Reflection of Hari Chakyar, an advertising professional and volunteer at the Buguri Community Library, Banashankari
I volunteered to tag along with the Buguri Community Library’s visit to the Bannerghatta National Park on Sunday, December 30. Here’s my account of entire experience.
The morning of December 30, I reached the library earlier than any of the children arrived. Having visited the library earlier, I am acquainted with the arduous task of getting the children to follow instructions and I wanted to be around to help.
Once the activity room was duly filled, Lakshmi Miss asked them where they were to go and the word ‘zoo’ echoed while one little voice piped in with ‘Bannerghatta National Park’. She then reminded everyone of dos and don’ts in the national park – flowers and leaves are not to be plucked, litter is not to be littered and so on. There were separate instructions for the bus too.
The children were paired, divided into groups and assigned to each volunteer. My team had two Lakshmis, one Vidya, one Sreenidhi and Vijay. Vidya wore a pink frock but I kept thinking she’s wearing a cream-yellow frock. My brain must be playing tricks on me, I thought. It took me half a day to realize Vidya had a twin sister who was wearing the cream-yellow frock! Can you imagine how relieved I was that my brain didn’t need checking?
We boarded the bus and sang all the way to the park. Some of the snacks that were to be had in the park were consumed in the bus.
It was a Sunday and holiday season and the park was thronging with people. While somebody got tickets, we watched a mother and her son stare at a monkey that was eating something. We disobeyed touch-me-nots, made friends with a stray dog and talked about our favourite animals. For some reason, everybody in my group thought ‘butterfly’ was a great candidate for their favourite animal position.
Thankfully the butterfly park was visited first. I had never seen one before and was delighted to be inside. We watched a boring presentation about butterfly life-stages and the types of butterflies in the park. I felt like I was sitting in my office conference room until one of the little girls asked me for water from the big bottle every volunteer had.
Lunch was had outside the park, on the lawns. Pulao and raita for everybody.
After everybody had eaten, it was time to enter the zoo. New groups were formed once more and sent into the park one by one. The first thing everybody saw was ‘black and white’ horses. That’s just what I call them. The children obviously knew they are called zebras. I have no idea how time flew after that. We saw pacing tigers, relaxing leopards, talkative birds, creepy snakes, turtles climbing on top of each other and dinosaurs that did not move at all.
Through the entire time inside the park, the new group of seven I was with, would find everyone else, do a quick headcount and only then proceed to the next exhibit. It was impressive to see them taking charge and being responsible.
It would be unfair if I didn’t particularly mention two children that stood out. Sreenidhi, in Class II, didn’t let go of my hand the entire time, almost as if she was afraid I would get lost in the crowd. She also made it a point to speak to me in English once she realized my Tamil or Kannada skills were not going to get me anywhere. Someone else decided that I was a ‘koothi’ or ‘kothi’, which Sreenidhi translated for me. Apparently they had named me monkey, a title I am proud of. There were some other instances too were she translated phrases in another language for my benefit.
Language skills that are good enough to translate languages are a sign of great intelligence. At Class II, Sreenidhi is doing great and there’s no doubt that she’ll excel.
Sreenivas, fondly known as Cheenu, surprised me with his range of facial expressions and comic timing. He would tap my hand and shrink away, pretending to be scared of me, as if I was to take his cue and pretend to be a predator or a man-eating monster. I believe he is an actor in the making.
I wish the park wasn’t so crowded and I wish we had more time inside and I wish we actually got to do the safari. The wishlist is long but on top of the list was the need to have all the children safely back home. While that happened, a lot of fun was also had, which makes the entire trip completely worth it and a total success. I heard that this was a trip everyone was looking forward to and I am delighted that it happened and that I got to be a part of it.