One Way Ticket To The Zoo

 Sudharsan Narayanan 

My parents come from two very different types of joint families. My father’s family is spread across the country and now, the family forest is spread across the world; what with cousins and relatives settled in various countries abroad. My mother’s family has preferred to stick to South India and have avoided straying too far from the fold.

For a long time, I was kinda disdainful of traveling to meet my mother’s family. It was great fun going back to Tamil Nadu for the annual festivals, and getting new clothes and gifts. But while my father’s family spoke confidently about the places they had been to, and the activities they were a part of, my mother’s family was more about enjoying life’s simple pleasures such as playing gully cricket with coconut coir balls, watching local movies and shows, and flying kites.

I was 6 when I had to spend a week at my mother’s ancestral home. I was bored. Evenings, I spent playing cricket with my cousins. But what was I to do for the rest of the day? Afternoons were the worst, when all one could do was look at the fan’s blades revolve till one fell asleep from sheer boredom.

To celebrate my turning 6, he brought two things which completely changed my life.

Luckily on the 3rd day, my favorite uncle came down, having taken some days off. One could trust him to bring a bag full of toys and he would spend glorious afternoons, teaching us how to make bows and arrows, or catapults. But this time, to celebrate my turning 6, he brought two things which completely changed my life.

He brought a set of books by the Russian Publishers, Mir -which were about science fiction and short stories of the Russian federation – and a set of LPs.

What neither my sister nor I knew was that there was a vintage LP player in this ancestral house. One that still played music so perfectly that more than 20 years since, I have not heard such perfect quality and such brilliant tone. That, was my introduction to the music of the 70s – the lyrics to which my mother and uncles knew by heart. The week went by listening to Boney M, ABBA, The Bee Gees – and it started a lifelong fascination with books and music.

Funnily, I always thought the song was One Way Ticket to the Zoo. It was only 2 years ago that I learnt that it is actually ‘One Way Ticket to the Blues’.



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