Elephant Love Medley
Reflection #3, July 26, 2014
“If you had to feed your starving family and your only choice was to either kill an elephant for it’s tusks or die, what would you chose?”
This question, posed by one dialogue student to another after seeing tusks used as decoration in the Mysore Palace, is a trivial one in my opinion. Obviously, if your family is starving and you love them then you’ll do anything for them but on the other hand, how could you kill such a beautiful and majestic animal simply to sell off it’s tusks? It’s hard to say where your morals lie when it comes to questions like these, but that’s not what my reflection is on.
Just one short hour after I overheard that trivial question, our group happened upon a small patch of grass in the middle of a courtyard, that held within it, two defeated elephants and two seemingly exhausted camels who’s sole purpose seemed to be to entertain the passerby, for a price.
As I stood up on the ledge and looked on towards the camels, a man yelled “100 rupees for elephant ride!” I realized as I looked up that one elephant was parading six full grown people on it’s back to the middle of the patch of grass where a man took a photo of the unlikely bunch, but only after the elephant raised its front right leg in a painfully depressing pose.
The man next to me continued to yell the sale until Sagar requested that he stop as he noticed I was getting more upset with each pitch. As students from our group congregated around one elephant to take photos with the exploited animal, I watched as the other collected rupees from those same people who were just riding him and handed the money up from his trunk to the man on his back before placing his trunk on the paying customers head for a photo. I could feel my face getting hot. I looked on one last time at the camels kneeling on the ground and my heart seemed to break.
I walked away, past the students taking photos with the elephant and as they laughed at the tricks that it was trained to perform, the tears came. I’ve never been one to advocate for animal rights or preach about animal cruelty. I don’t agree with it all of course, I don’t want animals to be in pain but I do eat them on a daily basis. I’ve even ridden elephants and camels as a child at the zoo, but something about this sad little patch of drying grass where these animals were being seemingly exploited, made my chest heavy and cheeks warm with tears, my heart literally broke for them.
I can’t explain where it all came from, if it was due to the cold I’d been battling for the past few days, the lack of sleep, the cultural differences of this country or a combination of all those things, but I had to walk away and ignore the patch of grass at all costs to keep myself from breaking down even further.
India has been a new experience for me in so many ways but animals are kept and exploited this way in America too, so what was it about these that really hit me? I’m not sure, but I know that something about this experience has switched a gear in my mind and moved me in ways I didn’t know I was capable of.