There was a story in the papers about a runaway zebra that died after a golf course chase. Police chased this runaway zebra from Tokyo zoo across a golf course. It collapsed in a water trap on the golf course and died.
It’s such a sad story, but I could not help be amused by one aspect of this story: this failed attempt to recapture the creature came a month after the zoo held a drill practising this very eventuality.
The reporter wrote as follows: ‘Every year, a zookeeper dresses as an animal and stages an escae, giving colleagues the opportunity to hone their techniques. This year’s creature was a zebra which was successfully collared and returned to its pen. But as if to prove that practice does not always make perfect, this week’s real life response did not quite go to plan.’ (Runaway zebra dies)
Whenever I hear the word zebra, I’m always reminded of a couple I knew in University. They were my mother’s friends: Aunty Saras and Uncle Gordon.
It was the summer of 1996 and I was in Aberystwyth visiting some friends. I decided to rent a car and do a cross-country journey to Kent. On the way back, I decided to stop in Ilfracombe, Derbyshire and visit Aunty Saras and Uncle Gordon.
Keep in mind that there was no GPS and the mobile phone wasn’t going to work on some country roads. And Aunty Saras and Uncle Gordon’s house in Ilfracombe wasn’t exactly easily visible on a map. Duly warned, I was prepared to get lost. And being lost was exactly what happened. I’ll never forget driving up a slope in a very small lane and being comforted when I saw a small car in the rear-view mirror. Then, it disappeared and I was alone. Petrified, I reversed all the way down this lane until I had enough space to make a U-Turn.
To this day, I have no idea how I found Aunty Saras’s house, but find it I did. After I’d settled into a very comfortable room, we started talking about their ‘old’ times. Theirs was quite the love story.
From what I can remember, in the 1960s, she was the warden of Malaya Hall in Bryanston Square in London. She came in contact with many Malaysians. As a testament to her popularity, whenever she visited Malaysia, she was always welcomed into the homes of some of the most high-ranking people in the land.
By the time she met Uncle Gordon, she was already in the late 30s and had a child from her first marriage. Nonetheless, they fell in love and, she divorced and they married.
Uncle Gordon was no ordinary Englishman. He had served in Malaya (I have no clue as what, but I presume it had something to do with the war) and was an engineer by profession. He surprised me by being one of the few Englishmen I knew who loved everything about Malaysia.
They had a happy life together and travelled a lot. The thing about Aunty Saras was that there was never a journey where there wasn’t some sort of drama. On their African safari, she was the one who suffered from a rare mosquito bite. When she came one to Malaysia, she fell and injured her leg. There was the time she walked into a department store and something fell on her. Still, they were a jolly couple.
As for zebras, she told me a story that I’ve recalled each time someone deliberately insults me … like in my Xavier Ealy story. Aunty Saras, being Tamil, was, naturally, dark. Uncle Gordon, being English, was very white. I was describing to her some of the racial slurs that I had to endure from time to time in Aberystwyth.
Aunty Saras laughed and said, “You have no idea how close to the family racism can get. When Uncle and I first married, we had some funny things said to us. Then, when I was pregnant, one of his relatives came up to me and asked, ‘Will this baby be like a zebra? Will it have stripes?’”
How does one respond to something like that?