A Lined love that Lasted

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!

 A love affair is very private for most people. But I have gone through private affairs that have been very public indeed; so public that they have been prominently displayed in newspapers.

 It was quite common for people meeting me at different functions or ringing me up to say- Oh it was certainly very sweet to see you being kissed by Pinky Rita or Rosy, depending on whether it was an Orang, Chimpanzee or a tiger who was pictured with me in the local newspapers. More often than not this was the handy work of a lens man who, since he did not get a good picture for his editor could always present something which might have been of some interest at least it was for all my friends. It entailed a lot of leg pulling to which I soon developed a very thick skin. In the process it has saved the bacon for many a photographer.

   Well, among the many heart breaks one went through, Rosy the tiger stands out as a high point in my love life.

   She came from another zoo as a four month old cub.  I used to make eyes at her or purr and say "phrr" "phrr" in trying to get her attention. A lot of "phrr" "phrrings" and moving close to her enclosure for tickling her later, I finally made friends with her. Every morning, the high point of my life was a kiss from Rosy which I got infallibly.

 This went on for a couple of weeks until I decided I would go in along with her. She had been very nice to me but there were always bars and mesh between us. If she suddenly thought of spurning me it would have meant a long stay at the hospital as she was nearly eight months old.

 I had of course put in plenty of hard work and my daily rounds had grown threefold and Rosy seemed absolutely o.k.

 The sliding door which had been well oiled for fast opening and closing was slowly opened and I went in- no more bars and wire mesh to keep her from me. Rosy took it in her stride and did not think it very unusual. She calmly walked up to me and brushed her side and purred like the big cat she was with a clear loud "phr" "phrr". The message was loud and clear-'you are always welcome here' 'why did you have to delay so long "

 Soon she was standing up against me and though I used to wear a leather jacket she would never bring out her claws. Not once did I have to contend with torn clothes or much less bruises. I got a nice collar and a strong chain made for her and soon we were taking walks around the zoo together. It did cause some consternation among the spotted deer and other herbivorous. Monkeys would be reduced to hysterics and visitors would give me a broad leeway.

   When Rosy was about two and a half years old, a friend working in the UNICEF sent Liv Ullman, the Hollywood actress and "Ambassador at large", to the zoo for a visit. This V.I.P had to visit Rosy as she was given a glowing account about me by the lady at the UNICEF.

To cut a long story short, I introduced Rosy on a chain to the actress. She (Rosy) took such a liking for the pretty lady that she stood on her hind legs and put her front paws on Ms Ullman's shoulders. The lady fell backwards on the lush grass and sure enough Rosy gave her two smacks with her tongue on both cheeks.

 This whole drama took just about a few seconds but Ms Ullman did not lose her cool and as soon as Rosy released her ( with some help from me ), she got up, shook off the grass from her dress a little shaken but very much impressed.

 I took her home and gave her some hot strong coffee to revive her spirits.

Rosy, though a little boisterous, had been on her best behavior to impress one whom she knew was a friend of mine.

 Toby Ninan can be contacted at Ninan@indianwildlifeclub.com

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