Nostalgia and Expectations: My visit to the Assam State Zoo
I remember it vividly. I was probably 8 or 9 years old at the time. It was a glorious Sunday and I was ready as the clock struck nine. That Sunday was the big day, one that I had been waiting for as patiently as I could- a trip to the Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden with my aunt, uncle and cousins.
Soon after my cousins arrived at my place, we all set out for the zoo. Those days, going to Zoo Road was sort of a big deal as it was located on the “other side” of the city for us natives who lived in the heart of the city then, circa 2004, in AT Road.
My experience at the zoo then was amazing. I distinctly remember seeing so many animals, birds and reptiles. I would marvel at the majestic lion and be terrified of the crocodiles, and then marvel at the tigers again. I felt a sea of emotions that day and it was undoubtedly one of the best Sundays I had ever spent.
I had the chance to visit the Assam State zoo again recently, circa 2019. I felt a sea of emotions this time as well, but these emotions were quite different from the ones I had felt the first time. This time, I was first surprised at how long it had been since my last visit and then, I was disappointed.
As I walked across the length and breadth of the zoo, I did not revel in that feeling of marvel anymore. I was expecting that same sense of excitement like before, and even waited for it to strike me at some point during my visit, but it did not happen. Maybe it was because I went on a lazy Monday afternoon, and the animals were taking their midday rest. But what about the animals that were nowhere to be seen? All those empty enclosures, haunted by their former residents.
I saw the tiger again and I saw the lion again. However, majestic is not the word I would use to describe these animals today. The lion and lioness seem starved. When you looked at them, instead of being in awe, you just felt sad. Just plain sad! Then I went and saw the tiger. Not ferocious, but depressed and lost. I felt like looking into the animal’s eyes and telling it that it would all be okay.
“Is it dead, mother?!” a 5-year-old girl who was out with her family exclaimed. This explains the situation best because children say the truth, right? No matter how bitter or cruel.
Next, was the regal black panther. At first I couldn’t see it but then it made an appearance and I felt a little better. I was scared to go too close to its enclosure, so maybe that is a good sign.
Following that, I saw a bunch of other animals and birds and many more empty would-be-homes.
This is actually just a narration of a nostalgic memory and a recent experience. My old memory is intact, happy and safe, but my new memory needs an adjustment and alteration.
Now, I fully acknowledge that I do not know about the behind-the-scenes activities that go on to take care or maybe, not take care of these animals, but I do think that we can do better.