A Very Human "Tail"

Toby Ninan retired from Delhi Zoo about two years back. With his varied experiences with the wild animals in the zoo, he is the right person to direct your queries to. Hear what Ninan has to say about his life and chosen career!

Animals are very interesting but humans are quite so too. It was a very normal day at the zoo and there were just the mundane affairs to be attended to.

I was wrestling a few files when I had a visitor who looked very troubled & anxious. He was an elderly man whose dress was neat but well worn and had obviously seen better days!

I asked him to sit down and tell me what was troubling him and how I could help. This was a common occurrence in my experiences at the zoo; usually people would approach me for bits and pieces of mammals, birds & reptiles which ranged from feathers to bones, bits of sloughed off skin and other unmentionable parts of the anatomy of bears, tigers and what have you.

Well this gentleman wanted something different. He wanted the dust from under a lion, a tiger and an elephant. This seemed easy enough but since there was a pile of paper tigers on my desk all of which were growling for immediate attention I could not oblige the visitor immediately. 'Aha' but what would he do with the dust from under the feet of so many denizens of the forest who were my charges? All these "dusts" were to be consigned to the flames of a "havan" and his son would get a smooth passage to one of those far off climes across the seven seas.

I promised our dear worthy that come rain or shine no animal wild or otherwise would stand in my way of such a worthy cause and I would produce the required dust in a couple of days time as this is the time required for my friends to shake off the dust from their feet.

A couple of days passed and true to myself I completely forgot all the promises I had made. Well, that day I was in a pensive mood and sitting on my chair and staring out at the great beyond of my beloved park when lo and behold I saw our friend coming down the steps resolutely making a beeline to my doorstep. I was shaken out of my reverie and shook myself and the grey cells up violently trying to find an "instant -dust-from-under-the-feet of what you know!

The only way I could think of was this. I ran out with a sheet of paper behind my office and after offering a short prayer got three generous pinches of dust and packed these into packets put the initials "L' "T" & "E". As our friend walked into my office I was back at the desk with three packets carefully ensconced in the drawers of my desk. After the usual greetings I passed on the precious packets thinking that only the Almighty could help him.

Three weeks passed. I was inspecting a monkey moat trying to think of ways to clean it up when our friend came charging up to me and nearly fell at my feet. My dirty shoes did not seem to bother him and he blurted out his tale-His son had just been offered a good job in the U.S of A and would be leaving for those beloved shores shortly!

His joy was complete and I was left figuring out how the dust from under the feet of an alley cat inhabiting the piece of land behind my office could have brought out such a miracle.

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