It was a real bathos not only to my children but for me too on reaching the Saadivayal elephant camp. The hypothetical presumption of a male elephant that had been creating chaos in Mangarai, as described by my husband Coimbatore DFO S.Ramasubramanian, overwhelming the thought process, my eyes scrolled over the entire camp in search of a wild tusker. But all that I could spot were Pari and Sujai, the two tamed kumkis, dancing merrily flapping their ears apart from a sweet little fellow, around five feet. As he was a new comer to the camp our entire attention fell upon him.
He was a cute little male jumbo, around four years old. Saliva was dripping off his little jaws like a toddler as he munched the juicy corns. But it was really funny to see the most experienced mahouts tie up the corns to a long pole and offer them to him from quite a distance. This was something new to me and when I enquired the reality was hard to digest.
The forest staff said he was the one who was captured while discommoding the residents of Mangarai. I could not believe that this baby could ever create so much commotion to be hitting the hot news about Coimbatore forests. I was told that the baby jumbo was caught red handed while gulping rice and jaggery from the kitchen in one of the forest staff quarters in Mangarai.
The ludicrous fact was that kumki Pari, all the way from Saadivayal camp, was engaged to control and take him into safety. Though a gigantic animal weighing over a tonne, he appeared just a toddler to me. Abandoned by his mother post-weaning, the little fellow just like any other kid, had started throwing tantrums, attracting everyone’s attention. That’s what my motherly instincts could perceive.
If it were a human child, the parents would have either lost their patience and dealt with him fiercely or would have composed him showering all the love and attention that the child needed. But being a gigantic toddler, rather I would call him, abandoned by his mom, he had to be handled so punctiliously with utmost care. The huge baby, without his mama’s supervision, puzzled about what to eat, having been pushed to fetch his own food, had entered the habitations to meet his appetite. In the process, he was creating panic amidst the residents.
But the close eye contact with the baby, in my pampering tone, a few yards away from him, as the staff had warned me of his erratic behaviour, conceded his yearning look for love and care. I wished I could give him a tight hug and kiss him on his fluffy forehead. But as an abandoned baby, the coercive attitude he had splashed cautioned my human instincts to keep distance from him.
Rubbernecking him I left the camp helplessly heavy-hearted. Friday, April 14, when my husband had vamoosed at dawn to unleash him back to wilderness, as per the norms, all I could see was a perturbed look on his face, as how the baby was going to get acclimatized with new herds sans his mom. Having taken the best possible care of the little fellow for a month at the Saadivayal camp, the entire forest team under range officer Dinesh was so anxious about how he was going to sync with new herds in the wild.
At 11pm when my husband returned home, I could make out the contentment in his looks, in spite of being tired. He was so happy for having transported him from the camp safely under medical supervision of veterinary expert Dr.Manoharan, into the forests at Perumpallam, appointing staff as usual to supervise the little fellow for a fortnight and ensure his safety and harmony with the wild herds. It was around 1 am that he asked one of the staffs about the little one’s whereabouts.
Queries continued every another hour. But yesterday around 4 am the news about his return to the Ansur forest checkpost, in search of food, having got used to spoon-feeding, forced my husband to rush immediately at dawn to deal with the naughty boy as he described him.
The baby jumbo having tasted the food offered to camp elephants, had rushed to the check post office to supplicate for his appetite, in the methodology his little brain directed him. After gulping the puffed rice from the check post office the baby entered a house in Adhimadayanoor village to fill his belly where he was caught red handed once again, tranquilized cautiously and relocated safely to Kozhikamuthi elephant camp at Varagaliyar, Topslip, in the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park.
The moment I received a call from my husband I understood that the baby was safe! My husband vignetted him as the cutest and most mischievous elephant calf he had come across. We took a breath of contentment that the baby had alas found a happy abode to meet his hankering hunger with companions to drive away his boredom. Adieu baby jumbo! Bon appetit!!
(The author of the column is Uma Ram, freelance writer from Coimbatore)
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own.