Tragedy In The Elephant World
Tragedy In The Elephant World
"They say that an elephant never forgets. What they don't tell you is, you never forget an elephant"
It felt wonderful munching on the sugar cane sticks and sucking in the sweet juice. This was one of the daily routine work for Raju. Raju was an elephant keeper and he was feeding Lakshmi his pet elephant. Lakshmi was enjoying the succulent sugar canes being fed by her master Raju. Along with the diet of sugar cane was big tall grass called elephant grass, another favourite food item of the elephants. This comprised of the daily dietary consideration of Lakshmi who could consume more than 100 kilogram of fodder. The diet was not being consumed by Lakshmi alone but she was being accompanied by her male baby elephant of two months named Gajpati or Gajju
Raju had took to elephant keeping and training since he was a young boy. He had watched his father do the same and this job passed over to him by heredity. This elephant maintenance was their family profession since generations. These elephants were patronised by the Kings and big temple trusts. The Kings used these elephants to strengthen their army and for ceremonial functions related to the kingdom. Some rich temples used to patronise these pachyderms for their religious ceremonies. On festivals these elephants used to be decked up with rich upholstery and bold liveries. The maintenance of these elephants were sponsored by the Kings or the temple trusts and the elephants' keepers were also well paid by salaries.
But now there was no king and the temples were also not so generous in maintaining such extravagance of elephant rearing. As a result Raju was now very stretched financially. The monthly upkeep cost of Lakshmi and now her baby Gajju was huge. Although few old temples were sponsoring the upkeep cost but Raju had to fight to get his dues from them. Because he could not compromise with the quantity of the daily food of the two elephants. At times he went hungry for want of money but Raju ensured that his pets went to bed with their stomach's full.
It had been difficult for Raju to take up this profession. Because times had changed and people's choices and thinking had changed. Raju had learned different trade and wanted to continue with that because elephant rearing as described above was not cost effective and very laborious with not much rewards. But his father before dying had handed over to him Lakshmi and asked him to take good care of her. After his father's death Raju had even wanted to dispose of Lakshmi and had been looking for buyers. But he was not getting a good price and also he was not liking the quality of the buyers. Raju wanted that Lakshmi should go to a kind hearted owner who would take good care of her. Finding good quality kind hearted buyer took much time. Lakshmi within this time had been friendly with a wild male and got pregnant. After roughly twenty months of pregnancy she gave birth to Gajpati. Raju being so kind hearted could not part with Lakshmi at this stage. Also Raju had developed a deep liking for his pet and after the arrival of Gajju his attachment grew deeper. Both Lakshmi and Gajju also loved their master dearly.
Raju knew that elephants were very intelligent creatures. Also after being domesticated elephants were very loyal and obedient. They also had lots of emotions almost like humans. He knew that elephants have been seen crying also. One folk lore of their intelligence had been shared by his father once. Raju's father, an experienced hand with elephants knew lots of stories and little anecdotes regarding the behaviour of elephants.
Narrating one folk lore regarding the elephant's intelligence Raju's father once told him an interesting tale. Once a friendship had developed between a tailor and an elephant. The elephant made a regular visit to the tailor at his shop and the tailor used to feed him with a hand made roti from his tiffin. This daily routine continued for some time. One day the tailor went to the market to buy goods related to the tailoring shop and had asked his son to look after the shop in his absence. But he forgot to tell his son to give one roti to the elephant when he came. Now his son was young, naughty and playful. So when the elephant came visiting to the shop the tailor's son instead of giving a roti, took a needle and pricked the elephant 's trunk with it. The elephant went away but returned soon with muddy water in his trunk and sprayed it over the tailor's son and the shop. The tailor's son realised that he could not play pranks with the emotions of the elephant. He learned an important lesson of life.
Raju knew not to give any trouble to Lakshmi and her kid. In this way he became so much attached with them that the desired sale never materialised. But as his finances became erratic it became difficult for Raju to feed the elephants adequately. Seeing Raju in such trouble Lakshmi knew that to fully feed herself and get her kid's gut full she had to look out for food.
Meanwhile Lakshmi's partner had returned. He was a big wild male tusker. This male tusker had shown Lakshmi and her kid Gajju a sugarcane farm at the edge of the village from where the forest began. In the forest there was tall grass which was rich and green and would be very delicious Lakshmi thought. Raju had given them freedom because he knew that when the male partners come visiting then these animals should not be distracted. Otherwise they can cause mayhem everywhere.
Lakshmi was enjoying the sugarcane meal at the farm along with Gajju and her partner. Sometimes they would wander into the forest and enjoy eating the tall grass which was juicy and pulpy at the base. Elephants had the uncanny knack of picking clean the grass and dusting off the mud and chew the juicy parts. This continued for few days. The sugarcane farm was being devastated.
