The elephant in our home’s backyard

We watched the animal for a while and then, as he began to close his eyes drowsily, we reluctantly went to bed ourselves.

There is something about elephants that brings out the child in me. So I was as excited as my small sons were when there was an elephant in our backyard as our overnight guest.It happened many years ago—an elephant was being taken on foot from one town to another. He was to spend the night in our town and the mahout asked us if we would put him up for the night in our backyard. Of course we agreed! My husband, who is in the timber business, has a great fondness for these intelligent animals. He has enjoyed the benefit of their strength when transporting logs from deep inside forests.

The elephant was a semi-adult male named Abhimanyu. He did not seem to mind all the attention he got. Many of our neighbours came to see the elephant where he was chained in the yard. Our night watchman brought his whole family, mostly consisting of numerous small grandchildren, to see the visitor.

After a speedy dinner, my children and I trooped to the end of our yard where our guest was enjoying our hospitality. The mahout slept in the open near the elephant while Abhimanyu slumbered standing up, chained to a tree. We came bearing snacks for the jumbo. Abhimanyu had already finished his dinner that the mahout fed him, but he looked up interestedly when he saw us approaching laden with fruits. He nodded and swayed his trunk and then held out the trunk to receive the gifts.

On my husband’s advice, we had not cut any of the fruits. It was unbelievable how he swallowed the fruits whole. At first we offered him the favourite fruit of elephants—bananas. We held out an entire banana stem consisting of about 30 ripe bananas. He swallowed the entire stem of fruit in seconds and then held out his trunk once more. Next we offered him some pineapples.

Imagine our amazement when he swallowed the whole pineapples, including the spines, without choking! The last delicacy was a medium-sized jackfruit—this too went smoothly down his gullet, prickly peel, seeds and all! He searched our empty hands for more treats, and finding none, he simply stood quietly, swaying his trunk gently.

We watched the animal for a while and then, as he began to close his eyes drowsily, we reluctantly went to bed ourselves. The next day, Abhimanyu left with his mahout before dawn and we never saw him again.

Pragati Nayak

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