memory lane

Natural History Museum fire: A small part of the Delhi childhood has died

For decades, a field trip to the institution has been an essential part of being a Capital kid.

As news of the blaze at Delhi’s National Museum for Natural History spread on Tuesday morning, Nirupama Kotru took to Twitter to express her anguish with a photograph. The black and white image shows her and fellow students on a class trip to the museum, cheerily clowning around a taxidermied tiger. It was taken in 1981.

The picture tweeted by Nirupama Kotru.
The picture tweeted by Nirupama Kotru.

“We were taken there by our excellent science teacher, Mr RS Bahadur, who is also in the picture,” reminisced Kotru, now Commissioner of Income Tax in the Finance Ministry. “We made many trips to the museum. I remember that at the entrance, there was a panel with the various stages of evolution. You could press a button and a panel would light up and talk to you about that age. It was such a big thing in the 1980s, especially since most of us kids had never travelled abroad.”

Over 38 years, the Natural History Museum gave similar memories to generations. The museum, set up under the aegis of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, opened its door to the public in 1978. It was the brainchild of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who felt the country needed a museum to depict its flora, fauna and mineral wealth for the purposes of children’s education and to promote environmental awareness among the masses.

It didn’t accomplish the second object but it did well on the first. For those who went to school in Delhi, the museum was a fixture of field trips. Everyone who visited it remembers the giant model of an Allosaurus in the museum complex, its jaws open menacingly.

The model of an Allosaurus at the National Museum of Natural History.
The model of an Allosaurus at the National Museum of Natural History.

It’s not clear when, and if, it will create such memories anymore. The fire, which started around 1.30 am on Tuesday on the museum’s top floor and spread quickly, gutted the building that was rented out to the Environment Ministry by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce. “There were thousands of specimens which have been destroyed,” said Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. The cause of the blaze is unknown.

Lara Pasricha, a student, says it was the Natural History Museum that introduced her to taxidermy. “The animals in the display looked so real and I remember being terrified of some of them,” she said. “I just kept thinking the animals might move any time. My class teacher then explained what taxidermy was and I remember thinking it was such a bizarre thing to do and why not just go to the zoo instead?”

On entering the museum, the visitor was greeted by first of the three permanent exhibits, titled “Introduction to Natural History”. It told the story of evolution, depicted plants and animals in their natural habitat, among many other things. The second section, “Nature’s Network: Ecology”, dealt with the major ecosystems: the role of plants as primary producers, food chains, the relationship between plants, animals and human beings. And the third, titled “Conservation”, explained the many aspects of preservation of nature and wildlife. It included a life-size diorama of a deciduous forest, presenting contrasting pictures – that of a rich, balanced forest ecosystem and the other of denuded terrain.

Madhav Raghavan, 32, says the Allosaurus model was the highlight of his trips. “We must have visited the museum at least thrice throughout our schooling years,” said the researcher at the National Institute for Public Finance and Policy in Delhi. “I don’t remember it being a particularly thrilling experience except for the dinosaur outside.”

Many took to social media to express their disappointment.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Daily survival can be accomplished on a budget

By knowing what you need, when you need it and where to find it.

Creating and managing a fully-functional adult life can get overwhelming. If the planning isn’t intimidating enough, the budgeting is especially stressful with the rising prices of daily essentials. A separate survival fund is not what is required, though. The bulk of survival in the 21st century is based on your product smarts. Knowing what you need when you need it is more than half the battle won.

Needs vary according to different life situations. For instance, in their first tryst with homemaking, young tenants struggle for survival. They need to cultivate a relationship with products they never cared to use at home. Floor cleaners, bathroom cleaners and dish soaps are essential; monitor their usage with discipline. Then there are personal utensils, to be safeguarded with a vengeance. Let’s not forget mosquito, rodent and cockroach repellents to keep hefty, unwanted medical bills away. For those shifting into a hostel for the first time, making an initial inventory covering even the most underrated things (basic kitchen implements, first aid kit, clothes hangers, cloth clips etc.) will help reduce self-made crises.

Glowing new parents, meanwhile, face acute, urgent needs. Drowning in best wishes and cute gifts, they tend to face an immediate drought of baby supplies. Figuring out a steady, reliable supply of diapers and baby shampoos, soaps, powders and creams can take a slight edge off of parenting for exhausted new parents.

Then there are the experts, the long-time homemakers. Though proficient, they can be more efficient with regards to their family’s nutrition needs with some organisation. A well-laid out kitchen command centre will help plan out their shopping and other chores for the coming day, week and month. Weekly meal plans, for example, will not only ensure all family members eat right, but will also cut down on indecision in the supermarket aisle and the subsequent wasteful spending. Jot down fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and nuts and health beverages for growing kids. Snack Stations are a saviour for moms with perpetually hungry li’l ones, keeping your refrigerator strategically stocked with healthy snacks options that can cater to tastes of all family members.

Once the key needs are identified, the remainder of the daily survival battle is fought on supermarket aisles. Collecting deals, tracking sales days and supermarket hopping have been the holy grail of budget shopping. Some supermarkets, though, are more proactive in presenting value for money on items of daily need. The video below captures the experiences of shoppers who have managed savings just by their choice of supermarket.


Big Bazaar offers the easiest route to budget shopping with its lowest price guarantee on 1500+ daily essentials across all its stores. This offer covers all frequently bought items such as ghee, sugar, edible oil, detergent, toilet cleaners, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, health drinks, tea, biscuits and much, much more. Moreover, the ‘Har Din Lowest Price’ guarantee is not limited to a few sales days and will be applicable all year round. To know more about Har Din Lowest Price at Big Bazaar, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Big Bazaar and not by the Scroll editorial team.