Victoria’s Secret Angels

FeaturedVictoria’s Secret Angels

Angels – God’s gift to the Mother Earth. I am not referring to Humans here.(gotcha!) I am talking about Animals, the butchered wives of the world – mistreated, poached and at times demonized.

Victoria’s Angels – The Forgotten heroes of Mumbai.

Our city, Mumbai has been blessed with only 1 such house for our secret angels. It goes by the name of Victoria. Victoria Gardens aka Ranichi Bagh aka Brihanmumbai Mahanagar Palika Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan commonly (read rarely) called Byculla Zoo.

Before the critics jump the gun to justify the obsolescence of this place, I concede the fact that Government authorities, environmentalists, animal rights activists and us, citizens have defeated ourselves. We are responsible for the pitiable condition of the animals in the only zoo of our city.

Yes, a much-needed face-lift is on the cards. Hopefully, once the development is completed, our zoo flourishes into an excellent hub of flora and fauna.

Wishful thinking aside, I paid visit to Byculla zoo to peep into the biosphere of Mumbai and boy it wasn’t as bad as some reviews on the internet crafted.

We were greeted by security personnel who stopped us from barging in the zoo with tiffins(which I mistakenly carried). I was asked to finish eating it and only then allowed entry. (Zoo +1)

As we set foot inside the zoo, the chirping of birds and frenetic movement of monkeys was palpable. We toured most part of the zoo and came across following exhibits –



In one of the exhibits, we found a surprising species – the Emu. Popularly mistaken as Black Ostrich (some of the visitors actually coined that term!) This black colored giant sized bird saw many visitors flocking towards its exhibit. Many of us clicked photographs of zookeeper feeding them and cleaning their shed.



I was particularly amazed by Hippopotamus amphibius. The third-largest type of land mammal lived true to its name. We saw 4 of these mammals in 2 different exhibits. “River horse” in Greek, makes real sense given that we saw 2 of them literally dozing inside the water, reminding us of the standing up sleep pattern of horses. Those 2 hippos were 95% submerged/floating in water, with only some part of back peeping outside. For more than 10 minutes, we were wondering as to how do these Hippopotamidae breathe! Best sight was of the baby hippo lumbering across her mother (I guess) and leaning towards her while eating grass. Arguably, the best exhibit in the zoo!


Horses, well, not really.  Blue bull or Nilgai

One of the first exhibits any visitor will see, close to the zoo’s entrance. Prima facie, it looks like a horse given the mane, tail and overall physical structure. By no means is it blue in color, (not even a blue tinge / shade)! And yes, although it is a bull – historical facts support my misconception of it being a horse. During Mughal emperor Aurangzeb‘s reign (1658–1707) of India, the nilgai was known by the name nilghor (“nil” for “blue” and “ghor” for “horse”). [Padhi, S.; Panigrahi, G.K.; Panda, S. (2004). The Wild Animals of India. Delhi: Biotech Books. pp. 26–7. ISBN 81-7622-106-6.]


Different types of parrots (names of which I fail to recount) with colorful wings, different shades (grey, green, blue) and also of different sizes (from tiny, fist-sized ones to larger wingspan ones). The chirping sound was a refreshing experience. Ironically, while we were gazing at these birds trapped / shackled in the cages, a crow flew over us as if to flaunt its freedom, a perquisite very few birds can enjoy.


Indian elephant

This exhibit attracted foreigners who accompanied us. The Elephas maximus seemed to have caught attention of the South-east Asians. Both the elephants were being attended by the zookeepers and were far away from the fence. Due to paucity of  time, we had to bid them adieu.



We geared up for a fascinating and thrilling encounter with Python molurus aka Indian python. With an adrenaline rush, we stormed the exhibit to witness a lukewarm response. This reptile, belonging to the family of non-venomous snakes, was apparently sleeping in the water tub, untouched and indifferent. While we were imagining the hissing or rattling, in reality there was absolutely no movement whatsoever. To our surprise, a bunch of kids tried teasing the Pythonidae (the actual name) by pelting a stone. The serpent didn’t move one bit. We reported the kids action to the authorities in order to prevent repetition of such an incident. As boredom settled thanks to the unconcerned Mr.reptile, we left the exhibit disappointed.

Apart from the above, we met monkeys, flamingos, peacocks, black bucks, Sambhar and spotted deer.

Friends we couldn’t meet –

  1. Humboldt Penguins – well we couldn’t get to see them. Actually, the main reason why Byculla Zoo came into the limelight was the arrival of unexpected guests – the acquatic lifeless birds from Southern Hemisphere. However, due to administrative reasons, the exhibit of South American penguins was inaccessible.
  2. Bear – a mountain-esque layout distinctly spans across the Bear exhibit. However, the authorities explained that the presence of bear can be found few and far in between. Most of the times, it lies safely inside the mound and hence the enthusiasts and visitors can’t greet and meet the carnivore.
  3. Crocodile – after minutes of croc-searching near lakes, ponds and different exhibits, we found no crocodile! Thus our wish of saying – “See you later, alligator” remained incomplete and unfulfilled. (yes, I know alligators and crocodiles are two different creatures altogether, but who cares? – both won’t understand our language!)
  4. Hyenas, and now absent Lion (last one lioness Jimmy died in 2014), Tigers (till 2005)

Anti-Penguin JibeScreenshot from 2017-03-11 18-15-11Screenshot from 2017-03-11 14-58-34

Dr. Bhau Daji Lad museum


Ironically, the exit of the zoo looked much more majestic and attractive than the entrance. Arches of the exit gate, the architectural style was really fascinating. After the zoo, we visited the museum which was typical of any such museum. The artefacts, instruments, utensils made of gold, copper, wood – descriptions were illuminating. One new find for me was the ancient Indian card game by the name – Ganjifa.

