Friday, September 18, 2009

Elephants as guests

Indian culture values hospitality- extended even to the unexpected visitors . I too was brought up imbibing this tradition .Recently, when I had a call from the local temple secretary just before the annual temple festival asking if I could help in an accommodation problem, I agreed to have him over to discuss. How was I ever to know the accommodation was sought not for humans but for three pachyderms?
Taken totally by surprise, I hardly had time to react I had my fears. What if the elephant brought down a tree? What if it kicked the brick wall? Dismissing my fears as unfounded, the team from the temple, underplayed it as if I was talking about handling 3 domesticated goats!

‘Nothing to worry! They are disciplined ‘gajaveerans” of Trichur pooram fame with excellent track records.!’ Having said it with finality , they moved briskly to the task of finding three tethering spots.

Things moved fast and very soon, three majestic tuskers –Krishnankutty, Karnan,and Ayyapan strode in royally and along with them , a large crowd of excited onlookers, and children shepherded by parents. I was dumbstruck to say the least as I wondered how to play host to everyone. But I had to do nothing. Everything happened by itself.!!

Suddenly,my place had turned into an open house . We watched as visitors took up positions volunteers made suggestions, children attempted touching the pachyderms, babies squealed in delight, youngsters clicked cameras. A goods van drew up with a load of palm leaves as dinner for the elephants. People lent a hand and soon unloaded the fodder into a mini mountain. Loads of plantain bunches appeared from nowhere. Someone switched on the pump and using the hosepipe began to spurt forth water at the elephants. The”Gajarajans’ enjoyed these jets of spray and soon the courtyard was one big mess. Alongside, the smell of elephant dung rent the air.

Movements were swift thereafter. People lent a hand in bathing feeding ,decorating the elephants for the function. It was the greatest experience in community spirit and in the togetherness of man and beast in celebration. The gates stayed open for day and night. After three days of festival, when the elephants left, strangely, all of us felt saddened as we do when a cherished guest leaves.. As we cleaned up the courtyard of the terrible mess of palm leaves, and dung, I felt a strange emptiness. The house was back to normalcy but strangely, the silence seemed overpowering. Like travellers in one’s journey of life, Karnan, Krishnankutty, and Ayyapan, came into our lives briefly, only to part forever, perhaps!

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Thoughts and Voices by Radha Iyer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.