Shopping, fun rides, and eating that make an ordinary evening at St. John’s Vestry grounds memorable

The shark has its mouth wide open, revealing menacingly sharp teeth. Taking a deep breath, I climb up the steps leading to its mouth. That’s when I hear the beat of the drums that take me to a different place altogether. The three towering elephants with mahouts mounting them suggest I have been transported to Kerala. It takes me a few seconds to realise they aren’t real. No, this is not a weird dream I had. It’s the fair at St. John’s Vestry grounds, and I am here on a mission – a mission to have a good time.

Sand and shopping

The scene is surreal, with life-size replicas of animals that actually move in a jungle set-up. Weaving my way through excited children and enthusiastic photographers, I catch sight of the impressive sand sculpture collection. Lion, elephant, tiger, hippopotamus, bison, koala, seal, owl, leopard, porcupine and other animals are shaped, with the theme ‘Save Us’.

On to the stalls, filled with accessories, clothes, footwear, pickles, and household items. I survey the scene with cone of popcorn in hand. A vendor beckons and I oblige. Shopping, of course, is essential to having a good time, and I gleefully pick out bangles, earrings, clips, and footwear. A collection of tiny jewel boxes in various shapes are handmade, says the vendor, a subtle hint that I should not haggle over the price. When I leave the stalls, it is with a considerably lighter purse, and a considerably heavier bag.

Alarming screams are emanating from the swinging ship but they are, after all, screams of joy. I walk towards Break Dance, wondering why it hosts the longest queue of all. The delight on the faces of the people on board is the answer – it is just too much fun. A man is clicking a picture of his son, who is on the miniature merry-go-round, and I am unwittingly occupying the frame. I apologetically clear the place, looking back to see the boy posing while on the ride. I suppress a smile, and walk towards the food stalls.

House of mirrors

With a plate of piping hot milagai bajjis and a Delhi appalam, I pick a seat from where I can still savour the scenes around me. Sinking my teeth into the milagai bajji is a glorious feeling and my mouth is on fire. I make a beeline to the juice shop for a glass of sugarcane juice.

The dark clouds are a sign of an imminent shower, but before I leave, I check out the Laughing House, where a collection of mirrors make me look thin, tall, short, stretched, inverted, and, to my horror, fat. Making a mental note to exercise more, I leave the exhibition. The spring in my step is, if possible, more pronounced: Mission accomplished. If walking into a shark’s mouth were always this much fun, I’d do it every day.