Sometime around the third year of engineering, my friends and I got obsessed with hanging out at the Trivandrum zoo. There was something about rediscovering the place that until then resided mostly in memories from primary school vacations. It is one of the greener patches in the green patch that Trivandrum is. The monkeys are nice too. They don’t throw poop or conform to other simian stereotypes in popular culture.
But before this fad happened I was not a big fan of the zoo that apparently inspired Yann Martel to create the character of Richard Parker. Yeah, it was big news in the local papers when Life of Pi won the Booker. After The God of Small Things and Martel’s tiger, there was nothing stopping us Malayalis from getting featured in Booker-winning fiction. Anyway, apart from my dislike of keeping animals in captivity there was one more reason that I dreaded visiting the place. Most of us had superpowers in our teenage years, right? We could make supernatural or natural phenomena happen just by focusing our mind, eyes or other body parts on things. The superpower I had in my teens was nothing to brag about. Dogs used to start peeing whenever I walked past them. At first I thought it was some sort of fluke. But after collecting a lot of empirical data on this it was confirmed that I indeed possessed this superpower. Everyone in my family agreed and accepted my powers too. Then they took me to the zoo to test the extent of my powers. From the first enclosure to the last one it was a pee fest. Not even the rhinos were immune.
The superpower sort of faded away when I turned twenty, boosting my interest in hanging out at the zoo. So one fine afternoon I decided to share the joy of visiting the zoo with my newly found special male friend *ahem ahem wink blush and other weird expressions made while referring to a boyfriend in a pre-Rima Kallingal conservative Malayali setup*. When I made the suggestion there was absolutely no sign of protest from the other party against this choice of location. So we met at the zoo entrance. At this point I am choosing to leave out a side-story that involved us running into one of my friends who had also bunked college to hang out at the zoo with her boyfriend (they are happily married now and regularly post Faceook updates about checking in at restaurants, movie theatres, airports, public toilets, KSRTC buses, wildlife biospheres etc.).
As we stopped at the first enclosure to admire a bunch of exotic storks from some other continent, my romantic interest suddenly looked at me, instead of the exotic storks, and said that he wanted to see Mithun. I stared at him for about half a minute. Had I not been a regular at the zoo I would’ve stared at him for longer. Mithun was a kind of peachy looking Himalayan cow that resided near the very exit of the zoo. I told him to wait for a bit longer and moved on to the next enclosure to observe the non-conforming monkeys. Then to the King Cobra enclosure. Then I noticed that he was still muttering ‘Mithun, Mithun, Mithun…’ under his breath. Finally I gave in and decided to cut short our zoo visit and head to where Mithun was grazing. On the way, we passed my friend and her boyfriend who were happily studying the mating patterns of indigenous deer. They were a bit surprised to see us run across the grounds with a sense of urgency. Mithun had to be seen!
Finally we reached the Mithun enclosure. It was empty. Some random guy who was standing there told us that Mithun was no more. My boyfriend was sad. I was happy. Mithun was dead. It was a perfect ending that conformed to all stereotypes in popular cinema or at least the kind that I watch. That’s all folks.