Delhi

A great loyal companionship

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At a corner in Great Royal Circus near Karkadooma Court in East Delhi, mahout Ram Murat is feeding his elephant, 20-year-old Jaimala, as he has named her. Jaimala has little to do here especially after former Minister for Social Justice Maneka Gandhi banned animals from working in circuses in 1998, but Ram, a lord Shiva devotee, keeps her like a child and occasionally makes her do non-daring performances such as worshipping the God as a filler.

Ram is a celebrity in the circus fraternity. He worked in a few Hindi films that used animals, such as Shikari, Nagin Aur Suhagan, and Shaan. In Shaan, he made Shashi Kapoor sing “ Janoo Meri Jaan” and Rajesh Khanna “ Chal Chal Mere Hathi” with elephants. “I have a photo with them all,” he says with pride. He also remembers “Indira Gandhi gifted an elephant to Royal Circus in early 1970s”.

Earlier a ring master, Ram is known to be the opposite of the proverbial tough masters. He is emotionally attached to his animals. After the death of his wife 35 years ago, he did not remarry. “I wanted to look after my elephants,” he says.

He prepares food for Jaimala – 25 kg barley, huge, thick chapatis with gur in one-and-half quintal flour, two kg khichdi with pure ghee with calcium tablets in them. “It is required for her bones,” says he. Jaimala was the last of the seven siblings and her trunk was very weak. “No ring master could understand her and all left her. I helped her with the best of food and calcium tablets, made her pick five kg tree log and move around. Now she can pick 50 kg,” he says with pride.

The 75-year-old mahout claims he never hit his elephants. “They understand the language of love. Jaimala laughs when I pat her on her stomach. An elephant largely learns from the age of seven to 45. I teach them simple acts with lots of love and specific words. For instance, to tell her to bathe the image of Shiva, I command ‘ chhupp’, she takes water in her trunk. I say ‘ phoonk’, she sprinkles it. To make her bring a garland, I show her a piece of food ball and take her to the garland location, she picks it up. I call out ‘ phod’, she breaks the coconut and garlands the image. Since she is scared of fire, I have taught her to pick battery operated diyas and do the puja. With barely five to ten repeats, she could do the act all by herself.”

Ram has been to several countries including the UK, the US and those in West Asia, where he says the rules for animals are strict. Ram has handled “most dangerous elephants from 1974 to 2014”. “My most beloved elephant was Rani. She died because her mahout tied a mongoose close to her. She screamed, pulled her rope and fell on one side. She broke her bones and died in two days. She was just two...,” he says wiping his tears. The circus is moving to Pitampura soon.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 11:11:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/great-royal-circus-karkadooma-court-east-delhi/article6692760.ece

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