This may seem an odd choice of topic for Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter #mentalhealthtalks post, but it’s definitely in keeping with others I’ve written this year. You see, I’m no mental health expert – I’m just a regular person navigating my own feelings. Often, I take a cue from something that happens in my life and share that incident or experience on my blog, in the hope that it resonates with my readers and helps them through a similar situation they may be facing themselves.
Anyhow, getting back to the subject at hand. I recently visited Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh with my family. My husband, a contractor / builder has recently ventured into the real estate sector, and his brand Okas is building Lucknow’s first green apartments (perhaps that can be the focus of my #environmentaltalks post next month!). Hence, he needs to visit the site every month. I have always been fond of this royal city and was happy to tag along. My son’s school had given us an extra day off from virtual classes for no apparent reason, and the long weekend seemed the best time to go. Before long, it transpired into a family vacation with my in-laws joining in too.
We stayed at Lebua Lucknow, a 41-room boutique hotel in the heart of the city, converted from an old haveli. I won’t go in too much detail on that here because I have a travel vlog (shared below) and a critical review being published in the New Indian Express soon, which I will link here once it’s up.
We chose Lebua because we really appreciate old-world charm and hospitality, especially when presented to us on a budget! However, another reason for picking it was because it is located very close to the Lucknow Zoo – which was the main reason my son wanted to visit this city.
My 5-year-old has an obsession – fortunately a healthy one! He is obsessed with animals, loves seeing them, loves talking about them, loves creating / reading stories about them, even loves researching facts about them. Trust me, my knowledge of the animal kingdom has improved vastly in this phase of my life, owing to my son’s active interest and a little help from Google! We have been nurturing his interest with pride. Apart from animal-related activities and books, we plan all our holidays around wilderness camps and national parks. Even our city vacations must have some animal interest involved, which in the case of Lucknow was its large and well-preserved zoo!
The Nawab Wajid Ali Shah Zoo, as it is officially called, was opened in 1921 – exactly a 100 years ago! Made by the British government to commemorate the arrival of the Prince of Wales to Lucknow, it was constructed in a complex established in the 18th century by Nawab Nasiruddin Haider, as a mango orchard. Back then, it was known as Banarasi Bagh, and even today some locals refer to it as such. A gorgeous Baradari (12-pillared open structure) in the middle of the zoo reflects the grandeur and dignity of the time it was built in. This Baradari was also where the famous song from ‘Umrao Jaan’ called ‘In Aankhon Ki Masti’, was filmed.
A children’s toy train or the ‘Balrail’, has been functional in the zoo since 1969. According to its website, the zoo has 1012 wildlife from 104 species, and about 42 species of fish housed in an aquarium. The auditorium, nature learning centre and butterfly park are other attractions.
There are four main lawns for the children around the hammock park, boating pond and Baradari. A state-of-the-art wild animal hospital for the treatment of wild animals functions with 4 veterinarians. There are also 7 toilets, well-placed drinking water facilities, a battery operated cart and food court and canteens.
OUR VISIT AND REVIEW OF LUCKNOW ZOO:
The zoo we visit most frequently in India is the one at Delhi, and therefore comparisons between the two are inevitable. It’s safe to say that the Lucknow Zoo is far superior to its Delhi counterpart in terms of the animals, natural beauty, and ornate architecture. However, the Delhi Zoo, located as it is in the capital of country, is definitely better maintained.
Despite the dilapidated air of Lucknow Zoo, we had a delightful visit. It was the first time both my son and I saw a real giraffe, and trust me, no movie or picture can do justice to this beautiful and majestic creature! We also saw a host of exotic birds, the most exciting of which were the vultures sunning themselves. Sleeping lions, newly arrived baby tigers, massive squirrels, and restive crocodiles were other interesting things we saw. My son’s favourite part, however, was the aquarium, primarily as it was constructed inside the body of a fish. The selection was minimal and upkeep below par, however, it was interesting to see the variety of fish they had.
We loved the toy train ride but beware of their silly disclaimer – the train must be full before it can be on the move! And since we had gone early to avoid people and heat, this proved a bit of a problem. Though my son wasn’t interested in the gardens or Baradari, I loved walking through them – the beauteous fountains, blooming flowers and stunning architecture made me feel like I’d stepped back in time. We also enjoyed a quick refreshing drink and snack at the canteen and food court, respectively – they were not the cleanest places but passed muster!
Overall, the Lucknow Zoo is definitely worth a visit (or many), for the animals living there in gorgeous environs. I highly recommend you take some time out of your busy schedule to visit here, when you’re in the city next.
A visit to Lucknow has much to offer – delicious food, loads of fun shopping, and lots of heritage sightseeing. In all this, it may be tempting to skip a visit to the Lucknow Zoo, but I urge you, if you have young kids, it’s definitely worth dedicating some time to. I’ve never been one to visit zoos in different cities growing up, and honestly till my son changed my mind, I would never have bothered to visit them. However, it is such a pleasure to see the delight on his face and to be part of the experience with him – which hopefully he will remember when he grows up.
I’m aware that the concept of a zoo is inherently cruel, with animals being forced into captivity. However, there is a certain democratisation that zoos offer to people who otherwise would never have a chance to see these animals in their natural habitats. Perhaps, for that reason, we can bypass if not forgive the cruelty aspect…
All I know is, I tremendously enjoyed this little visit. It was a much-needed break from my gruelling work schedule, and the constant stress that was aggravating my psoriasis. Had it not been for my son’s wish to visit the Lucknow Zoo, this would never have happened!
BOOK A STAY AT LEBUA LUCKNOW HERE: https://bit.ly/3BBprhT
This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter #MentalHealthTalks.
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