Exhibiting exquisite creations
Visiting zoos is always an exhilarating experience, for adults as well as children.
Visiting zoos is always an exhilarating experience, for adults as well as children. The Hyderabad zoo was a favourite venue for picnics for our family and friends. We often went there to spend a pleasant morning ogling at the animals and polish off the trip with lunch at the lovely little rest house they have adjoining the Mir Alam Tank.
Visits of a similar nature to the zoo at Madras and Kolkata also stand out in my memory. The zoo at Delhi is another attraction which we frequented often. I remember taking my daughter and her children there once. It was midwinter, and the auto rickshaw, with a trailer car, which we were given to move around in, was an open affair. And the cold was freezing!
All that was forgotten, however, when I saw my two- year-old grandson Advaith's eyes widening at wonder, especially when he looked at elephants, giraffes and zebras. I have also been to the zoo at Sydney in Australia, where one can experience the best of Australia's wildlife, right in the heart of the metropolis.
I always made it a point to visit museums wherever I went. During my travels, I had the good fortune of going around many of them at leisure, looking at the priceless exhibits, such as the Smithsonian at Washington, the British Museum at London, le Louvre in Paris the National Museum at Sri Lanka and, of course, our own National Museum at Delhi. My wife and I had braved cold weather and a steady drizzle, to visit the Louvre, mainly in order to take a look at the celebrated painting, Mona Lisa. We went to the British museum along with my daughter and son-in-law with whom we were staying at London for a short while. At the very entrance stands the Kohinoor diamond which the British took away and displayed proudly in their important national institution.
While I must admit having felt some pain and anger, I had literally to stop my daughter from going to the nearest police station, in order to lodge a complaint against the British government! The Madras Museum has an unusual feature to offer, namely, the skeleton of a huge whale.
I was also the Secretary to the Governor in the 1970s. The Governor of Andhra Pradesh was the President of the Board of Governors of the Salar Jung Museum, and I had the opportunity of learning a lot about the manner in which museums are organised and maintained.
Even as recently as a couple of years ago, I took my grandchildren for a conducted visit the highlight of which, is the ancient clock in which, on the hour, an old man walks out of a door of a hut, and beats on a plate with a gong, to tell the time!
For a short while, in my childhood, I also tried my hand at stamp collection, philately as it is formally called. A look at all those stamps, from various countries from New Zealand to Japan, gave one the feeling of literally travelling to those countries! I remember visiting one or two philately exhibitions where the rarest of rare stamps had been put on show. It was indeed a greatly educating experience.
Likewise I flirted with the hobby of numismatics, collecting coins from various parts of the world. Strangely enough those that proved particularly interesting were from the erstwhile Nizam's Hyderabad, 'Haali' as they were called. As the Telugu proverb goes, the closer one is to a temple the farther one is from God!
Here we were, right in Hyderabad city, and it required systematic and methodical collection of coins from around the world to discover the importance of the local currency of earlier days! The Numismatic Art Gallery at Nagpur is India's biggest showroom of coins and currency notes from countries all over the world.
Circuses are another great form of wholesome and versatile entertainment. Men, women and animals all perform different types of feats them use and entertain the audience. And the memorable is experience dotted with spells of relief, provided by clowns who, in the guise of appearing to fail to imitate some of the artists, regularly display amazing skills and talent. The Gemini, the 3-Ring and the Kamala circuses, are the ones I remember as being among the most popular ones in our younger days.
Needless to say, people have different views, and substantial reservations, about the manner in which animals are treated, in both zoos as well as circuses which, they quite rightly, feel constitutes an intrusion into the privacy of the rights of animals, as well as undue restriction on their right to freedom. But, for that matter, even in ancient times, events such as gladiator fights and chariot races did contain an element of cruelty and sadism.
National day parades, such as the one organised in the capital cities of states in India, as well New Delhi as the national capital, on both Independence Day and Republic Day, also served as platforms for showcasing the achievements of the country/state and the performance of the government.
At the national level, in particular, the accent is heavily on achievements in the field of defence, an emphasis that probably owes its origin to the fact that the Ministry of Defence organises the entire show. The Beating the Retreat ceremony, that follows a few days later, and is organised just before sunset, is a stirring and moving experience.
The manner in which ceremonially-clad sailors, soldiers and airmen, move, the majesty of their mounts, including camels and horses, as well as the soulful rendering of 'Abide with me' (until recently, with Iqbal's 'Sare Jahan Se Achha' now having been picked as a substitute) at the end make for a hair-raising experience.
I also recall, with pleasure and pride, the warm feeling that envelopes one at watching the unfurling of the national flag, and saluting it at attention, while the national anthem is being played, an experience I had the honour of going through both as a District Collector and the Chief Secretary.
(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh)
(The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of The Hans India)