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On the Elephant

For all myths arise from truths...

sunny 40 °C

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By the time I saw the elephant I had already given up on it. We were shoeless, wandering around inside the Hampi temple's inner courtyard. In a granite enranceway, past a humming holy man adminstering fingerprints of powder on a couple childrens' foreheads or pouring a questionably opaqe liquid into a child' hand, to be drunk immdiately, we saw no sign of a massive beast. We quietly refused these religious services, for yesterday my attempt at finding the elephant at the source had led to being blessed and sent out the door, yet another elephantine failure. Well, 'failure' wouldn't be the right word. Diversion, perhaps. Or welcome distraction. Or 'blessing in disguise' so to say, though I have no clue what the old bearded and robed man was saying to me.

We pondered the human likeness of the mischevious monkeys, joked about the five hundred rupee charge for video cameras, on top of a two rupee entrance fee (all the other entrances, wide open, were too elusive for tourists to find) then it was there. In the middle of the temple-bracketed square in the morning sun, lifting a left foot and bowing before a shrine, turning and taking residence in a corner. How had we not noticed the elephant coming into the living room? He couldn't have already been here, we knew, for we'd scoured the somewhat ancient, somewhat eerie, and altogether dank caverns juxtaposed by the false light of buzzing flourescent bulbs that seem to be planted about the countryside indiscriminately. We discovered that this active temple served approximately the same purpose it did five hundred years ago, but now white people glowed like apparitions in the labyrinthine carved granite network of chambers and walkways.

The elephant, a dark beast with light freckles between his eyes, seem content enough. Meandering over to his corner, the eighteen year-old stood at attention. Indians with baskets of flowers and coconut offered the animal white hunks that dissapeared without a second glance. The elephant swung his trunk rhythmically, a heavy pendulum, each time around grasping a coconut, or if none was available, coyly lifting a foot and tapping it with his trunk. People held out coins, and as gracefully, and rapidly, as one could imagine, each coin was slipped from the trunk and into the keeper's hand. I didn't know how to hold the coin, but the heavy, thick-skinned, wiry hair-littered trunk found my hand and pulled the coin from it. I squoze my eyes shut, he patted me on the head like a good tourist. We went off on bicycles to spot the Queen's old elephant stables. Majestic.

Posted by jcooke 20:55 Archived in India Tagged animal

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