BANGALORE: Lalbagh conjures up images of stately trees, pretty flower beds, well laid out lawns, the lake and the hillock. For some others, it's the birds, the Glass House and the walks on its paths. But some years ago, when children were told to dress up to go to Lalbagh, there would be a whoop and a cheer not just at the prospect of romping around the garden and rolling on the grassy slopes or biting into the maize cobs and licking the ice candies, but also to watch the animals there.
Yes, Lalbagh once offered these diversions to visitors too and naturally, were the children's favourite. The family outings to Lalbagh would generally be planned during the annual Republic Day or Independence Day flower shows.
While the rest of the family heads for the Glass House to admire the exhibits, the children, on entering the garden, would insist on heading straight for these enclosures to tease, feed and touch their favourite animals.
Between the West Gate and the Main Gate is an old circular building that houses these enclosures. Metal meshes separate the animals and the visitors and also the different species of animals. The enclosure was not a great big zoo with big cats and elephants but a collection of small creatures. The children minded the size of neither the animals nor the enclosures.
They were even oblivious to the smells and would be engrossed watching the rabbits, Guinea pigs, parakeets and budgerigars in cells. They would move from one cell to another and wouldn't realise they've come to the last enclosure since building is circular structure.
They would then head for the aquarium next door, another circular structure, where they would gawk at the gold fish's large fins and at the cat fish and his big whiskers.
And further afield, after a flight of steps behind the Glass House were the spotted deer, enclosed by a chain-link fence in a large stockade. The deer family, the male with the big antlers, and the female with the fawns with their big, innocent eyes following them, hover around the fence, where visitors feed them with the peanuts that vendors sell in paper cones close to the enclosure. Every time the children try to attract the little fawn to feed it, the big male butts in and extends his big black tongue through the fence and grabs the handful of peanuts. Soon, monkeys appear from nowhere and demand their share too.
And finally, to cap another memorable visit to Lalbagh, visitors turn to the foot of the hillock where another attraction at Lalbagh beckoned. The spacious Lalbagh Restaurant was a favourite for visitors where they savoured its famous paper dosas in the airy interiors or the portico outside.