Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Waiter, there's an elephant in my soup

From The Times of India:
"Agriculture minister K. Sreenivasa Gowda truly had an elephantine problem in his hands on Saturday. A rampaging pachyderm got into his house, behind Shivananda Circle, and damaged the garden and a door.
Just moments earlier, it had uprooted a tree and damaged surroundings of Gowda's house. The hungry elephant was being paraded on the road when it saw greenery around the minister's house and made a dash for it.
The police diverted traffic and summoned forest department officials. But the giant creature could be pacified only by its regular mahout, who cajoled it with some food and dragged it away from more trouble. The elephant was being cared for by a stand-in mahout on Saturday, who could not control it."

It sounds pretty sensational, but then I guess "hungry elephant gets his greens in minister's garden" wouldn't have made a story at all. It had to be a "rampaging" "giant creature", just so that we could feel a sense of threat, instead of wondering why the poor thing was being paraded on an empty stomach and by a strange mahout--elephants tend to get very attached to their regular mahouts, and don't seem to enjoy changes in personnel.

Stephen Alter had a lovely passage in his book, Elephas Maximus:
"Both Rajappan and I saw the elephants at the same moment. They were swimming about fifty feet from shore, rolling over on the surface, almost like whales or porpoises. The water was not very deep, and when they stood, I could see the upper half of their bodies. Soon afterward, the elephants started to wade out on to the bank, their trunks waving and their black silhouettes like fluid shadows emerging from the lake. They were a small herd of six cows and two calves, the youngest of which was probably a year old. Standing in the shallows at the edge of the reservoir, they sprayed themselves and seemed reluctant to leave the water...
For half an hour we watched the herd before they started to move off.... The colours and contrasts in the landscape were muted now that the sun was directly overhead, but the elephants, still wet from their bath, stood out sharply against a backdrop of dense forest and scalloped hills. Their movements were graceful and unrestrained. No mahouts were seated on their backs. No human commands directed them. No chains or ropes held them in place. As the elephants made their way towards the trees, they moved not as in a procession or parade. Instead they seemed to drift through the grass with absolute freedom, guided only by the shared instincts of a herd, the companionship of their own kind."