After an interesting journey into Bengaluru, we drove homeward. Once reunions were done, and some lunch was had, we made plans to move out. Since we only had a few days to work with, we didn’t want to waste it sitting around. But, we also didn’t want to push ourselves too much, so we chose a safe destination within the heart of city and headed over to Bengaluru’s ubiquitous Lal Bagh botanical gardens.
Stepping out of the snarl of Bangalore traffic on a Friday afternoon, our gang of camera-toting strangers entered the quiet atmosphere of Lal Bagh. The regular walkers, who seemed to ignore the now ancient trees and grounds around them, did not ignore us, a reaction I’ve come to expect when you invade hallowed jogging grounds and dare to look at the scenery rather than hurry along on a mission. The path took us around flower beds at the side of the road and snaked onto the wide expanse of a lake.
Every thing was fenced, and tiled, and organised. There were tottering signs pointing down various paths towards the main attractions in the park, and people sat around on sparse benches or walked by with vigour while birds soared through the air, squirrels scurried across the pathways, and monkeys stared in bored challenge at passersby. This was no untouched natural haven, far from it, but it was certainly a good chage from the traffic out there.
Under the canopy of trees that bordered the lake, I pointed my camera across the water trying to capture the vista as best I could when there was a sudden movement through the air. A large eagle that had been perched on one of the tree-tops, swooped down and banked over the water. I didn’t manage to get a clear shot, but some things are best captured in the mind’s eye.
In the water, formations of ducks and geese floated around like silent ships, going in one direction and then turning to another in effortless synchronisation. Further down, the tiled path split into two, going over a bridge that cut acros the lake on the right, towards groves of tall trees. We had set out late, and the Sun was already getting low in the sky, so we avoided the detour. But not before spending some time on the bridge looking into the water below. There on the stone banks, some duks were splashing around in the shallows and preening themselves at days end. Perhaps they had a busier social calendar that night than we did.
We ventured further along the curving paths, deeper into the parkland. The path we were on was landscaped at a higher level, overlooking lawns and tall tress that stretched out below us to the left. As the Sun drew closer to the horizon, it bathed the lawns in a shimmering golden glow, making dramatic silhouettes of walkers and creatures alike. In the distance, the famous glass house of Lal Bagh became visible through the trees. It is renowned for an annual flower show held there, which we had just missed by a week.
We did, however, get a chance to see the aftermath of the flower show. Elaborate arrangements of flowering plants in cascades and stepped formations stood wilting around the insides of the glass house. In the centre there were the wire shells of dinosaur shapes that still held the remanents of what would have been fresh flowers when the show was still on. Now the dinosaurs stood there dried and sapped of all colour and energy, but somehow I had the feeling they might be looking more interesting in this state than in the state in which they were originally prepared. Either way, it’s not everyday you step into a park expecting to see dried-flower-zombie-dinosaurs, and I’m glad this time I did.
Lal Bagh is a pretty big place, and while our stroll had not covered most of it’s acreage, we were geting a bit tired, and there were the worrying sounds of thunder on the horizon. I must say the clouds in Bangalore were particularly beautiful during our visit When we stepped out of the Glass House, even the dark rolling cloud bank that seemed to be heading our way in the distance was an awesome sight to behold.
We were now quite far from where we had entered. Seeing the clouds as a sign to head back, we cut across the park on new paths to return the quickest way possible. By the time we made it to the gate, it had already started drizzling a steady shower of heavy drops. We protected our cameras as best we could and prepared for the onslaught. Then the onslaught arrived and the ground burst into rainfall.
Unavoidably drenched, we used the one umbrella we had to call ourselves some transport. An autorickshaw pulled up in the downpour, three of us jumped in, and he sped off into the rain. Unlike rickshaws in Bombay, this one didn’t have any temporary enclosure or tarp to close the passenger compartment from the rain, so it beat into the little space from both sides, leaving only a thin sliver of the seat in the centre close to dryness. I was sitting on the left side, and driving through the rivers of mud on the streets, it was a long, invigorating drive home.