The niece: sketch #14

The cutest muse ever.


I met my niece for the first time when she was three months old. She sat next to me, in the car, while we drove through the Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari in Arkansas. I thought I spotted a hint of excitement on her pink face when we passed a pride of white peacocks and a troop of baboons. But that was just me. She was too little to tell, too new to the world to show any bias.

Two years later, more recently, we took her to the Philly zoo. And there, she sat in her stroller, sucking on a lollipop, and babbling a new song that she had just learnt, as we rode her past a big fat Amur tiger, a waddle of penguins and a flamboyance of tall orange flamingos. Lost in her own world, we might as well be strolling her in a community park.

But then, all of a sudden, as we were heading towards a tower of giraffes, she jerked from her seat, and called out to her mom. I thought I had finally figured what her favorite animal was, until we looked at where her fingers pointed. To a lone sparrow, pecking at the leftover feed that was meant for a kit of pigeons. A sparrow that looked similar to the flutter of sparrows that visited the porch of her house every morning.

An uncaged sparrow, modest and more ordinary looking than any other animals in the zoo,  that to her was a friend, a visitor from miles beyond, and the only animal worth her excitement.


Zoo diaries

Philadelphia zoo in pictures.

Somewhere inside the concrete jungle that is Philly, there is a place that brims with flora and fauna. And it’s 144 years old. The Philadelphia Zoo, which is home to a gorilla that walks like a human, is where I decided to take my folks who had come to visit us for a week from Ohio. So on a Monday, when the rest of the world was busy getting to work, we drove off to America’s first zoo to hobnob with Nature’s best, including some of the world’s most endangered animals.

It’s a short walk from the parking area to the entrance. As you close the distance, don’t accidentally step on this giant Eagle that lays flat on the ground.


But do stop and look at the splash of animal-themed art on the walls.


But don’t zoom in much, for, they may make you rethink your visit.


And when you see this family of lion and cubs…


and elephant and calf.


Know that you are at the entrance of the zoo. Tada!


Now, if you have a toddler in the group, do not forget to rent a stroller from the entrance.

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For, you might find it fun to take little walks with the little one.


But only for a little while, before she refuses to move a step further without her lollipop.


With the munchkin strapped safe, start marching. But don’t expect everyone to be as excited as you are.


They all have a lot of things to do. Like take a nice little nap.


Catch up on yesterday’s gossips.


Mope together about the world.


Do group yoga.


Maybe an oil bath after?


Discover what’s inside the strange green bags…


And the brown paper bags.


Ask a girl out.


And then go on a lunch date.


Did someone say lunch?


While some are busy with their own lives, some are genuinely shy.


They maintain their distance.


Hide behind leaves.


And under water.


And then there are some who just don’t budge. Could you turn for one second?


Okay, really, just one tiny second.


Helloooo. We are talking to you, yes you, with the fur.


Oh, well.


But then there are some who see us in the face.


“Is it me you are looking for?”

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“Go away!”


But before we go, we sit and watch the kangaroos for a while.


Say a little prayer for Coldilocks, the polar bear, who passed away last month. At 37, she was the oldest polar bear in the country.


Admire the ‘lioness carrying to her young a wild boar’ (1886) installation by Auguste Cain.


Bond as a family.


Make some memories.


And wait for the ultimate cat-walk by Amur tiger through a long aerial walkway.


The end.