Sunday, 12 April 2009

New sight at the zoo: Family

(NB: for more photos of Lily, scroll down to the Lily Blog)

Maya has seen her first Indian elephant – hooray! Today we went to Banavghatta National Park an hour south of Bangalore and I must confess I was expecting to see some elephants in the semi-wild at least. This was not to be – we found the whole zoo experience pretty disturbing and I’m sorry to say that it’ll be the first and last time we visit one whilst here. However, by no means were all the animals kept in miserable conditions (though sadly I can’t say this for the elephants) and Maya was really very excited about our visit and being surrounded by so many creatures she constantly reads about in her story books.

Not to dwell too much on the park experience itself, the irony that our family, particularly the girls, were being gawked at just as much (if not more) than any monkey or macaw was not lost on us. I was quite surprised how much attention we attracted as we were so close to Bangalore, the silicon valley of India where white faces are commonplace. But as my husband pointed out, this kind of park attracted people from far and wide and certainly not just Bangalore.

Whilst Lily slumbered in the baby carrier, we walked round looking at all the animals and as we did so, dozens (and I mean dozens) of people approached us, took photos, pinched Maya’s cheeks, boinged her curls, made extraordinary kissing sounds at her and generally got in her face. Now let me explain something – Maya is a little girl who likes her space. She can be gorgeously affectionate when she wants to be but this is nearly always with people she knows well. She is not an exhibitionist and she often doesn’t even like us taking photos of her, so imagine this scenario: Maya is minding her own business, watching a fat hippo waddling round its enclosure and suddenly she is descended upon by a large group of twenty-something males with an assortment of camera phones and normal cameras, all jostling to stand beside her, their arm around her whilst their friends take pictures. I know it’s all perfectly innocent BUT somehow there is something very unpleasant about this.

Some good advice given us was that if somebody comes over and asks to take a photo of your child, you reply that if the child agrees to this, then it’s okay. In other words, the camera-wielder must ask the permission of the child, yes, even if they are only two years old. We have found this to be very helpful, as this normally results in one of three things:1)This puts people off and they saunter off 2) Maya could be in one of her rare photo moods and gives a swift, obliging pout or the far more common number 3) whereby Maya swiftly morphs from sweet, golden haired child to fierce looking devil-child. If fire could come out of her mouth at this stage, I think it would. She has hit several people when they’ve been too full on with her or pinched her cheek just that little bit too hard. To be honest, I can’t say I can blame her. I remember hating having my photo taken as a kid, and that was without dozens of people even clamouring around me.
I know it’s just a cultural difference and as I said before, no harm is intended. Perhaps Maya will get used to it. On the other hand, if she doesn’t and actually the opposite is true and she hates such undesired attention more and more as time goes on, I just hope her temper doesn’t get the better of her and she doesn’t bite some poor person’s hand off.

1 comment:

  1. This is really interesting. When my son visited Uganda for the first time, he says he was amazed at how many people just followed him around all the time just because they were unused to seeing a white face. Mind you, I was pretty unused to seeing his face white too - he wasn't the world's cleanest teenager ....!