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Fable of Padayappa

Vector Elephant

Vector Elephant

Few in Munnar and its environs haven’t seen or heard of Padayappa, the giant wild tusker which roams the hill-resort and its tea plantations. In fact, tourists, keen on getting a snapshot of him, often enquire about his whereabouts. For his reputation for reasonably good behaviour precedes him wherever he goes.

The sight of Padayappa padding down the road will make even the stout-hearted quail — more so if one runs into him on a sharp curve. His appearance is quite formidable. Standing nearly 10 feet tall, his ragged ears flap languidly, his mud-caked flanks heave visibly and his massive tusks protrude menacingly.

Yet, local people have faith in Padayappa’s innate goodness. They believe he won’t harm anyone if left untroubled and allowed to eat what he wants. This tolerance sometimes sees him plunder fruit stalls and vegetable gardens at will. When people try to drive him away, he puts on a façade of aggressiveness which he soon sheds, though.

Padayappa once sociably barged into a football game. Knowing his amiability, the players stood their ground, albeit cautiously, and after a while he lumbered away, perhaps feeling like an unwanted behemoth among midgets. On another occasion, he graciously accepted a coconut, over a wall, from a discreetly distanced well-wisher. These unbelievable images can be viewed on the Internet.

Recently, while driving to Munnar at pre-dawn, we noticed a line of vehicles about 50 metres away, their headlights inexplicably switched off. A closer look revealed Padayappa amiably ambling along ahead of us, hardly 15 metres away. Realising that he was holding up traffic, he soon considerately moved to the very edge of the road. And as we crept past him, I could’ve easily reached out and patted him — he was so near! Yet he showed no signs of truculence.

gnettomunnar@rediffmail.com


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Printable version | May 28, 2022 7:33:16 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/fable-of-padayappa/article38307604.ece