Tales from my youth - “An Elephant Story”

Blair Gowrie By Blair Gowrie, 27th Nov 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>True Stories

After being chained up for many years, the elephant wanted freedom.

Elephants have likes and dislikes too.

I once visited a Buddhist temple in the country. It had extensive grounds, with the usual temple buildings, and was largely wooded, the trees offering respite from the sun’s powerful rays. Under the trees was a small roofed, but open sided structure, with a concrete floor on which were a number of coarse wooden tables and stools. This was the temple canteen or fodshop,where visitors could have something to eat and drink.

Inside and around this place were vendors’ stalls and carts, and from these many kinds of food were available. It was possible to buy dishes such as spicy curries and soups - cooked up on gas stoves - local desserts, fruit and snacks, not to mention a range of iced or cold drinks.

Feeling hungry I ordered something and then walked in and sat down at one of the tables. After a few minutes I became aware of some large animate object moving about nearby, and on looking round was surprised to see a large elephant. It was peacefully eating some sugar-cane provided for it by some of the temple faithful. Then I noticed that it was shackled to a tree by a long chain, one end of which was locked on the animal’s right rear leg, and the other end attached to a tree. This chain was about twenty feet in length, allowing the elephant a certain freedom of movement.

On leaving this canteen I walked over to a vendor’s cart loaded with many kinds of fruit, but mostly bananas, some of which I purchased for the elephant. Striking up a conversation with the cart owner, a woman in her forties, I was informed that the elephant had been living in the temple for a long time, but for how long she didn’t know. And as to its age, she didn’t know either. But there was one interesting thing about this elephant that she did know – it didn’t like one of the other women vendors.

She motioned to a woman nearby who also had her own cart and sold what appeared to be local sweets and delicacies.

“That one”, she said.
“How do you know the elephant doesn’t like her”
“Well, every time she goes near, or walks past, the elephant will pick something up with its trunk and hurl it at her”
“Why?”
“Nobody knows”.

I took the bananas over to the elephant which eagerly reached out its trunk, picked them up, then thrust them into its mouth. I could see its beady little eyes fixed on me, and I remembered the old saying, “an elephant never forgets”.

After having seen all that there was to be seen in the temple I was on my way back to the entrance when I heard a slight commotion. I looked towards the elephant to find it using its trunk to throw assorted debris at a woman who was walking past. Yes, it was the same woman pointed out to me earlier.

“Of all the people who come here, it dislikes this woman only. But why?,” I asked myself. “There must be a reason. But perhaps she alone knows.”

I never did go back to that temple, but from time to time that elephant scene would cross my mind. Then one day, about ten years later, I woke up to find newspaper headlines screaming “ Elephant goes berserk”, or “Elephant runs amok”, and reading through the story was saddened to learn that this was the same elephant that I had seen there. It had broken free from its chain, run out into the road and started to attack and damage cars and threaten their owners. The police had been called in, and in the accompanying photograph I had a final sight of my elephant friend – lying spread-eagled in a roadside ditch, its hide punctured by a thousand bullets.

Tags

Amok, Bananas, Berserk, Buddhist Temple, Chain, Elephant, Headlines, Spicy Food, Trunk, Vendor

Meet the author

author avatar Blair Gowrie
Author of fiction, poetry, musicals and song lyrics.

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Comments

author avatar Val Mills
27th Nov 2011 (#)

That is such an incredibly sad story. I had an elephant experience recently, when i had an elephant ride in Phuket. Elephants are amazing animals but shouldn;t be kept in captivity.

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