My visit to India so far seems to be one adventure after another. Today, Mohan wanted to show us the NTR Gardens, an urban park and memorial for N. T. Rama Rao, the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. Regrettably, I did not bring my camera, so the photos included here were taken by Melony Chakrabarty, Aditya Roshan’s girlfriend who had just visited the week earlier.
Mohan was driving to the park in the Tata Nano and stopped to pick up “appam” dough for tomorrow’s breakfast. As we were pulling away from the store, we drove off a small ledge which caused the car to be stuck with the front-left wheel in the air. Swathi took the wheel and Mohan and I were able to lift the corner of the tiny car so that Swathi could reverse it back onto solid ground.
Once we reached the memorial, we removed our shoes out of respect and left them in the car while we explored. The entranceway was a stone walkway which passed under an array of black spires in the form of hands making the respectful sign, “namaste”. The memorial was a large square slab under an open dome supported by four pillars. A grass garden and walkway framed the black stonework.
Some damp mats were set out to make it bearable to walk without shoes, but they were only at the entranceway and around the memorial. The other paths were bare stone which was hot under the sun and Swathi quickly had enough of burning her feet, so we headed back to the car to put our shoes back on. We were planning to go to the neighboring amusement park, so we sat in the car, put our shoes on, then locked the doors and walked away. About 20 paces from the car, Mohan instinctively feels his pockets for his keys and realizes they are not there. We go back to the car and see them sitting in the ignition switch, quite content to stay there behind the locked doors. I have experience opening locked car doors in situations exactly like this; I was a roadside assistance person for quite a few months but felt powerless without the proper tools. Swathi and I looked around the ground among the usual piles of refuse for something that might suffice but came up empty-handed. Mohan eventually phones Shoba and asks her to bring a spare set of keys.
While we were waiting, we walked to the park part of the NTR Garden. Entering into the complex, we went through a security screening, with the typical two lines, one for Gents, the other for Ladies. The security was more relaxed than, say, airport security, but still had metal detectors and a security pat down by armed guards. Once cleared, we purchased tickets and fought the Indian “queues” in order to get our chance at the turnstiles to get into the park. I put queues in quotes here because a queue in India is not like your normal line, where one person patiently waits behind another person who got there first. Here, if there is any free space to stand near where you are trying to go, you stand there, regardless of order. If there is a gap, you fill it and try to get in before the person beside you. It’s chaos, but once you understand how it works, you too can get through a “queue” and still be home in time for supper.
Once inside, I impressed by the size and contents, but was unable to determine who the target audience was. There were fountains, some of which were dry, very large and detailed plastic models of insects, long walkways which went around and throughout the park, slides, and some carnival-style rides. If you liked, a small train could take you on a tour. There was a bonsai garden and a desert plants exhibit which was only open from 5-8 pm, or when convenient, since it was closed when we passed by at 6 pm. A “Fruit Restaurent” [sic] was present but very vacant, with an eating area shaded by plastic palm trees. The ground was littered with mango seeds and coca-cola bottles. After strolling around the park and exploring everything there was to see, we cooled off in the shade and watched the other park goers. At 7 pm, we exited and found Shoba and Jyothi on the sidewalk among the street vendors, ready with the keys. The moon was 3/4 full and fruit bats filled the skies.
Once all five of us had crammed into the Nano, we went to “Natural”, which served ice cream flavored with fresh and seasonal fruits. Jyothi and I selected chikoo, Swathi fresh mango, Shoba had chocolate with almonds, and Mohan had mulberry but did not like it.