‘Lai ka Rani?’ he asked. A Red Queen? ‘Yeah. It’s a biology thing. It’s about hosts, like human bodies, and parasites, like viruses and such. I studied it when I was running my clinic in the zhopadpatti. The hosts—our bodies—and the viruses—any bug that makes us sick—are locked in a competition with each other. When the parasite attacks, the host develops a defence. Then the virus changes to beat that defence, so the host gets a new defence. And that keeps on going. They call it a Red Queen contest. It’s from the story, you know, Alice in Wonderland.’ ‘I know it,’ Salman answered. ‘We did it at school. But I never understood it.’ ‘That’s okay—nobody does. Anyway, the little girl, Alice, she meets this Red Queen, who runs incredibly fast but never seems to get anywhere. She tells Alice that, in her country, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. And that’s like us with the passport authorities, and the licensing boards, and the banks all over the world. They keep changing the passports and other documents to make it harder for us. And we keep finding new ways to fake them. And they keep changing the way they make them, and we keep finding new ways to fake them and forge them and adapt them for ourselves. It’s a Red Queen contest, and we all have to run real fast just to stand still.’

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A quote saved on Nov. 5, 2015.


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