She pushed further down, as her steady eyes looked at him. His ears flapped at the crush of dried leaves, silenced beneath her hind legs. He gently started at her, as she raised her head and understood that it’s just about time. Clear fluid started to drip down her legs, and she opened her mouth, yet remained completely silent. She curled her trunk around his tusk. Since the very first time she did that, he knew that he couldn’t leave her, ever. And holding him like that, was all that she ever did, to tell how dear he was to her.
Within moments, the leaves drenched in a gush of yellowish fluid, and the baby struck the ground. She finally shifted her weight on all fours, and turned to look down. There wasn’t any movement. She knew it would take some time. She started poking it gently, with the tip of her trunk. Few minutes passed, and the baby received the first kick from his mother. The tiny fore legs tried to push down on the ground and relaxed again. Another kick on the back, and he stood up, trembling awkwardly, wanting to lie down again. He took pushes from his mother like that for an hour, till he had enough of his first walk, which was the most crucial, and she let him rest under a tree. She blushed when she found that her dearest was watching her all the time, silently. He walked up to her, and she held his tusk.
Cuddled up to her son under the tree, she was suckling him, when her ears caught the rumble of the jeeps. Struck with panic, she instantly got up on her fore legs. Her dearest was looking all around. When the direction of approach was clear, he signalled them to run away. Men came now and then to that jungle, to take away the young ones. The younger, the better, for they’d be easier to train. She wouldn’t want to leave him alone, but reluctantly started away from him, as he shook his head. After all, he was the mightiest one among the grownups. No man who came this far into the jungle would be stupid enough to try and capture him for training, and she knew it. But she couldn’t know that the state-laws for hunting were revised that last week, and the men who came now, weren’t there for the young ones.
She got the herd with her and returned to the tree by nightfall. Wet patches that drenched his skin with tears hours ago, were now starting to dry up over his motionless body. Her roar shook the forest.
Her dearest lay under the tree, his legs tied up, and his carcass pierced under the belly by a long spear. The men didn’t care to pull that out, for they had pulled out something else, far more valuable. The symbol of his might. She curled her trunk in the air where his mighty tusks once were, and the tip of her trunk met with his still wet blood. She hit the tree with her forehead, grumbling and looking at him, hoping to bring him back to life, while the members of his herd kept roaring, and tried in vain to snap the knots around his legs. By dawn, his carcass was lowered into the muddy pond, at the bottom of which all his ancestors rested. The knots were never snapped.
She cried at irregular intervals in the weeks that came. She ate lesser and grew weak. She weaned her son, and shortly after, she died. Elephants remember everything. They do not forget the curves of path they traversed when they were only months old, even by the time they are only months away to meet their departed ancestors. And he never forgot how he was orphaned, and never forgot the rumble of the jeeps.
He went astray and got himself trapped in a cage among the bushes, the next month. His mother would have guided him better, only if. By the time the sedatives loosened their grip over his senses, he found himself among the humans, and miles away from his home, which he would never see again. And he was chained and fed and trained for years, till his tusks grew strong enough to support the girls who performed the stunts.
The owner was a kind woman. She was fond of him, though she whipped him at intervals to ensure control. She hailed him as her most favourite pet, for he performed the best, and he was the most docile one, amongst his peers. His acts would be a standard presence in all her shows, and any new tricks, she would introduce only after he had finished first. Yet, she forced herself to kill him, when he went mad.
He had finished his best performance till date, and was about to move back into his cage behind the tent, when he suddenly started to let out violent grunts and ran into the crowd, scaring everyone, for the reasons she couldn’t fathom. Even the girl, thought to be the bravest in the crew, who just came centre stage to perform the new trick in her jeep, jumped off and ran away at his sudden rage.
Situation was getting out of control and audience were getting injured. The owner took out her rifle and reluctantly shot him in the head. She apologised to the crowd that now settled a bit, after witnessing his final roar. Later that evening, she asked her men to bury him in the woods nearby, which they did, but only after pulling out his mighty tusks.
At least, he was killed first.
– Avinash Kumar