Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Of Ornithology,Archaeology,Herpetology,Herbology...

                                        The time has come,the Walrus said,
                                         To talk of many things.
                                          Of shoes and ships and sealing wax,
                                          Of cabbages and kings!
                                           And why the sea is boiling hot,
                                           And whether pigs have wings!
                                                                          -Lewis Carroll

These are the lines that jumped into my mind as we were purchasing tickets to enter the hallowed portals of the Nairobi National Museum and I happened to  glance at the lay-out map of the museum.It told me that the museum encompassed a vast variety of subjects.My husband and I have been fortunate enough to visit some of the best museums in the world.We have visited the Hermitage and the Pushkin  Museum in St.Petersburg,the Aeronautical Museum and the Tolstoy Museum in Moscow,the British Museum,the Sherlock Holmes Museum and Madame Tussauds in London,a number of museums in South East Asia and the Middle East,the Tanzanian National Museum and of course Pune's very own Raja Kelkar Museum ,to name a few.So I was very eager to see what this museum had to offer and from the outset it appeared that we were in for a treat!The foundation had been laid under Kolonial rule more than  a hundred years ago and subsequently the Kenyan Government had taken it in hand.
As we entered the first hall,we were struck by the vast variety of birds on display.The sizes and the colours were truly out of this world!I always feel that when God was mixing colours in His celestial palette,He added extra dollops of colour while creating Africa.Hence the bright hues of the flora,the fauna,the birds and the beasts!I do not know if the late Dr.Salim Ali,India's most renowned ornithologist ever visited Kenya,but if he didn't,he missed something!
My daughter,a die hard nature lover,was pleased to note that none of the birds had been shot for the purpose of display .The taxidermist had stepped in after the bird died a natural death!What a relief for us vegetarians!
Africa is said to be the cradle of civilization and what better place to prove this than the museum?As we led the children through the hall devoted to the evolution of man as seen through the  remains excavated by the Leakeys and other archaeologists,my alma mater,the Deccan College Pune,where I studied archaeology came to mind.I explained the numerous terms to the children and as I uttered each word-pre history,australopithecus,aechulian,microliths,hominids,cleavers,carbon dating,I felt as if my own Professors were speaking through me!They say a man lives on through his children and I say good teachers live on through their students!
Then we came to what became my son's favourite part of the museum.The snake gallery!A wide range of live snakes are on display here and their colours rival those of the gems in a jeweller's shop!Coral red,jade green,citrine yellow,jet black,pearly white,Tiger's eye brown.....But do not be deceived!They are as deadly as they are beautiful!
After a quick cup of coffee,a Zulu veg burger and some delicious croquettes in the coffee shop and a visit to the souvenir shop,we were ready to tackle the next part of the museum.Steps made of mosaic led us to the herb garden and the botanical garden.The pieces of glass laid out in the shape of a tree glittered and shimmered in the sunshine and were just breath taking.We looked at all the fresh herbs which were familiar to us since most of them are used in Indian Cuisine on a daily basis.But it was fun reading about their many uses!
Finally we reached the botanical garden which is a green oasis of tranquility,complete with a pond full of creamy yellow lotuses-India's National flower!Paths paved with mossy bricks wind their way throughout the garden and there is plenty of shade under the canopy of a humongous variety of trees- some of them really massive. Palm fronds waved in the air,cacti had burst into bloom here and there and tall Flame of the Forest(Palaash) trees dominated the whole landscape.We took a leisurely stroll through the entire area replete with wonderfully carved wooden statues.A stream gurgled it's way through just outside the garden and the sound added so much charm to what was already a heavenly spot.
Then it was time to head out and we did so,albeit reluctantly.My daughter had the last word and I agree with her.Knowledge is found not just in the pages of a book and a museum need not be a dusty,musty place!The National Museum of Nairobi certainly proves both the former and the latter absolutely right!



  1. That museum was awesome just like ur writing mom!

  2. Thank you Sandeep and Sanjana!And Sandeep thanks for reminding me that I just had my birthday and am a year older!Much obliged!!

  3. Very informative. I really like your site. Visiting from WBC and http://beauty-hive.blogspot.com

  4. the kenyankronikals were as nice as my mom.ANUDEEP



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