P.B.No: 2230
Sasthamangalam P.O.
Thiruvananthapuram 695010

How Many Elephants Are Too Many?

In this country
of one billion people
and perhaps ten thousand elephants
how many would have seen an elephant?

An elephant in this country,
from Himachal to Arunanchal
and from Cambay to the Cape
where Vigneswara is a God
venerated, propitiated
so that ‘The Path’ is clear.

A country where ‘The Path’,
Dharma is so well trodden
over millennia of stepping together
all life, energy, matter in the cosmic dance.

How many Vigneswaras
will be too many
for this country
of one billion people
in search of ‘A Way’?

Elephant Country

Chaliyar, Moyar, Kabini, Cauvery
emaciated muddy rivers
names alone run.
Crumbling banks, gaunt bamboo,
leafless teak, lantana thickets,
fire scarred trees.
Circling their shrinking world
circular footprints of elephants.

Sylvan rivulets
buried under glittering reservoirs,
egrets, sunning cormorants.
Red welts of jeep roads
across green grass,
spotted doves,
eucalyptus, teak, sal
Dung heaps of elephants

Speckled and antlered
Ebony impassive
sweep of horns.
Ancestors in the trees.
And a fleet of elephantine bodies
sail ears flapping.
Invasion of people
Sanctuaries for tourists,
Wildlife and civilised people!

Expulsion of air and water,
a ‘whoosh’
from a sinuous trunk,
above an almost submerged head.
Bathing elephant
Dasaratha, time’s arrow,
before the dam.
River, forest, elephant, villages,
Flow of time.

Elephant Watching

In Periyar
from boats plying
along a dam drowned valley
people watch elephants.

Distant shapes across the waters
grey, earth brown.
Alone, in cowering groups
upon the shoulders
of hills
clothed only in burnt savannah.
Spluttering boat engines,
lapping of propeller wash
on muddy shores.
Winds, hills, silence.

Bunched up elephants
pillar legs,
low slung under bellies
hiding babies.
Mother’s eyes,
Seeing elephants.
Caps, cameras, binoculars
in unfamiliar fingers
hubbub, timidity, curiosity
reward for boat ticket!
Elephants seen.

Fleeing Images

On a morning,
wintery chill.
Mist drifting off
the still dark river waters.
Nebulous, elephants floating across.
Rain clouds bathing secretly.

On an afternoon
after a sudden shower,
as the sky
dropping haze and dust in rain drops
clears blue,
higher up in the slope,
out of the smudge of dark forest
into the rippling golden grass
two elephants.
One a little smaller,
trunks entwined
offerings of a tuft of grass
at the tip of one trunk.

In an evening
as the shadows darken
along the valleys,
upon the sharp crest
of a high grassy ridge
suddenly an elephant.
Almost white
against the deepest of skies
and dark rock.
Momentary, auspicious

Tones of black,
forest night.
Leaves rustling in the wind,
Compressing litter, twigs,
solid heavy feet.
White of ivory, moon beams?
A parade of dark forms, shadows?
Seen or imagined,
a herd of elephants.
Fireflies alone
have the light to see.

Elephant Worship

Baby elephant
of the temple.
In the land
of elephant temples.
Temples and elephants.
Sandal paste, kumkum
bells and adornments.
Obedience, reaching out for alms
(O God
they say
in Thailand
elephants are used for begging)

All the way from Bihar,
in far away Kerala.
By the bhaktha
an appeasement to God.
An elephant.
Unsure of commands human
language, different.

Molten tar,
noon road from temple to temple.
Chains, limiting speed.
No speeding up for Moksha!

Thundering vehicles,
stench of exhaust,
red reflectors
at the rear end at night,
to avoid cultural collision.

Long eyelashes
golden tearful eyes.
Parade of elephants,
Mad, maddening crowds
dust on soft nostrils,
thunderous crackers,
loudspeakers against
infrasonic herd chit chat.

Elephant dragging memories

Desecrated mountains
dozing patiently,
only as mountains can.
Dreaming of shades of leaves
shadows of clouds.
Chains clanging
elephant dragging
logs in the felled plantation.
Geometrical rows of tree trunks,
where barbs of light
played with
deep shadows.
Smell of sap, crushed leaves
dust and smoke.
And only the elephant can smell
herds gone long ago
when the mountain
was also younger.

In Search of Truth

We have our questions
You have to answer!
Tribal trackers, capture guns
radio collars, symposia.
We must know
why you eat
what you should not eat
when you are starving.
We must know
why you walk
so much out of your way
into our way
when you have nowhere left to go.
We must know
why you step on poor men
when our laws
do not permit inequalities
however big you may be.

Nothing but the truth!
We must have our answers.
In search of
Science, our truth,
we will give you the
serum of truth.