of becoming a paleontologist like Dr Grant, my fascination for the vanished animals lives on, and will continue to burn forever. Dinosaurs were one among my childhood obsessions, which included astronomy, Pokémon, and The Powerpuff Girls, though the latter two died out as I grew. The universe and life are two things man can never completely understand. Moreover, they are the essence of our undying curiosity. But, that should never stop us from marching forward on our quest for the truth.