No, this is not my take on Edward Albee’s absurd play, “Zoo Story”. But an account of the “zoo” I have at home. And I am not referring to my two sons. Neither to my inclination to zoology as a counterfoil to my wife’s degree in botany. This is the story of my own menagerie, a collection of figurines of animals we have on display at home.
I really do not know how this passion started, the genesis is probably in my growing up days when I yearned to have a dog (or even a cat) as a pet. My parents refused. And for good reason. Our house was too small to have pets. “Why have them captive in small confines”, they said. The fact that our household was a vegetarian one was probably also weighing in their minds. I remember bargaining even for a rabbit or a parrot, but these too were turned down on some pretext of the other. So all my dreams of having my own pet animal were paid put.
The wheel turned a few decades later when I had to turn down my sons’ requests for a pet dog. “Our apartment is too small”, I told them, “Would you like your pets to suffer in the confines?” They did mention the various neighbours who had pet dogs but this would cut no ice with me. So they finally reconciled to a pet-less house.
But over a period of time we have a fair collection of animal figurines from across India and from across the world. Some of these have come from my travel across the globe. Like the dodo bought during a family vacation in Mauritius, the mandatory Merlion from the innumerable trips to Singapore, the pair of kissing ducks from Seoul, the rooster and the pig from Bangkok and the carved wooden cat from a trip to Bali.
And that shopping from trips within India. The set of four elephants from Kerala, the cute metal monkey and the deer from Chhattisgarh, the wood carvings of tortoise, swans etc. from Andamans, the list is long.
The largest contribution has come from my friends. So the giraffe you see in our zoo has come from a friend visiting Kenya, while the bull is from another friend who visits Spain often. We have two sets of camels and we do not mind the duplication, as it is not a duplication. One comes from Egypt while the other is from the Gulf. Both from different continents! Even the Kerala elephant foursome we have has company of another four elephants. But the latter four, hold your breath, come from Ivory Coast, deep in Western Africa. This was courtesy a friend of mine in Singapore who travels to Western Africa regularly on business. Handy to teach kids the difference beteween African and Asian elephants; the ears are shaped differently!
You may observe from the pic above that my collection is displayed prominently, and with great pride. And the intrigued- and interested- guest is taken around for a guided tour of my zoo. The names, the sources, the history etc. I am generous with all the details. Specially after a couple of drinks!
And the “tour” concludes with a request to the hitherto the unsuspecting awe-struck visitor: to add to my collections from his next trip to wherever. The specs. are very simple. The piece has to be less than five inches tall, less than ten US dollars in price (not that I offer to pay for the “gift”) and that it should be representative of the place it is bought from. I would be loathe to have a replica of a Bengal Tiger from Belgium. One from Sunderbans is what I would be ok with. A kangaroo from Kolkata will not do. One from the deserts of Australia is more welcome.
And that brings me to the purpose of this rather “blog-gy” post which you would have realized is somewhat different to posts I do. This is a blatant request to all those of you who travel, are generous, and care to buy me an animal on your next travel. The simple- and non-taxing- specifications are given above.
Please do add to my knowledge of Zoology. Some biryani, some Black Label whisky and some great music (besides much gratitude) through an evening is something I shall offer in return!