World Elephant Day: A Terrible Kind of Love


World Elephant Day: A Terrible Kind of Love

Illustration: Namaah/ Arré


ttempting to control a 2,700-kilo beast is a game of the heart. It is a daily dance of life and death. Ask Mani, who has spent 15 years with Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran, the tallest elephant in Kerala and the pride of the annual Pooram festival. He will tell you that the secret to overpowering a beast 40 times your body weight lies in faith and instinct. The beast is sensitive to every emotion of the man riding on his neck and Mani, in turn, is in sync with every mood of his gentle, but temperamental ward.

This spiritual connection is almost sacred – it is the reason that mahouts were once revered. Mahouts like Mani come from a long line of men, who have devoted their lives to elephants. Wisdom that has been passed down from generation to generation says that kindness, not force, is the easiest way to control an elephant, even if it takes time.