The farmer and the farm owner were feeling the heat of the loss of the ripe sugarcane plants. They plotted a plan to humiliate the predators. They knew the elephants loved fruits. So they must trap them with their beloved fruits.
It was a fool proof plan. And a very wicked thought with no compassion. As usual Lakshmi along with her partner and Gajju visited the farm. Lakshmi was having a good time with her partner. She was again pregnant.
At the farm Lakshmi found a big ripe pineapple lying at the entry point of the sugarcane plantation. She was drawn towards it lovingly. Her partner gave a short grunt and walked away disinterested. Gajju just kept following his mother. Then Lakshmi sniffed the pineapple and picked it with her trunk and was about to put it in her mouth when there was a little sound like the bursting of a light cracker. Startled, she put down the fruit. Her trunk had been damaged a little as it was bleeding. Then without further waiting she gulped the pineapple and put it in her mouth. While in the mouth she felt something was not right. There was again the sound of something bursting and this time it was inside her mouth. The damage had been done and there was no escape. She had already engulfed the pineapple and she felt a sharp pain in her stomach which ran through out her body. She charged straight for the river that flowed beside the farm at the opening of the forest. There she stood in knee deep water and it seemed she was in considerable pain. With discreet intervals she used to raise her trunk and squeal like elephants do when in suffering. Her partner had run away to the nearby jungle. Gajju stayed near her mother in knee deep water not knowing what to do. In other happier times Gajju had enjoyed wading into the water of the river with her mother and bathe there for hours. He used to draw water in his trunk and spray it all over his body. But this time was different. He found his mother squealing unusually. After some time when his mother did not come out of the water Gajju came out of the river and ran towards their home to alert his master Raju.
Raju seeing Gajju alone without the company of his mother doubted something was amiss. He followed Gajju to the river where he found Lakshmi stand in the river in knee deep water. He went in towards Lakshmi and beckoned her to come out but to no avail. Raju examined Lakshmi and found injury marks on the trunk and found her bleeding profusely in the mouth. He felt that Lakshmi was in deep pain. Unable to bring her out of the water he came out and ran towards the animal hospital to bring any vet who could treat her. Gajju stayed behind. Raju returned with a vet who examined Lakshmi. On preliminary examination he found that Lakshmi was few weeks pregnant and that she had consumed something that had explosives in it. For further treatment she had to be taken to the hospital. The vet said that Lakshmi needed immediate treatment otherwise she would die due to her injuries and hypothermia by constantly standing in the water. Raju suspected some fowl play and unable to get Lakshmi out, he went straight to the police station and submitted a written complaint.
For one full day she stood in knee deep water suffering silently and slowly succumbed to her injuries. Her death ran shivers down the spine of the local citizenry. People from all walks of life were enraged with the treatment meted out to this hapless and innocent creature. Gajju was inconsolable in his way. He was seen crying almost like humans do. Oh, what a pitiable sight it was The whole state was enraged at this brutal treatment. The media and news agency was giving wide coverage to the events so that the criminals could be booked.
Lakshmi's dead body was brought out and taken to the vet hospital. There on further examination it was found that she had consumed a whole pineapple fruit that had been cleverly packed with fire crackers. These crackers had burst in the stomach of the pachyderm and had caused her death.
After the administration was coaxed into booking the culprits, the farmer and the farm owner were caught while trying to flee to the neighbouring state. They were put behind bars and would face trial without getting bail. Strictest punishment awaited them.
Meanwhile Gajju was just inconsolable. He kept on squealing loudly and constantly. His sounds drew the wild male partner of his mother from the jungles. He was deeply enraged and played havoc in the farm causing wide spread damage to the standing plants in the field and to the houses nearby.
This plunder and destruction took place for some days. Mostly the job was done under the cover of darkness so nothing could be done. Gajju remained the silent observer. The villagers were totally at a loss at how to bring the situation back to normal. The forest department was fully aware of the job in hand but their efforts were futile. Taming an angered wild elephant was no easy job. They were thankful that it was just one single animal and the whole pack was not present otherwise it would have been a full scale war with the animals.
Then somebody suggested that a life size statue of an elephant be erected and positioned at the gate of the farm. A sculptor was commissioned and very soon a life size statue of a female elephant having no tusks was placed at the farm entrance. Female elephants do not have tusks unlike their male counterparts. This had a magical transformation on Gajju who became calm on seeing the statue. Probably it may have reminded him of his mother and he felt her presence. The wild male partner might have visited in the quiet of the night and seeing her there might have walked away towards the jungle without causing any harm to the humanity and its assets.