My Tryst With Crocodiles & Culture

13 November 2017, Places I explored Dakshinachitra

The other day I was contemplating on how a listicle is different from a travelogue? With thousands of thoughts colliding with the fine pieces of literature by Goethe or Shivya Nath, I still couldn’t fathom. Sitting on a low-level wooden piece in the surreal hills of Aravali with a pencil and chai, I was still thinkin’ at a place, unknown Tapri. Ah! Not again! I’ve been trapped by the whistles of the mountain peaks or did I just glance at the unknown sojourn of a different kind. Now, I’m writing this piece on my tamed and cultural visit to the city, Chennai without any shrills of the people and mountains around.

In the Whiskers, I never felt it’s a task or a daunting affair to stay in the erstwhile era of Cholas and Pallavas. Every time, I use my noodles, I book a flight to Madras. Even my last piece on TheIndia was on a journey to Mahabalipuram. Though the time was limited, yet I could swaddle the history and my heels with much comfort. On my last visit, like about a few months ago, I had the ideal itinerary to traverse from cultural bindings like Dakshin Chitra, Swami Vivekananda's House and Mahakavi Bharathi’s dwelling to day-and-night safaris at The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust. In this piece, I’m penning down about my walk down the long aisle of Dakshin Chitra and The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and how it has changed me a little.

Dakshinachitra

The drive from the entrance door to the ticket counter itself narrates the grandeur and vastness of the place. Nestled away from Chennai downtown, the living history museum is designed to captivate the history and cultural buff and to bring back the charm of the not-so-millennials. Dakshinchitra is primarily dedicated to South Indian heritage, art and culture.

The journey of the living museum commences with a short film about the deeply rooted traditions of the various communities in Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in 03 different languages English, Hindi and Tamil.

One of the reasons my visit to the museum turned to be an insightful experience was the ongoing Adiperukku Ayyannar Festival. Local folk dances and art were performed by skilful men and women. Their performance depicted the story of new-wedded couples who are separated in that month so that the women don’t get heavy with child.

The attention to detail intricated in every dwelling speaks about the life and culture of the community. The museum depicts the terrain of South Indian states and the class of people and their equally elaborated life and living. At each abode museum, there are ongoing workshops of puppetry, Mehendi, painting, drawing, glass moulding and many others at a nominal price. As I am a curious creature, I feel to visit this museum in whole, one needs minimum 02 days. Every model of the museum speaks about the lifestyle of those days, especially the open verandah and crammed rooms. Also, the house of a Syrian family that migrated to Kerala is gorgeous and rustic with the pure wooden charm in roofs and floors. I got the Indian tattoo done here by a local Tam lady. There are alfresco shops near the restaurant of antique and raw coconut jewellery.

I find this museum to be of a different kind in India where every corner is a dwelling and a living story. The people here, their warm smiles, the language barrier, space, the architecture, the kala and the infused culture, the museum brings back the ancestral charm and incidences.

Timing: 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Tuesday)

Entrance Fee: INR 100 (Indian) | INR 250 (Foreigner) | INR 100 additional for any event or performance

Website Link: www.dakshinachitra.net

Madras Crocodile Bank Trust

I’d been there before for a day safari on a Sunday afternoon to watch the frenzy feeding sessions; it is guided by one of the staff members and is surprisingly both in Tamil and English.

On my next visit, I planned for a night safari. Surprisingly, when I contacted them over the email, no response. I fetched the number from one of my local friends and connected straight with the young guide itself. It was absolutely surprising to know that they accept bookings only on BookMyShow. Imagine, a Crocodile Research Centre in India only allows online reservations and no offline cash payments. I immediately reserved my safari for a Sunday night. The highly informative and young (I’ve never come across a millennial, modern guide in India) guide Arun was waiting for us at the entrance gate. I told him that my mobile battery is about to die and I don’t charger over the call. He was very sweet & friendly and had appeared with a charger.

We were just 03 of us including the guide at the research center exposed to 35 species of reptiles. The safari starts at 7 pm with the guided tour of snakes in the park and goes on for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The entire experience was SURPRISE from facts to figures. A snake lays around 1000 eggs and roughly 10 percent of them survive. It was incredible to see a snake shedding his skin in its enclosure by chafing the skin on the rock. Last time, I had witnessed an expert taking the venom out of snakes to give away at the cancer center.

We were informed that it the largest breeding center in India, housing 17 species of crocodile out of 23 species in the world. Some of the species here can’t be found anywhere in the country. It was still dark and we were given a torch to see through the camouflage and search for reptiles. Crocodiles function during the silence of night but the best view was the sparkling eyes of thousands of Muggar in an enclosure. I wish I could capture the surreal beauty of their crimson eyes speaking in the darkness of night. It started to pour cats and dogs when we were just halfway through the safari. The best part of the safari is you get to see the crocos up close but ensure you don’t tumble up.

I’ve heard of people adopting kids, but here, people adopt crocodiles as well on yearly basis. The bank is teeming with hundred of Gharials, Indian Muggar, Saltwater Crocodiles and other species such as Tomistoma, Dwarf Crocodile, American Alligator, Siamese Crocodile, etc. At present, the bank houses more 2400 reptiles including crocodiles, lizards, turtles and snakes. While we were walking in the crocodile zoo, we conversed with the guide about how he studied this niche subject in India and his experience of working. As expected, he was studying the subject correspondence. His enthusiasm was infectious and his passion for the subject was communicable.

Though, we waited for half an hour for the rain to settle. But eventually, we had to leave the place in all wonder explored, unexplored.

SURPRISE. I was totally surprised every moment on this incredible journey with the rare crocodiles. The day and night experience was completely contrasted and worth experiencing. This place is not really popular outside Chennai but I feel India is full of surprises and visual treats.

Center Timing: 9 am to 5:30 pm (closed on Monday)

Entrance Fee: INR 50

Night Safari :

Timing: 7 pm to 8:30 pm

Entrance Fee: INR 200 (BookMyShow)


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