Mumbai: Here's why Wadala resident is working hard to keep Byculla Zoo beautiful

Updated: Mar 24, 2019, 08:10 IST | Anju Maskeri

Roshani Shah, a self-taught urban landscape designer, is embellishing the zoo with periwinkles and marigold, so that animals have a colourful, new home

Mumbai: Here's why Wadala resident is working hard to keep Byculla Zoo beautiful
The hyena enclosure at the zoo, which Shah has beautified

Wadala resident Roshani Shah has fond memories of visiting Byculla's Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan as a child. But little did she know that one day, she'd be heading to the zoo for business and not revelry. The 50-year-old has been helming the beautification of 17 new animal enclosures since January. Every day, she reaches the site by 9 am to get work done before visitors throng the spot.

At the zoo, her task involves plantation, landscaping and maintenance. Most of the plants she has used are hardy varieties or perennials - easy-care garden plant varieties - that can withstand the vagaries of Mumbai weather. These include golden bamboo, alpinia, spider lily and tricolour maranta, among others. She has also used delicate and more colourful varieties to achieve a balance. So, you will also see poinsettia (a staple Christmas plant), marigold, periwinkles and portulaca, also known as moss rose. "We can't start work until the civil work is done, because doing it simultaneously can get messy and we can't afford to let it ruin our hard work," she says.

Roshani Shah is helming the beautification of 17 enclosures at Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan in Byculla. Pic/Ashish Raje
Roshani Shah is helming the beautification of 17 enclosures at Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan in Byculla. Pic/Ashish Raje

The process begins with clearing the land by pulling out weeds, treating the soil and adding manure. After levelling, they start planting. Many a times, the plants die due to transplant shock. The process takes between two and three months.

At the animal enclosure front, Shah has wrapped up the space meant for the jackal and hyena. "I want both animals and humans to feel relaxed and at ease in the zoo," she smiles.

The task is one of the many public sector projects that she has been involved in since 2015. In 2017, she was in-charge of landscaping near the booking counter and the entrance of the zoo. In the past, she has led the beautification projects of Reay Road, King Circle, Sion, Mahim and Matunga station as consultant.

"The contractors who do the civil work, don't look into gardening and landscaping. They need people like us to do it. And honestly, these projects aren't for the sake of 'business' because there's little moolah in it. I do it because the city needs green spaces more than ever," says Shah, who has also handled the gardening of the Telecom Radio Police Headquarters in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.

To run her business, she has tapped into the network of the city's who's who, and has handled landscaping and maintenance for Maskara Art Gallery, Della Adventures Resorts, Taj Group Of Hotels, MP Priya Dutt's terrace and organic kitchen garden, filmmaker Raj Kumar Hirani's bungalow and singer Shankar Mahadevan's farm.

Incidentally, Shah never received formal training as an urban landscape designer. Till five years ago, she was a homemaker, who would occasionally conduct gardening workshops for children, spreading awareness about conservation. " I learnt it through trial and error, sourcing the plants from my nursery at Shirwal near Pune," she says. Things took off when she was invited to conduct a workshop at the Kala Ghoda Annual Fest (KGAF), 2015 on vertical gardening. "It all began organically," she ends.

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