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An elephantine dream…

December 4, 2016

Recently I was master of ceremonies in my speech club. It was my first time taking the central stage, compering any event. I was nervous. I had only 4 days to prepare. I saw the slot lying vacant and volunteered for it because I knew I had to do it sooner or later. Why not try it out? I must say it did help me with shedding much of my stage fear.

I chose to speak about Elephants, my first love. I was doubtful whether it would be admissible as the theme of the evening, but the man in charge of affairs himself is from the elephant country Africa, so he gave me ‘thumbs up’ signal with a smile.

I was surprised that my topic was very well received. I had the advantage of pausing in between speeches, to refer to notes. But I spoke on free will, did not depend on notes that I used only for clues.

What took the cake that day was the discovery I made: that many members hadn’t even seen an elephant in real. They were the most impressed by my presentation. Later someone from a west Asian nation came and asked me why I did not use visual aids. He confessed, he never thought much about wildlife, and he had seen elephants only in tv screen or as pictures in magazines, but he now very badly wanted to tour Africa or Asia to look at elephants in real life. ‘You meant something like elephants are spiritual?’ he asked, and I said, ‘yes, as a Hindu i have a spiritual connection with the elephants.’ He was from arab country so no point in explaining things to him. If he had been from Bangladesh/Pakistan/Sri Lanka/Malaysia/Singapore, he would have understood and wouldn’t have raised the point at all with me. But he said, what fascinated him about elephants was the spiritual connect I mentioned. ‘If you think so, then there must be something special about elephants’ he said, ‘and may be that’s why they are the most intelligent species among wild life, so wise and matriarchal.’

I was happy I made someone think so deeply about elephants.

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Of similar interest:

https://vijiravin.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/stop-cruelty-to-elephants-in-the-name-of-religion-now/

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Other men said, I looked visibly emotional. ‘Why so much emotion for elephants?!’ they wanted to know, ‘we can sense your connection!’ Neither did the Europeans seem to understand the Elephant species. One or two had been to South Africa or Thailand, but there wasn’t much over safari to think about. An adventure to them apparently – the game reserves were, nothing more.

Someone from Kerala countered me saying, elephants were looked after well on domestication in Kerala temples. It was not like I alleged, that they were ill-treated. ‘There is no enough food for all elephants in the forests’ he claimed. I argued back that it sounded like a very feeble excuse. ‘You are doing it for tourism’ I said.

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Also Read:

https://vijiravin.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/book-review-the-tusk-that-did-the-damage-by-tania-james/

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But by the end of the day, I received rave reviews. Everyone said, the theme was off-beat, original and reflected my heart-felt sentiments that gave it the air of authenticity. They all said, they never cared for wildlife or for any pets or domesticated animals/birds much until that day. One or two spoke about their pets like cat or dog. But mostly I drew a nil from them in the initial round-robin thing in which everyone was invited to share his/her view on wildlife.

For me, carrying across the point, making a handful of men and women think about wildlife, feel for wildlife, think about elephants, care for elephants even for a mere 2.5 hours, was a miraculous feat – or perhaps dream come true.

I told them I did my part to the elephants, I owe it to them coming from the Elephant country India where we love and respect and care for all living creatures – birds, animals, insects… What I did not tell them was that, each Hindu God had a vaahan (vehicle of His/Her own, usually either a bird or animal), a tree (each Hindu temple has what we call ‘thala vriksham’ – means tree of the shrine/area which is like the theme of the temple). Hindus marry neem tree to peepal tree in temples. We live close to nature, worshiping nature. We leave milk for snakes in temples.

One reason I am able to cook non-vegetarian cuisine without tasting it is, most of us atleast until 10-20 years back would not touch food without offering it to Gods first and the crows. Even today at least on auspicious days, all Hindus observe it. Whereas in foreign countries they shoot the crows for dirtying the cities, we in India, give them food. This is what helps me now when it comes to non-veg cooking without having to sample the meat or taste the food for checking salt etc. Ours is always guess work.

But there is no point in explaining these things to outsiders. No muslim or christian can understand how a Hindu can relate to other living creatures. Try telling anyone about how you worship trees, plants, animals and birds, they will laugh at you. But we are the people who worship even books and musical instruments – the inanimate objects. Even if our foot touches a text book or any object like fridge for instance, we touch it to our eyes saying sorry. How do you think anyone would understand or appreciate this culture?

I did not attempt to refer to anything Hindu in my theme. Still I got through to my audience. With this audience, even if they were largely christian and muslim, I could have tried explaining. They’re mature people generally appreciative of goodness in others, still I abstained because as a policy we don’t talk sex, politics, religion in our clubs. Some do violate these principles, but I would rather not. I did not even want to make a slight reference to religion. I merely mentioned something like ‘fortunate to be blessed by an elephant’ and the clever guys caught on with it! They immediately made the connection to spirituality and Hindus … I was really touched. What a sensitive people. ‘We want to be blessed by elephants too’ they said and I could n’t have asked for more.

Even if you can think and feel for elephants for 2 minutes: my goal is achieved.

Think Elephant. Love Elephant. Save Elephant.

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