The titan lies, mute, as a toddler runs her pint-sized hand over its seven-foot tusk. Don’t touch it, her mother hisses. In vain. The girl continues, agog with wonder, as others gather around the creature and a bored attendant looks on.

Stegodon Ganesha, whose plaque simply reads “Animals that lived millions of years ago”, is one of 1,700 fossils in the Siwalik Gallery. The air is musty, punctuated by the scent of ageing furniture. Walk into the colonnaded courtyard and the unmistakable whiff of bat guano hits your nostrils. Go out the main gate, and you’re hurtled from past to present by honking cars, the aroma of kathi rolls and Kolkata’s mugginess.

AUTHOR

Roshni Nair

Roshni P. Nair joins us from Reuters, where she was an online producer. With a background in weekend features at Hindustan Times and DNA, Roshni has written on subjects ranging from India’s amateur UFO investigators to the provenance of sambhar. When not pursuing story ideas, she enjoys reading, making a great cuppa adrak chai, playing with street dogs, and avoiding large gatherings. Roshni will work out of Mumbai and can be reached at roshni at the rate the-ken.com

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