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Volunteering at the Zoo

Every Sunday, volunteers from the local Roots and Shoots chapter visit the Nehru Zoological Park and station themselves near the cages. They talk to visitors, keeping them from feeding or troubling the animals. Since the park receives (roughly) ten times the number of visitors on Sundays as all the rest of the days put together, this action is very impactful.

Today, as part of an initiative at work, a few colleagues and I joined the R&S volunteers for a day at the zoo.

But before we kick off, a word on the zoo itself. Known locally as the Joo Park, Hyderabad’s zoo is to it what the Marina beach is to Chennai – the one place where every local family and their non-local extensions heads for some R&R. Hyderabad empties itself into the Joo Park on Sundays (similar to how Cyberabad empties itself into Shilparamam on Saturdays and Sundays). The Zoo is by no means small – it is indeed one of India’s largest – but on Sundays, it quickly starts resembling the Black Hole of Calcutta. Given that there are thousands of children and only two medium sized slides, the lines for each is roughly about 2600 long and full of angry parents yelling, “My son was here before your son” at each other. Of course, someone has to back down, and all of them storm away into the zoo to take out their frustrations on the poor animals. Which is where we come in – we try and stop them from behaving inappropriately with the inmates. read more

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Part of a Billion

Last week, a census taker visited us, and for the first time, included us in the National Census of India.

The only previous memory of being included in the census was in the 1981 census, when I was staying with my grandparents in Bangalore for the summer holidays. My grandmother was sitting on the stone step outside the front door, removing adulterants from rice, when the census taker visited. My grandmother being a teacher herself, she got into a conversation with the census taker, who was also a teacher. I was playing nearby, and remember being part of the conversation, though I doubt whether I made any insightful contributions, being all of six years old then. read more

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Morning at the Lotus Pond

An early morning walk around the Lotus Pond – Ajith and I have been planning this for a while, and managed to make it happen today.

The Lotus Pond

We set out early (by my standards that is!) and reached the Lotus Pond around seven. There were a few cars parked outside, and there seemed to be quite a few people walking around. However, the birds were pretty much minding their own business, and didn’t seemed to mind us stopping and staring at them, and clicking away with our cameras.

A Purple Moorhen running on the leaves on the Lotus Pond

The atmosphere in the pond and the surrounding park was serene, and the morning sunshine was golden. On the water we saw a grey heron standing on a rock, Zen-master-like. All around it, coots and moorhens squabbled over who got to walk on which part of the water. A purple moorhen suddenly took umbrage and ran, screaming, across the lotus leaves that covered the water around the edges. All this action happened within the first couple of minutes of us entering the park. read more

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Share Autos – Hyderabad’s Alternative Public Transit System

An Auto in Hyderabad

Last night, I took a series of share autos to reach home from Panjagutta, and this seems to be an opportune moment to take a look at this alternate public transport system that so effectively supplements and complements Hyderabad’s official public transit systems.

My ride was simple enough – I got into a share auto in front of the Y2K restaurant at Panjagutta. Once I got in, it took about three or four minutes for the auto to fill up. The driver kept calling out the destination of the auto – Jubilee Hills Checkpost – and one by one my fellow passengers took their seats. The ‘seats’ have to be described, for apart from the usual and expected three passengers in the back, there are additional, rather unexpected (to the uninitiated) seats on either side of the driver. Since I was first in, I got the choicest of seats – the middle seat in the back. Two guys squeezed in on either side of me, and two guys squeezed in on either side of the driver as well. The driver not being a greedy sort, we took off right away, and made good time to the Checkpost. Two guys got off just before we reached and I hopped off when we stopped at the red light – it was easier for me to cross to the next share auto ‘stand’ that way. The ride (4.1 kilometers, according to Google Maps) cost me 8 rupees. read more

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Crossword, Hyderabad – Ill-stocked, Ill-organized, Ill-run

It all started with a gift voucher from Crossword I got for something or the other. Deciding to take advantage of it, off we went to City Center, where, suitably fed and glowing, I went into the aforesaid bookshop (Vidya cleverly slipped into Max to look at clothes, well knowing my propensity to take an inordinately long time in bookshops!). So I started looking around, trying to decide what I would buy, and in the process discovered that Crossword (at least the one at City Center) is one of the most pathetic bookshops I have been to in any city.

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Artist’s Impression

These words have always held a certain fascination for me – the first I remember seeing this was in an encyclopedia for children at my maternal grandparents’ home. It was something like “An Artist’s Impression of a Space City” or some such. Over the years, I’ve come across quite a few examples – from celestial events to futuristic dreams to historical happenings. What has always struck me in all these is the kind of freedom enjoyed by an artist, and the kind of strait-jacket imposed by her (or his) ‘impression’. The two present a complex interplay, the manifestation of which is wide-ranging in its aesthetics as well as its representation of something. However, the final result is always fascinating when viewed in terms of the process that brought it forth.

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Rain!

One thing that never fails to move me is rain. And it has been raining – there have been all kinds of rain, from pouring bucketsful to a light misting rain that nevertheless manages to drench in a few minutes. What rain does to me is bring back an exact emotion, and when I think back to the most powerful memories it brings back, I can easily pinpoint two very powerful ones out of the uncountable numbers it seems to dig up.

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