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Zoo

Started: 2016-01-01 11:43:13

Submitted: 2016-01-01 00:04:19

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator begins to explore Delhi

With some reluctance, I set my alarm to wake me up in time to make it to my hotel breakfast, in the hopes of not only eating, but also to continue to adjust my body clock to my new time zone on the other side of the planet. I actually ended up waking up earlier than my alarm, and spent some time laying in bed in my hotel room, listening to the sounds of New Delhi coming in the window. With the curtains closed it sounded like a sound designer's platonic ideal of a hotel room in the developing world: with a wide assortment of vehicles driving past, from noisy two-stroke auto rickshaws to cars and trucks powered by diesel and gasoline, all honking at each other.

I woke Calvin up to take him to breakfast on the ground floor of the hotel, in a small restaurant area with a small buffet and the possibility to order more food to be cooked. Calvin ate some idli but did not seem impressed by it or the fresh tropical fruit I tried to serve him. He was far more interested in the scrambled eggs and toast with jam.

We went back to the room to wait for my sister Bethany to arrive, flying in from New York on a flight through Dubai, while Calvin watched movies on the iPad and I organized my luggage and tried to figure out what we would be doing for the rest of the day. Just as I was wondering when Bethany might arrive, and thinking about going down to the lobby to picket her when she entered, she knocked on my door -- having gotten held up in the same e-visit immigration line that we waited in.

We headed down to the hotel's built-in restaurant for lunch, then headed out into the city to try to see something (while fighting jet-lag). We decided to see the National Zoological Gardens, relatively close in New Delhi, and caught a taxi waiting in front of the hotel to take us there. The taxi dropped us off across the street from the zoo, rather than fight traffic to drive down the block, make a u-turn, and fight traffic to drive back down the block to drop us off right in front of the zoo. We had the pleasure of trying to emulate the locals as we crossed the street in any available gaps in traffic, playing Frogger for real.

We forgot to buy a camera ticket, in addition to our far-more-expensive foreigner ticket, so when we finally made it to the front of the entry queue the security guard insisted we go back to get a camera ticket until a woman hanging around took our money to go back to the ticket window and buy the ticket for us.

Aunt Bethany and Calvin at National Zoological Gardens, Delhi
Aunt Bethany and Calvin at National Zoological Gardens, Delhi

Inside, the zoo gardens were spacious, if a little dusty and run-down, with throngs of Indian tourists looking at the animals and just hanging out. It seemed to be equally popular with families, teenagers, and young adults. Calvin and Bethany proved to be prime tourist attractions with the locals: they were barraged by requests for photos, especially from groups of young men. Calvin was put off by the attention from one group of young grade-school-age children, since they didn't have the same respect for personal bubbles as he prefers.

Indian tourist poses with Aunt Bethany and Calvin
Indian tourist poses with Aunt Bethany and Calvin

We saw many animals native to India in the zoo, including a rare white tiger, a group of elephants, and a bunch of crocodiles lounging in the sun.

White tiger at National Zoological Gardens, Delhi
White tiger at National Zoological Gardens, Delhi

I was amused by a banyan tree that appeared to be growing an electrical cable along with its aerial roots -- though in reality it had just just grown into a cable that had been cut off and rerouted.

Banyan tree growing an electrical cord
Banyan tree growing an electrical cord

The zoo closed at 17:00, about the time it was starting to get dark. I thought about trying to see something else but all of the tourist sites would be closed, and I was getting tired and didn't want to drag Calvin along on any wild goose chases. We caught a rickshaw back to the hotel, once we found one willing to pay a not-horribly-inflated price (and one that could figure out which hotel we were going to). I tried not to fall asleep, with mixed success, until we decided it was time to eat supper. We headed back to the hotel's restaurant, which seemed much easier than trying to head out to eat something. I stayed awake until 20:00, long enough to get Calvin into bed, and decided it counted as a 'plausible early bedtime' for the purposes of jet lag, and went to sleep, after my first day in India with Calvin.

Setting sun through the haze and trees at National Zoological Gardens, Delhi
Setting sun through the haze and trees at National Zoological Gardens, Delhi
Of course you aren't going to find "the one" when you insist on
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