Popcorn with penguins

Published: Feb 04, 2019, 07:45 IST | Fiona Fernandez

instead of investing it for better overall upkeep of its own fauna a rather ambitious plan at the zoo has our sutradhaars and their friends very worried

Popcorn with penguins

Fiona Fernandez"You are early today for our walk, Lady Flora…all well? Or has my broadening waistline reminded you to get me to walk the entire Marine Drive stretch? I'm not considering it. The missus doesn't think so," Sir PM announced, when he noticed that his walking companion was at their usual halt a good extra hour before time.

"Not at all, Pheroze. You're in fine shape," she smiled at Sir PM's candour. "But there are other developments of note. I can't take the bustle in my neighbourhood any more. The crowds are back at the annual festival, and this time, I fear it's reached a crescendo. The Metro work is in full steam, and the horrid condition of the road lining Esplanade Mansion has worsened matters," she complained," she complained. "That is unfortunate. I wish there was something we could do…," and before he could continue, she interrupted him, "Actually, we have to meet Sir Edward.

He has informed me via his winged messenger, Percy the Pigeon - we must get one of those - that a new fancy cinema hall is coming up in the zoo. Let's hope they are playing my favourite Bogart-Hepburn films there." Before he could react, she tugged his hand firmly, and off they headed to Byculla.

It was well after midnight when they arrived; the full moon light revealed beads of perspiration on Sir PM's temples. This wasn't the ideal walk, he told himself, wishing he had traded his lace-up Derbies for a more comfortable option. "Edward, are you there?" both whispered, hoping their friend would spot them amidst the foliage. "Thank goodness you got my message. Percy isn't slowing down after all. Please come in," the royal remarked as he dismounted from his kala ghoda and welcomed them inside the zoo. "So I've been informed by my sources here that the local gods have tied up with a huge moneyed international name to build a modern cinema hall. It will screen wildlife films to Bombay's schoolchildren," he informed them. This wasn't a happy-sounding Sir Edward; Sir PM and Lady Flora could tell.

"It's utterly preposterous. This, coming so close on the heels of varied reports about the condition of species within the zoo. Imagine watching a film on the leopards of India in a space where the real inhabitants need to be looked after, and where we barely have any left, as a matter of fact. They are calling it India's first zoo to launch a theatre inside its premises," he was visibly upset by now, as he halted for a moment to catch his breath.

Sir PM asked, "But why would children come to the zoo to watch a film, especially with not a promising display of tropical animals in their natural setup? "Exactly my point, brother Pheroze. It's bunkum. They plan to host many shows every day, bring in the moolah by attracting thousands with this new facility. There are plenty of incentives too, like free entry to municipal schoolchildren," he added. "This is making sense, my friends," Lady Flora interjected, "I think it's a conspiracy.

They just don't want kids to see the condition of the real animals and birds - whoever has survived, that is - and instead watch films here! I can't stop thinking of those poor displaced Humboldt penguins and their plight as another Indian summer looms over us. This HAS to be their game plan," announced Lady Flora, who always considered herself to be the smartest of the lot.

"I am told that they hope to increase 'interest about wildlife in India' by screening these films. The stories I have heard are not comforting," Sir Edward warned, reminding both how he was alerted by a snoopy monkey that the project would take off soon. "How can the gods woo little ones about wildlife when their own house is not in order? Funds ought to be routed for the right reasons. Will this mean a slow death for the zoo that was created with such noble intent?" Sir Edward thundered. They all bid their goodbyes, albeit in sombre fashion. Not quite the night out as they had hoped for.

Lady Flora's newly restored glow had waned. Her wish to watch a classic with friends in one of their favourite neighbourhoods outside the Fort didn't go to plan. Sir PM decided to brighten her mood, "Lady Flora, let's catch that film about the Indian ranee from Jhansi. She was quite brave. But not as brave as you."

mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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