Sunday morning we went for a picnic, the three of us with Ma and Dada. Packed our 'picnic' basket and set off. It didn't take us too long to reach the Botanical Gardens, what with it being a Sunday morning.
We set off a little late so it was quite sunny by the time we reached but the wide lanes are well bordered by high-arcing trees, so it was fairly comfortable strolling along. Rahul was delighted to be able to run around so freely. Since cars aren't allowed (except those belonging to the staff we were told, but I'm certain the two cars with the firang tourists weren't staff but we'll let that pass) and there was only the odd cycle or motorbike, he had the run of the road and picked at pebbles and dirt and things I don't want to think about.
We ambled along, stopping to admire little ponds, the beautiful giant lotus leaves, the calm of the surroundings. There were couples hidden behind every bush and in every shade. All very peaceful though. We picnicked on a bench near the river and were visited by a fox. It seems like a very long time since I was last this close to a fox. The downside of living in a city -- that my son thinks a grassy verge is a rare treat. We passed a pretty old building, now falling apart. It's a pity nobody has the money these days to repair old wooden lace or pretty iron grillwork.
Then we found ourselves walking down this beautiful gravel avenue:
Eventually, having walked some more -- although I'll admit that after a heavy breakfast it felt like a lot more -- we reached the Great Banyan Tree. Can you see it, there behind us?
I find it humbling that the board only lists it as the largest in India, "perhaps in Asia". So there could be one or more even larger somewhere nearby. What a thought!
If you haven't been able to figure it out yet, the thing that looks like a mini grove behind us is one tree. The main trunk was removed in 1925 after a fungal attack but the rest of it continues to grow, supported on its aerial roots. I remember the first time I went to see it. I was cranky, having been made to walk what I considered much too far to see some mouldy old tree. Every now and then I saw some vast tree and asked if this was the famous banyan and my uncle (Cousin J's father) only laughed. And then, he pointed to the horizon and said, "There it is."
He's been teasing me all my life so I really didn't believe him until I was standing under the branches and could see the thing for myself. It's an Experience.
So was this other thing they have introduced -- boating in this nice, twisting, island-dotted lake nearby. We took a four-seater paddleboat.
It was fairly shady on the water and with a little breeze sometimes rustling by, quite pleasant. Rahul was quite tired by then. He'd woken up early in the morning and run lots, so he was starting to get all cranky. So I took him in my lap. The child refused to wear a hat so I put on this undersized umbrella, hoping to keep him shaded as well. Someday, if you need to hang on to a floaty hat while clutching on to a child and paddling a boat all at once, you'll know what it was like. Till then, I leave you with this: