"Feel the trunk bless you. It is a blessing of God. Don't be scared of the elephant. They look huge but are very intelligent and gentle creatures," grandma said. A mahout with his elephant was walking the street, reaching out to people for food and money. It was a common sight in the bygone days and people were not aware of all the animal rights that are in existent today. Animals were a part of human society and were not looked as mere food or consumables.
I walked to the front of the elephant and the mahout instructed something to him.The elephant gave a loud grunt.Then gently brought down his long snake like trunk all around me before landing the tip on my head and blowing out his breathe. It was warm and moist and in the summer heat fell very funny.
I giggled and ran back to my grandma.
She handed the mahout some money and two hands of bananas.
"You can feed him too," the mahout told me as he handed over one hand of bananas to me.
I reluctantly held it to the elephant, who looked at me and then slowly took the banana hand with his trunk. I saw a shine in its tiny eyes as the hand disappeared below the trunk.Then his huge ears began flapping like fans.
"He is happy," the mahout said.
"It is summer and hot. Maybe I will get you a glass of lemonade. Wait," grandmother said. Before the mahout could respond anything she had gone into the house, crossing the courtyard.
"Oh, I wish she does not bring lemon water", the mahout said.
"Why? Do you not like lemonade?" I asked curiously.
"No, Babuji, I like it. But whatever I get, I share with my elephant. He is like my childhood friend. And a glass of lemonade is too small for the elephant. I don't think your grandma could make a pot full for him," the mahout said.
"Oh, I thought people used elephants only for earning money.I did not know they cared for them too," I blurted.
'It depends on how you see your pet or domestic animal. He has grown up with me like family," the mahout said. And he continued," We are not traditional elephant people. When the local king died his elephants were gradually given away. This one is tied with the local temple. During summer I take it out as the fodder around the temple is less. Also people have been cutting trees randomly making it difficult to find forage for it. I was a child when I used to see this elephant when my father went to work at the king's place. It recognizes me and allows me to mount it. So the temple staff allow me to ride it in the town for a few days during summer and collect stuff for his maintanence."
"Oh, but you look so much like a mahout," I said, "What do you do otherwise?'
"I cultivate my land in a village on the outskirts of the town.In summer days there is no work to do. So I take the elephant around. It is kind of baby sitting it", he chuckled.
I was greatly impressed with his work.
"So you will not drink the lemonade then? Or will you give it to the elephant?" I asked.
"I am thinking about it," he said.
"I have an idea," I said.
"What?" he asked.
"I can bring a bucket of water for the elephant. He must be thirsty too. Anyway he may not like the lemon water.how would it be? That way he will get something to drink and you too," I suggested.
"Oh, that is a great idea. It will be kind of you. As it is summer, people are struggling for drinking water. So I do not ask anyone and take him to the pond at the end of the walk", he said, " but from where will you get water?'
"Oh, I had kept a bucket under the roof for collecting rain water. It had filled two days earlier in the sudden summer shower. Can he drink it?"
'Maybe he will drink it. I don't know. I have never given him rain water from the roof collected in a bucket," he said, "you can try it. If he drinks it, I will drink the lemonade. Otherwise give it to him. I am fine eating a banana."
I ran inside and returned with a bucket of water which I had collected. I was happy that it would be used for something. Elder aunt had joked about me being a miser and not even letting the rain flow out, when she saw me collecting water.Now I can tell her the utility.
But will the elephant drink it?
I placed the bucket in front of the elephant.
I and the mahout waited to see what he would do.
The elephant smelled the water a few times. Uncle had once told me they have a very strong sense of smell.
And then all of a sudden, I saw the trunk go into the small bucket and the water vanish into the trunk.
The mahout clapped and I was all smiles.
I could hear footsteps of grandma behind the doors.