India Uncut

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Coming out of the shell

Ok, identify the subject of this paragraph:
He has lived through exciting times, survived the Battle of Plassey, seen the rise of Calcutta, witnessed the nationalist movement, and watched the transformation of the Empire's second city into Kolkata.

On reading more of this piece, we discover the answer:
Meet the prized possession of Alipore Zoological Garden, a giant Aldabra Seychelles tortoise who was brought to Kolkata, along with three other mates, from the Seychelles Islands by British seafarers and presented to Lord Clive.

The four giant tortoises, kept in Lord Clive's Laat Bagan at Barrackpore, were a big draw among his guests. Squealing ladies often took tortoise-back rides, taking a tumble or two at tea parties.

What fun. I wish I was there when squealing ladies tumbled off giant tortoises, but I'd probably have been the little brown waiter who got beaten by the sahibs for leching at squealers. Also, I'd have been too early for blogging. Anyway, it turns out that the three other tortoises duly died, but this one is still alive, and 255 years old at that. The article continues:

The 250 kg, dark gray tortoise is a vegetarian of simple habits. The secret of his longevity is probably because he has remained a staunch bachelor. There are no records of his progeny or liaisons.

Zoo Director Subir Choudhuri says, "His needs are simple and he is quite happy eating wheat bran, carrot, lettuce, soaked gram, bread, grass and salt".

How is the tortoise expected to have progeny or liasons when there are no other tortoises around to mate with? Maybe he's survived so long because he's decided not to die until he loses his virginity. "I'm not going to pop it," he must be telling himself, "until I pop it."

Apparently, the authorities at the zoo are "planning a bigger, better enclosure for him to stretch his limbs". Oh come, come, just get him a cute girl tortoise, will ya?
amit varma, 4:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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