When 25-year-old Chathapuram Babu ran amok, creating panic for three hours hereon Tuesday, it was a frail woman who ultimately calmed down the elephant and brought it under control.

For Jaysree alias Sree Devi, owner of the tusker, it was not an elephantine task: elephants have been a passion and part of her family for almost half a century. Her grandfather Narayana Iyer and her father, Appu Iyer, popular as ‘Aana' (elephant) Iyer, have their own elephant-linked tales. ‘Aana' Iyer used to take elephants to Chennai and Udhagamandalam from Chathapuram for film shooting.

Now Jaysree and her sisters, Lakshmi and Savitri, are carrying forward the legacy at Chathapuram Agraharam (Brahmin village) near Kalpathy here.

The family had two elephants. One died in November last. The other, Chathapuram Babu, is tethered to a tree in the family's small coconut grove on the banks of the Kalpathy river, a few metres from her house.

Jaysree feeds the pachyderm with rice early in the morning, around 11 a.m. and in the evening. Then she visits the tusker at 10 p.m. to wish him good night.Babu is taken for temple festivals or other functions nearby, but he is never sent to far-off places.

When he spends more than a couple of days outside Palakkad, Jaysree visits him. The family never sends the elephant, brought from Assam 14 years ago, to timber depots for hauling logs. “We do not rear him for commercial gains,” she says.

“Elephants are lovable, intelligent animals. They do not hurt anyone and become violent only when they are provoked or when they are under ‘musth' [heat],” she says, vouching for Babu's “calm, quiet” nature. Vinesh, the mahout who was atop Babu when the animal turned violent, agrees. Both prefer dismissing Tuesday's incident as an aberration.

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