Shh, don’t tell it to anyone, but the truth is that animals are just props in Delhi’s Zoological Garden. The real pleasure lies in walking, reading and sometimes sleeping in this urban oasis, stuck between Purana Quila and the busy Mathura Road.
The best time to visit it is now, when the monsoon is at its peak. The zoo has become a swampy land. The ground is mossy green. Crickets make a constant krik-krik jingle. Squirrels scurry through the grass. Peacocks hop over fallen leaves. Pools fills up and look placid. When it drizzles, the birdsongs soar up like the finale of Beethoven’s ninth symphony.
The zoo is a haven in the other seasons, too. In the animal enclosures, mynahs perch on the back of rhinos and sea horses. Narrow lanes fork out in different directions. There are benches along the way for you to sit. (It takes two hours to walk through the entire garden.) Sometimes, people come merely to sleep on these benches. There is no noise, except that of birds and the occasional roars of bigger mammals. The sound of the passing trains (the railway track is very near) adds to the melody.
This may be a zoo, but life is wilder outside. There is no disappointment, however, for wildlife lovers, with over a thousand species of animals, birds and reptiles. The lion lounges frustrated in his little jungle (too many plump children and not a single one to eat). The white tiger, the principal attraction, roars frequently.
Not to be missed is the gallery of colourful exotic birds. Marvel at the crown of thorns on the heads of cranes. Do not skip seeing the ringed horns of the blackbucks. The hissing python in the Reptile House is scary. Beware of the monkeys, though. They’re many and they’re not in cages.
Where: National Zoological Park, next to Purana Qila;
Time: 9 am to 4 pm.
Closed on Fridays