Born to be wild and free
MEETING A TUSKER
IN THE JUNGLE IS NOT ADVENTURE, SAYS MAXWELL PEREIRA.
An encounter with
elephants is not an everyday affair. And yet elephant stampedes
are not uncommon to come by. A report about the invasion of wile
elephants at Midnapore recently, took me back in years, to my teenage
Elephants still roamed
the jungles in plenty then, in the thick rain forests of the Western
Ghats. To get anywhere from Mangalore, one had to traverse through
the famous ghats of Charmadi, Shiradi, Agumbe and Bisale. The roads
were narrow and rickety, with landslides galore.
But those were days
filled with action and adventure, the wild bunch on the coffee estate
used to regale us with stories of valour and courage.
It was on one of
those nights that I heard the story about a newly-married ' planter'
who had taken his bride for a stroll in the jungle bamboo cluster.
Suddenly, they were accosted by a rogue elephant. The young bride
screamed. With it trunk, the rogue lofted the girl high and threw
her to the ground.
By exhibiting a rare
presence of mind that comes only from a long association with jungle
life, the husband took off his shirt and attracted the elephant's
attention before it lifted its foot to crush her, drew it away from
its victim to the shirt that he had manated to hang on a bamboo
He quickly lifted
his battered wife to the safety of the car and drove away, to live
and tell the tale to his grandchildren.
My first brush with
wile elephants was in the sixties. I was in the jeep with my father
driving back home after collecting the annuals spoils from our lands.
An overturned truck lay on its side in the middle of a narrow bridge
which meant that we had to take a long detour.
Dusk was approaching
as we bounced along the muddy road. Just as we neared to stream
which was flowing over the road at an unbridged culvert, we stopped
dead in our tracks. For silhouetted against the bend in the jungle
road, was a single elephant.
The tusker sauntered
over majestically, inspected the jeep, and exhibited its displeasure
by thrashing its trunk on the bonnet. This time too, my father,
using his instinct switched on the headlights, statling the animal
to veer to the side. That was the moment he was looking for. My
father stepped on the accelerator and drove non-stop till we reached
the estate, three hours later.
The last encounter
was during a posting in Sikkim in the late seventies, which was
even more frightening. I was visiting a young couple in an army
camp somewhere on the Siliguri-Guwahati highway with my wife and
two children. Out hosts lived in an improvised tin shed, with tin
sheets for wall and roof. It served them as a living, dining and
bedroom, with the kitchen thrown in at one corner.
No sooner had we
retired for the night when the ground began to shake and the night
was filled with the thunderous pound of while elephants running
and screeching. The house began to sway and suddenly, to our horror,
we saw a wall being torn away in the stampede. In a matter of minutes,
the invading tornado had passed not more than two to three feet
away from us.
The Whole camp had
come alive by then with 'marshals' and a lot of drumming with we
later learnt was regular drill for scaring the elephants. While
we suffered no injury, there were casualties in the camp.
The most vociferious
complaint came form the quarter master, whose liquor stocks had
been smashed. Apparently, elephants have a healthy attraction to
Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can
interact with the author at http://
www.maxwellperira.com and email@example.com
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