A tete with the elephants


(Sinister JAWS soundtrack-no screams)

My evening was very pleasant with having received a slice of watermelon(when I was craving some!) from Madesh as I passed her house, having settled my tab with Subbaroo at the shop in the corner, been asked to join Rajendran for  a vada in the ‘bistro’ opposite, having  received a broom as a gift from our neighbor and a ladoo from an elated new father at the hospital I was feeling quite pleased with myself when I was picked by the ambulance on the way to the hospital to resuscitate a dehydrated old lady .

During the day sometime one of the drivers had in passing mentioned the presence of elephants somewhere around the valley that had migrated from the Sittheri hill forests  (for those of you who do not remember the Sittilingi valley is nestled in between the Sittheri and Kalrayan hill ranges) .

The day ended with me writing some discharge summaries for the next day as I was supposed to leave for Vellimali early the next morning. Exchanging life stories, philosophy and marriage advice with Backi and big Vijiya we were interrupted by Mani who was out of breath as he had come running to inform us that the elephants were on the Sitthilingi main road. Vijiya’s first reaction was to run out to the hospital  gate and latch it with an unmatched ferocity ( to refresh memories the gate is made of welded rods and is probably about 4 feet high.)She came back with an expression similar to Qin Shi Huang’s after having commenced the building of Great Wall of China (have never met him but I imagine he was quite pleased with himself). A call to her husband who was supposed to be out calmed her when he told her he was safe and sound at home and the kids were safely tucked in.

Mani having not been too particular about the volume of his warning served to throw both the wards into panic and we were surrounded by worried patients and relatives almost immediately. While trying to calm everyone we heard shouts in the distance and loud noises probably crackers quite close to the hospital. As usual in such a situation everyone wants to see whatever it is first hand and rushed to the hospital gate (us included). It was too dark to discern any details and we soon got bored of standing vigil (Vijiya still kept looking at the gate to see if anyone dared to tamper with her security measures). I headed back to the ward and was putting in a few finishing touches (A discharge summary is a doctors’ canvas in my humble opinion).A good Samaritan came running to tell the expectant group that the elephants were at the junction of the three roads (to refresh memories that is the place to be and be seen- downtown Sittilingi) and seemed to be chilling there for a bit. Another informant soon came by to say that they were headed in the direction of G and Tha’s house! G not being in town I lost no time in calling Tha who already seemed to have been informed by Anu (who had  received such intelligence much earlier).Ravi flanked by Varsha and Prema joined us soon with his ever ready camera.

The pachyderms six in number soon ambled along the road towards the hospital. Madesh who lives on the main road for reasons known only to her grabbed both her children and sat in the jeep in front of her house! (tinted glass scares elephants you see/ speedy getaway -mobile).If it weren’t for the angry mob following the herd you would have though it a commonplace occurrence with the calm demeanor of the elephants who seemed not too flustered with all the ruckus they were creating. They calmly entered the fields close by and were grazing quite contently till they were chased away by the now agitated mob. They then entered Dharman’s field (right opposite the hospital) when all hell broke loose .The villagers now infused with the courage of numbers began inching closer and closer to the elephants with long torches with the hope of scaring them away (their bravado bordering stupidity). We were able to discern their dark shapes with the flashlights continuously beaming in their direction and it was quite a sight! Someone managed to enrage the Matriarch who charged at the offender and set off a stampede with everyone running to the hospital for protection (Vijiya’s gate closing had served to inspired a lot of confidence by then).After few minutes of exchanging elephant trivia(we could have been in the Jurassic era for all the truth it contained) everyone migrated again towards the elephants and were ogling at them open eyed. The pantomime continued and it got quite tiring when they ran in for the fifth time! One of the herd got separated suddenly and was trumpeting quite fearfully while scaring the living daylights out of Dharman’s cattle that were tethered close by .The torches now having given out were replaced by the hay that Dharman had collected for his cows and he threw his hands up in frustration when no one would listen to him telling them to leave his fields alone. The forest guard turned up in a jeep with blinding fog lamps (in the middle of summer with clear skies) and piled with personnel , only to stare at the melee dumbfounded and unresponsive.

The farmers were successful in chasing them away at last and they went past the bridge towards the forest. That not being enough I heard from Mani (the driver) that the men chased them till four in the morning into the forest (a wild night out).

Many issues come up here 1)The obvious one being that the elephants are displaced and need to be rehabilitated 2)The   Forest guard need to be more proactive and take up their responsibilities with vigor 3) There has to be sensitization of farmers towards wild animals more for self preservation than anything else (an elephant on a rampage if angered sufficiently cannot be good for health) 4)Compensation packages to be allotted in a hassle free manner to make up for loss of produce  and to reduce the resentment towards the offenders.5)There having been no rains this year farmers have toiled day and night to ensure their livelihood for a season and elephants trampling over their fields and binging on their crops in surely not going to evoke affection-empathy.

Hope you enjoyed reading the  “WHEN ELEPHANTS ATTACK”

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