City Hangout – Emu Sighting, Vasant Vihar
Somewhere in Australia.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Silent leafy lanes and shiny chauffeur-driven cars. Gracious bungalows and embassies of remote-seeming countries like Eritrea and Gabon. And lots and lots of trees — in parks and in private gardens and along broad roads that might be the closest our city have to neighbourhood boulevards.
Vasant Vihar doesn’t really feel like a part of India. And as it happens, it isn’t. Technically located in south Delhi, it is an offshore enclave of the Commonwealth of Australia.
You don’t believe it? Then try explaining how these two emus ended up here?
Nowhere else in Delhi will this Australian native be spotted, pottering around so freely. And The Delhi Walla is not counting those caged creatures in the zoo.
The place these two birds call home is a rather confidential public garden, hidden at the dead end of a hushed lane near the Peruvian embassy.
“They have been here for three months,” says gardener Poornamasi, adding that the park isn’t very old either. Gesturing towards a gigantic grey house, he says, “The birds belong to the saheb who lives there.” He explains that the ‘saheb’ also takes care of the expenses for the birds’ upkeep. Every other evening, he spends time with the emus, one of which is a “nar” (male), and the other a “mada” (female). The gardener, however, could not confirm the age of these two birds.
This evening the emus are quiet, both perched in different corners of the park, lost in their own thoughts. One is standing beside the walking track, watching the occasional strollers go past. Another is in front of a swing hanging from a tree, just a few steps away from two rabbits huddled together under a bench like Lodhi Garden lovers.
The park has lots of rabbits, and many roosters and chickens too, but they can’t match up to the awe created by the emus. The word about them have spread across the Vasant Vihar bylanes. The park has come to be known as the “emu walla park”, though you might hear some people mistakenly terming them as ostriches (Google reveals that emu is the largest living bird by height after ostrich).
Now one of these beauties is hopping up a grassy slope. With her necklace of hair, she looks like one of those fashion models with thin stalky legs and great fur coats draped around the shoulders, sashaying down a ramp, indifferent to the stir she is causing.
Some minutes later, the other emu suddenly runs behind a group of chickens. All the little beings scatter away in fear, except for one that the emu sets about chasing across the park like a classroom bully.
Then everything comes back to tranquility. A family walks in and takes a selfie with one of the emus in the backdrop.
The gardener takes the emus inside their spacious shelter at 6 pm. They come out the next morning at 5.30.
The emus of Vasant Vihar