There are times when you happen to hear beautiful, tragic stories and you simply fail to notice. We are just a part of creation. We are unable to contemplate by ourselves the supreme idea behind the whole exercise of creation.
One evening I was sitting in my favorite hangout, a juice shop near my home. It may not be the expensive place ideal for couples to hang out but the guy there is so dedicated with his work that the quality standards are really high. So I go there most of the days after office. Another aim of me going there is to read the evening newspapers to get an idea of what happened in my city when I was busy at office.
That is when this story caught my eye.
Sabarimala is a pilgrimage centre down here in Kerala. There is a season when the temple will be open and there is a throng of devotees from Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu. Traffic will be heavy in these routes during these days. Special buses ferry passengers to and fro during this season. There are many historical and unhistorical temples lining this route. Devotees stop and seek the blessings on the way to Sabarimala.
It's on this route that the incident had happened. Kerala has got many people friendly and eco friendly laws that are never meant to be kept. Some of them are 'Do not smoke in public', 'Do not drink in public' and 'Do not spit in public'. Elephants are integral part of temples in Kerala. There are many households, temples and societies who keep elephants. It's a matter of prestige and sign of wealth for them. Owning an elephant is tough in terms of costs and most importantly it's tough to get a good mahout (known as pappaan in Malayalam). Since elephant is blessed with the intelligence of a human but cannot speak out, pappaan must be highly qualified, experienced and be close to the animal to understand its emotions. He must read when elephant is getting sick of the noisy processions and when he is not feeling well. A misinterpretation can cost many a lives.
Elephants and pappaans have been in the news in recent times for the wrong reasons. 'Elephant kills Pappaan'. 'Pappaan hurts the elephant'. Everything is because of the lack of mutual understanding between man and animal.
This is a story with a difference. After a temple procession pappaan stood smoking his beedi. (For those who don't know, beedi smoking is the ritual for unskilled labourers.) The elephant was standing nearby silently munching the food he was given as part of the festivities.
Policemen are the ones around who has the privilege to enjoy most number of bad days at the office. An interfering boss or a politician can piss him off. He may get punished for the wrongs some others did and others may get rewarded for some good deed he did.
Unfortunately there were a couple of pissed-off policemen in the vicinity. The cops called him over. A shiver passed through his spine. He put out his beedi as he went over to them.
'Don't you know that it is illegal to smoke in public?' He stood there silently. The policemen gave him the necessary medical treatment (typical police treatment- bending the patient down and planting heavy blows on the back). As if this wasn't enough our pappaan was taken to the police station and an unheard of case filed in his name.
But our policemen failed to saw the other guy standing and watching the whole episode- the elephant. He didn't like the incident a bit. Elephant raised a frightful cry as his pappaan was beaten and dragged by the policemen. May be he understood that something was wrong in the entire episode. Onlookers were frightened and ran for safety. If an elephant gets mad virtually nothing can possibly stop him from destruction and death. But the elephant wasn't mad. He went and stood in middle of the road. The entire traffic to Sabarimala got disrupted. Different mahouts came and tried to coax him with delicacies to move out from middle of the road. He didn't bother. Then efforts to frighten him by beating of drums and fire was tried. Still nothing big deal changed.
News spread like a wildfire that an elephant is fighting silently for the justice of his master. The superintendent of police came. He took stock of the situation. Of course, if it was a human who was in question diplomacy mixed with strong words could have solved the issue. But here SP can only be a spectator like others. He ordered the release of Pappaan and reinvestigation of the entire episode.
Anyways elephant ended his agitation on seeing his master.
I was thoroughly enjoying the story along with my juice when my eyes caught a guy whom I have seen at the gym. We exchanged smiles and got into the introduction part. We warmed up pretty soon to each other. I realized that he is pretty older than what I thought him to be. He was married with a kid (or two).
While we were exchanging details about our professions, personal lives, etc. he told me his story. The interval between his first and second child was pretty close. His wife was working in an IT firm. When she applied for the second maternity leave soon after the first, her employers were pissed off. They decided to squeeze the maximum out of her. So while pregnant, she was made to work long hours and always blamed for poor performance. Thanks to the extreme pressure she lost her baby. The company saved the cost of her going on leave.
An animal standing up for justice when other men failed to.