Overall, a decent 3-4hr outing at a location nested inside the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps.

To the city that never stops surprising!

Trip Time – 8:15 am  – 2pm

Date – 11th March, 2017

Trip Cost – Travel Cost + 5 (Zoo entry fee) + 10 (Museum entry fee)

Travel – Via Train

Closest station on Central Railway Line – Byculla (bang opposite)

Closest station on Western Railway Line – Mahalaxmi (distance-wise)



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Sandhan valley – O really?

Sandhan valley – O really?


Day 1 : 14/01/2017

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to Kasara via train 

We boarded the train at midnight. It was a perfect time for us trekkers to socialize and to know each other. One of the major highlights of the trek for me personally – Diversity.

Location-wise – Not just from Mumbai Suburbs, Vashi, to Gujarat.

Profession-wise – Police officer, Chartered Accountant, students pursuing Architecture, Law, Computer Science, Psychology, Literature.

All in all, the start to the trek itself was refreshing, away from the mundane life, peers and social circle.

Kasara station – Samrad village via Jeep 

3 AM ride in the Jeep, navigating the Ghats and light-less roads was some thrill!

I was introduced to Anup, one of our specially-abled friends. What ensued was – 2 days of epic banter! Anup was a livewire. Fully expressive, continuously pumped up and his gestures and emotions did the talking. We couldn’t even recognize the difference between us and them. Interactions with Anup and Yadnesh made me realize –

“To such people, even if you give them 1000 reasons to cry, they’ll show you the one reason to smile and be happy about”


Base village – Sandhan Valley 8:30

Walking towards the Sandhan valley – we were briefed by Vitthal Awari sir (Trek Instructor) about the course of action and few instructions.

At first, it was all about setting the right foot on the right stone with right position. Simplest way forward was to follow the immediate person ahead of you. However the real fun was to explore on your own.

Stones.. at times.. play real good tricks..

What might look as an easy firm landing ends up miserably bad due to wrong judgement. That error gets introduced either due to soil beneath causing it to slip or due to awkward landing of foot.

“Plant your foot and plant it well..No half measures..”

After the initial hiccups, it was about time we got another adventure. And bamm.. we had this water body in front of us between the valley. The only way to navigate through it was through the water body.

As is the case with any mirage or huge mountain – “Appearances are mighty deceptive!”

What we guaged as knee deep water ended up till our throats. Imagine what happens to 5feet ladies n gentlemen! Deplorable sight!

And it’s not just your 60 kg. body that has to be transported alone, you have your luggage to cater to as well!

Rucksack which for most times is a savior turns into an obstacle and hindrance!


Maintaining balance in the water, being aware of the biting stones underneath your feet, and firmly holding your bag above – It was all worth the effort. As we reached the middle portion, we were embraced by a spectacular view. Nature at its best! As we started the descent, I got to do rappelling not once but 3 times.

To top it off I was dispatched as the first one to do from our group!

Harness and ropes.. Certainly felt like – Living the Life on edge!

(Farfetching it..although at first it looks daunting .. it’s absolutely safe in truth )


“Keep your knees straight!”

“Stand firm!”

“Don’t push yourself towards the rock!”

“Hold the rope with left hand and use the right one to push yourself down!”

Chants kept ringing. Drama continued till 5 in the evening as we finally bid adieu to the rocks and the valley.

Camping – Night stay

Upon reaching the campsite, we felt a sense of joy and triumph of safely tackling the challenges presented to us by Mother Nature. Just like after a mammoth 200 run stand by a test cricket batsman, we enjoyed nice chilled ice bath. A small pond nearby was our makeshift – bathtub. We swam to our hearts content (only 15 minutes thanks to super exhaustion and dehydration). Post the super relaxing swim, we built our own tents and had early dinner (7pm). After which, we sang to our hearts content in the company of bonfire. Dozed off to sleep by 9:30pm. (A rarity I must admit)

Day 2: 15/01/2017

Sandhan Valley Campsite – Asangaon – Dadar

Woke up to the unpleasant chattering caused by alarms and began our last lap.

One of our fellow trekkers – super-experienced Police Inspector – Mr.Kadam gave all of us handy tips and instructions for Safety and Security. For e.g. – How to save yourself from Thieves, Robbers, troublesome Rickshaw/Taxi drivers? Especially for women – Using dupatta, Holding the collar to choke him, Using kitchenware for saving your own lives, etc.


From the camping site we walked through forests and barren land for 3 hours to reach a village near Asangaon. Staple diet – Rice bhakari, mix vegetable (brinjal,potato,beans). Cherry on the cake moment – playing cricket with young Turks for good chunk of an hour! As we left the village in a jeep to reach Asangaon station, our songs continued while we relived all the amazing moments throughout the trek.

The banter triggered on most occasions by Anup and Yadnesh

The tussle for winning coveted prize Ladoos

And most importantly Scenic beauty of Sandhan Valley..

Difficulty level – Moderate


  1. Follow the leader
  2. Better to go through a trekking group (especially if you are a novice)
  3. Carry Light-weight rucksack with Water-bottle, Sweater, Torch


  1. Get high (already its taxing your body a lot)
  2. Smoke in the valley (It destroys the sanctity of place, nature besides unsettling the honey bees tormenting the other fellow trekkers)
  3. For God’s sake litter that abode
  4. Expect network / service

Special thanks to Him Sahyadri Trekkers.

To the Good times! To one hell of a trek!



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