Travel Shot: The Man And His Friend, The Beast

When you are travelling, you sometimes walk into moments that touch something deep within you. You instinctively know you have got to lift up your camera, and commit the frame in front of you to eternity.

For instance, this picture of this man and his friend, the elephant, both of whom we met at the Adi Kumbeswarar temple in Kumbakonam. Note how I don’t use the word ‘mahout’ here, but ‘friend’. These two are, really and truly, good friends.

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The elephant, a baby actually, was handing out blessings to passersby, and accepting gifts of money or bananas in return. We watched as it placed its trunk, gently, on people’s heads.

The husband wanted the bub to have the experience of meeting an elephant up close and personal, but I resisted. I was super scared to do so. The daughter was neutral, but I knew, deep within, that the experience would only enrich her. We held back for the longest ever time, just watching the elephant and the man do their jobs.

We noticed how the elephant was unchained, dangerous probably, but no aura of fear emanated from it. Instead, it radiated peace and joy. It was, in fact, dancing, shaking one leg after the other, the bells around his neck jangling merrily. The man kept up a steady stream of chatter with the elephant, his tone sweet and friendly, and it seemed to talk back to him, equally lovingly. We watched as the man fed the elephant a couple of bananas, and then went on to peel and eat one himself. He proceeded to take a few sips of the filter coffee that lay beside him, then got up and asked the elephant to open his mouth. The elephant obliged, and the man poured the rest of the coffee into little one’s mouth. It slurped all of it up, happily.
Meanwhile, passersby continued to visit the elephant, bearing little gifts for them. We watched the gentle manner the elephant had in blessing them. We have had some rather harsh whacks from temple elephants elsewhere, so I know just how gentle this one was.

By then, I was okay. I had observed enough, relaxed enough. I was ready, poised with my camera, for the husband and the bub to go get their blessings from the jumbo. And they did, very, very gently. The bub absolutely loved the experience, and still talks about it excitedly. I am glad I let go of my own fears, and let her have the experience.

I’m not here to talk about animal rights or the injustices meted out to temple elephants. All I can talk about here is the beautiful bonding between these two friends that I witnessed, and how I conquered my fears for the bub. I understand I might be judged too, for letting my daughter go through a seemingly dangerous experience, but then, isn’t parenting all about letting go and not allowing our fears to interfere with our children realising their dreams? Parenting is also, I believe, about following your gut instinct, letting your heart decide what feels right at the moment. That is just what I did.

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