I do not have any childhood memories of visiting a zoo. There were no zoos in the towns and cities I lived in the first twelve years of my life, and later, in Hyderabad, when I visited the local zoo with some relatives, my mind was already on other matters. I do not recollect being struck by the animals I saw there; memory draws a blank on zoo related episodes.
But I was fascinated by the jungle. I loved the occasional visits to forests in Nepal, the Chitwan National park and surrounding areas, with tigers, elephants, bears, and rhinos. I carried a fascination for rhinos, probably because I was intrigued by what I’d read as boy in a thriller, The Kaziranga trail, about poachers who kill rhinos for their horns. Nepal was known for the one-horned rhino, and I remember setting out on an elephant into the tall jungle grass, in search of a rhino. On the rare occasion we spotted one it was at a distance, and I never could manage a close look at the thick scales and rugged appearance I had read about.
The distinction in my mind between these places – the zoo, with animals behind enclosures and in cages, and the jungle, with animals roaming the wild – had remained hidden and unexamined. I was indifferent toward zoos, and I held a deep fascination for the wild, but I did not have the occasion to think about this until I visited the zoo in Stuttgart.