These majestic animals have elephantine problems. Who will speak for them?
It was another festive season in Kerala. Under the shade of a tree by the corner of the school ground, I saw him standing. As his mahout was not around, we took some photos for which he posed magnanimously. We noticed a stick resting on him. We learned that the stick symbolises a strange deal between the mahout and the elephant.
The mahout often leaves the scene, apparently to take toddy breaks that may run for many hours. Whenever the mahout is leaving the elephant, he leans a stick on it. The elephant, on its part, has to make sure the stick doesn’t fall. Luck was not on his side today as the stick deserted him moments after the mahout left. He made frantic attempts by to pick up the stick but to no avail. His restlessness reached a crescendo when the mahout appeared. He looked at the fallen stick in disbelief and charged forward, shouting and brandishing a deadly cane. He started thrashing the elephant without mercy. The second-in-command intervened to prevent the problem from escalating further.
I, like many others, could only stand as a mute spectator. Even though many registered their protests with the temple authorities, the latter washed their hands off reasoning that they were not responsible for the mahout’s behaviour. This incident is only one of many where elephants are mistreated.
The writer is a BBA graduate