It was to say ‘Goodbye’ that we went to Dubai Zoo. We have not been to the zoo in the last five years. We were caught up in our busy lives and zoo was not on our ‘top things-to-do’ list.
And yet, when we saw the news item of the zoo closing, “we should go — for the last time”, my husband said and I just nodded.
I don’t like zoos. I hate the fact that animals are kept in confined spaces.
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In fact, I even cringe about how we revel in the fact that we grant freedom to animals when we chain them or give them open space to roam, but cordon off the area with a fence.
Obviously, with such ideals, I was surprised that I was sad to hear the closing of the Zoo and we decided to say goodbye to the Zoo, last Friday.
The atmosphere was still a bit warm for 4pm. We walked out of the car with a water bottle in hand — like old times. Sid, my son, walked next to me — his camera dangling by his side.
He was unusually quiet.
In fact, earlier that day, he had told us that he was worried that he would break down.
And we knew why — because, the minute we stepped on the cobbled pathway that led to the entrance, we were thronged by nostalgia.
Not so long ago, when Sid was all of a year-and-a-half, we had walked into this very place holding his chubby finger in our hand. It was a beautiful morning and Sid was dressed in his green dungarees and his brand new Spiderman shoes.
I remember like it was yesterday. We were waiting at the entrance of the zoo while my husband went to get our tickets. Sid was so excited that he screamed, “Ahnimash”.
Obsessed with animals
On our first trip to the zoo, Sid pointed at every single inmate. He sat down to watch the huge tortoise walk, waved his hands at the birds, growled like the lion and was thrilled that the giraffe was big.
He watched the giraffe being fed and insisted on eating his food. As little Sid snacked on his food, we took many pictures and laughed.
Little did we know at that time, that little Sid would soon wrap us around his little finger and drag us to the zoo every week.
Soon after our first visit, Sid became obsessed with animals. He watched Animal Planet, wanted animal toys, play on animal mats and read animal books. His obsession with animals was tiring us, but we kept up.
Our visits to the zoo were almost weekly. Sid knew every single animal in the cage. He would stand hours on end watching them.
One particular day, when Sid put his little hand on the glass barrier of the gorilla enclosure, Diana, the female lowland gorilla, placed her hand on the other side.
It was poignant as we watched the magical moment.
Gorillas, big cats
It was not just the gorillas, the big cats were the other favourite stars. Sid learnt to tell a leopard from a cheetah in this very zoo.
And once when he saw a mouse run inside the shelter of the mighty lion, Sid had screamed that it was the story of the lion and the mouse.
In fact, he even waited for the story to unfold! The chimpanzees, macaques, deer, snakes, the pygmy hippo — over time, slowly made their way into little Sid’s heart. So, naturally, the Friday visit was hard on Sid.
That evening, as we stood on the very ground where Sid had waited for the leopard to growl as a baby, something tugged at our heart.
Sure, it felt great that the animals would now have a spacious new home and yet, when the sun went down, that evening, I saw the end of an era — an era of a lost childhood.
As we stepped out for the last time from Dubai Zoo, Sid gave me a light hug, “the animals will now have a better home”, he sniffed. I didn’t know what to say because, I am not very good with goodbyes.
All I could do to hold on to that moment was take a selfie in front of the zoo and hold Sid by his arm and walk back to the car!
Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai.