When we are young, we learn to communicate largely by imitation. Think of the languages that you were exposed to growing up. Even if you don’t speak all of them perfectly, you will still remember certain words for they are engraved into your memory. And in the event that you’ve ‘forgotten’ a language, it does come back to you once you’re back in an environment where you need to use it.

When I used to work with young children, I became conscious of the way they would imitate not only my words, but also my actions. It wasn’t a perfect imitation, of course. But they would catch on to certain phrases I used and with time, I would hear it mirrored back to me.

It was quite the experience.

Goddess Saraswati

In her incarnation as Goddess Matangi, the Parrot is one of Goddess Saraswati’s vahana animals. In Hinduism, a vahana is a mount; akin to a mode of transportation. Saraswati’s other animals are the peacock and the swan. A vahana shows us the way in which the Deity manifests its aspects through the natural world.

Imitation is not the same as copying or even duplication. As with all aspects associated with Saraswati, it requires concentration to imitate. Think about when you have to pick up a new language–be it music or any other foreign language. Imitation is important when we are learning the fundamentals. We don’t wake up one morning able to write essays. Neither do we wake up one morning being able to compose our own songs.

We usually begin by imitating others. With time–and with more material to imitate–we begin to develop our own style. For instance, when learning music, my teacher introduced me to an array of different genres. There were some that I took to immediately: like folk and rock music. Interestingly, classical music was never something I appreciated till I started to play it.

It is through the act of imitation that we learn to value, to discern and to appreciate the world around us.

Goddess Matangi, an avatar of Saraswati

The Power of Play

While the parrot is a symbol for imitation, it is also known for its beautiful colours. From turquoise, to magenta, to bright purple–they come in many colours; like the numerous languages of the world. Parrots are also considered (by humans, of course) to be highly intelligent due to their ability to learn. Some of them are even highly skilled at using tools and solving puzzles.

Parrots begin learning in early life through social interaction. Play forms a large part of learning in parrots; and play can be solitary or social. In the same way, we, too, can learn through play. Learning doesn’t always have to be a serious affair and we can learn from the world around us. This requires us to put ourselves out there and gain exposure. If we’re a little shy at first, we can begin our journey by observing before we begin imitating.

When I was young, I loved imitating the people around me. Some of them found it amusing, while others found it really annoying. Oh well, can’t please everyone, can we? In either case, it was through the power of imitation that I picked up numerous foreign languages in my adult years. It was also through the power of imitation that I honed in on my ability to learn from my environment.

Think about the various sounds that you hear on a daily basis. From the sounds of nature, to the sounds of the city, to the hustle of the marketplace. There is much to be learnt from imitating all these sounds. The next time you’re out and about, open your ears… and notice what you pick up on…

Put those parroting skills to use! You’re in for a surprise.

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