So I've been hibernating. Well, not from life, but from blogs and the such. Sometimes when you have all the time in the world, you never get anything done - greatest truth in the world. I still don't have a job at the moment, but I don't have a minute to spare! Figure that out!
For those who have been messaging and for others who have been wondering, I am still without a job. Mainly because I refuse to apply to jobs that I feel are not 'my type'. It's better to have a little less money in the bank than to drag yourself to a place everyday for the job - I just don't subscribe to that. I am going strong on that thought for now. Before things change and I too start feeling the desperation, I have decided to enjoy these days. Which means I roam around in my bicycle, am reading and eating a LOT, getting my fitness levels back and in general connecting with myself once again. And it does feel good.
So it happened that I was browsing through the modest collection of books at my library on an unventful day and something caught my eye.
Seeing the Elephant
The ties that bind elephants and humans
Eric SciglianoFor millennia, people all over the world have revered, adored and exploited elephants. In Thailand, a pregnant woman might duck under an elephant's belly to encourage an easy delivery; a tycoon has built an elephant-shaped skyscraper; and pirate loggers feed amphetamines to their elephants to make them haul backbreaking loads. In India, worshippers dance with gilded tuskers at ecstatic temple festivals. Scientists have proposed to restore lost ecosystems by reintroducing the elephants and mammoths that once ruled them. And generation after generation of readers have delighted in Babar, Horton and Dumbo. In a kaleidoscopic account rich in historic lore, surprising science and exotic adventure, Eric Scigliano traces an enduring, extraordinary relationship between species and shows how it still haunts and inspires us today.
I come from a small town that's home to elephants and the pooram (mother of all festivals) and where elephant dung on the road is not a strange sight, and if there's a traffic jam, the culprit could be an elephant slowly making it's way through in the sexy Gajagamini way. My father is a self-confessed elephant-lover, who, if not for my mother, would have by now had an elephant for a pet and would have pampered it like no other. Now this might sound a little ludicrous, but every-time I've had an elephant near me, I always felt uneasy, always felt that the creature was somehow trying to reach out to me - if only it could talk. The feeling was so strong, at times, I have waited expectantly for something to happen.
So I picked up the book without another thought - and I haven't put it down ever since. The long winding narrative could be a turn-off at times, but the topic is so fascinating, I usually don't notice it. This book seems to be product of a life-long research and it is a life well-spent I would say. It talks about hear-says from all over the world about the mostly-ignored Asian elephants and scientific facts about why some of them could be true. The rest of the book is a historic look at the influence elephants have had in the development (or the lack of it) on several countries. There are also interesting passages about mammoths, a very detailed look at the poorams of Kerala, Ganesha - the elephant-headed God, elephants as war-machines, circuses and zoos, Ivory - white gold, and so much more. All I can say is I am hooked.
For those who are interested so far, here's some fascinating excerpts from the book just to get your started from the first chapter
The people of India assert that the tongue of the elephant is upside down, and if it were not for that, it would have spoken.I swear, I would agree with that!
Muhammad Ibn Musa Kamal ad-Din ad-Damiri, Hayat al-Hayawan (1371)
Such a massive creature, yet it eats only plants!At least, it wouldn't have to worry about the five-a-day rule!
And put to good use too, when given a chance: the artist in the elephant!
Its nose and upper lip have fused to form a fifth limb, a trunk, the original multipurpose tool: a crane, forceps, whip, vise, noose, snorkel, shower, vacuum, jet blower, trumpet, bludgeon, and probe - a supple, writhing tentacle, moved by some sixty thousand muscles, which seems a thing of the sea, a precise but mighty instrument that can lift a log or a grain of rice and snap a man's back - as John Van Couvering of the American Museum of Natural History puts it, "the ultimate in giant mammal design."
I have heard of stories of elephants ransacking toddy shops in Kerala. A true blood Mallu!
Elephants live sixty to eighty years, the same span as humans, if they are not killed by humans first and don't wreck their health through bad habits; they also enjoy alcohol, and 19th century captives were often given ale or whisky to calm or reward them, and even as daily rations. The ploy sometimes backfired: some elephants were gushy, maudlin drunks and some turned mean - again, just like us. Three of P.T. Barnum's elephants once too a chill after some winter labors and were given three bottles of whisky each. The next day, now recovered, they put on the shivers to get more medicine!
Lieutenant Colonel J. H, Williams, the legendary "Elephant Bill" who led elephant-borne refugees out of wartime Burma, spotted timber elephants plugging the wooden bells around their necks with mud, then sneaking silently into their masters' gardens to steals bananas. A wild South African elephant was observed digging a drinking hole, then plugging it with a large ball of chewed-up bark, concealing it with sand and returning later to drink again. This suggests several behaviours once considered uniquely human: invention, foresight, deception and making and using tools. Elephants have also fabricated fly swatters, back scratchers, water sops and poultices.
Elephant flatulence is nothing next to elephant diarrhea. There's an instance where a zookeeper was knocked over by the 'torrent', passed out and suffocated to death under the dung.What a way to die!
The nearest equivalent to the taming of elephants is not the domestication of cats or cattle. It is the employment of humans by other humans - or their enslavement. Despite having one of the longest, richest and most intimate associations with humankind of all animals (parasites excluded), the elephant has never been truly domesticated. It has never been bred for domesticity or, until very recently, captive-bred in significant numbers at all. Until the decline in wild elephants' numbers forced bans on their capture, nearly all captive elephants were caught wild or (in Asian logging camps) born from captive females allowed to mate with wild males. Thus, while a fat Hereford scarcely resembles its wild ancestors, and adachshund looks not at all like a wolf, today's "domestic" elephants are still in form and genome full-fledged members of the wild stock, a fact some elephant breeders claim could save that stock if captive-bred animals can be used to replenish it.This means that unlike beagles, bantams, and other animals bred to the bridle or feedlot, elephants are not wired for the tasks humans want them to do; they must be persuaded. Cooperation and coercion, partnership and intimidation, infuse their training and employment.
If you are piqued, pick up the book and say thanks!
Ivory was used to make billiard balls and keys of piano. More than a million elephants have lost their lives so that humankind could play knocking some balls around in a table with holes in the corner.
PS: 'Seeing the elephant' is also an English idiom.
I maybe unemployed, but I've seen the elephant for sure! :)