Elephants on the River

(Elephish: Mariamman Teppakulam Pic by me)

The bridge that connects the East with the West also overlooks a cluster of islands. The islands are green and in parts washed in black industrial silt. The river, of course, is black, lazy, and exhausted. Impervious even to sunrays.

On one of these islands is seen an elephant, sometimes two or even three. Seemingly walking on the river. On its black and tired waters. The elephants hover above the river, like black clouds on stilts, five in number. From the bridge the elephants seem puny and out of place, grazing, or what looks like grazing, keeping a conscious distance from the herds of buffaloes nearby. These elephants have become individualistic. They have abandoned their herd instinct. Or maybe they've found another herd in humans for whom they now work. Or perhaps, elephantine memory is just a human construct.

The elephants live here.

The road to the East is littered with hand-painted signboards. Yahan Pe Haathi Rehte Hain. 'This is where elephants live'. The hand-painted signboards point to a cluster of slums. The elephants live there. These are showelephants--like showmen and women--earning a livelihood by gracing special occasions in gold and velvet caparisons. When not showing they are slumming. Living in the worst of human habitats. Far away from their natural homes in the forests.

Diagonally across, on the other side of the river is the State Secretariat, where laws are made and amended. It's a FACTORY OF LAWS in there.

But the elephants don't know that. They also don't know that there's a law against showanimals.

If you go to the East often or if you live there, you'd find these creatures on the road, ferrying their masters from one special occasion to another. Sometimes, you can also see them carrying sheaves of grass and leaves. Their humble pies.

At home in the slums, these elephants eat their humble pies and dream of being human, in another life.


  1. I've seen that sign. Many years ago, I had to cross the bridge twice a week to work at the Shahdara Hospital. I would see the elephants on every crossing, tired, cross, painted in garish colours.

    I think the bus drivers, used to be apprehensive, what if the elephant decides to actually implement some of those laws his/her way?

  2. And with good reason were the drivers scared. After humans I think it's the elephants who have a mind of their own.

  3. so what would the elephants do? you know, when they become human, as they're dreaming towards... can you dream towards anything? would that promise an arrival at the end of the story?

  4. Don't we sometimes dream of being born in the lap of luxury? Why do we dream such dreams?

    And of course, every end is the beginning of something else, isn't that how things work??

  5. Oh, I have seen them. Those elephants are hardly ever taken care off!

    But they are very comfortable in human company. Do they have a choice otherwise?

    But majestic creatures, these elephants!!

  6. U'r right, they don't. But they're not the first species to be abused by humans. An example closer home would be of the monkeys. First we fed them in the temples, treated them like gods and then when they started occupying our habitats (mostly because we destroyed theirs) we call them a menace.

  7. elephants dreaming of being human.wow.

    btw, have u noticed that bus stop with the poetic name - rainy well.its on the same road.

  8. Yeah, I have and always wondered why it's called that. BTW it's goes well with your name ;-)

  9. One day my frivolity will get the better of me!

    But I suppose everyone knows how I feel about elephants (and rivers).

  10. i went all the way to that part of the world and never managed to see one.

  11. Hello, my Bodhi namesake!

    I just thought I'd drop in to check things out, especially since you were so kind to leave me a message in my LiveJournal.

    Your elephant observations are amazing. I have elephant dreams on my mind now. I wonder if they'd know how to get the spaceship off the ground?

    (coyotespirit at LJ)

  12. What good would it do to elephants to be human?!!Aren't most animals better off with their sixth sense!!Hightime we humans eat humble pie to realise animals are far superior than us!!Ever wondered how most animals survived the tsumani but members of our superior race didn't - with all the 'super-sophisticated' intelligence and technology!!

  13. Hey Sara,
    They elephants could get the spacecraft off the ground... if you tried, that is.

    Moral of the story: we must never ignore the voice of the voiceless, no?


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