A random collection of Reflections on my experience of life...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A Delightful Read: The Elephant turns into a Tiger...

Very rarely do we find needles in a haystack and even rarely, gems in a stone pile. Well, I did discover a gem of an article on a wild cruize through the jungle we call the internet. Its a beautifully crafted story explaining the history and growth of India from a neutral perspective (I dont buy the we-are-the-best norm without substantiating :)).

Oh, and btw this one is written by Shashi Tharoor, India's nominee for the post of UN secG. Happy Reading!

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Miracle of miracles! All the animals came to look, and admire. Some were afraid: imagine the strength of a tiger within the size of an elephant! What would happen to the rest of the jungle? Others said there was no reason to worry: whatever stripes she grew, the elephant would always be an elephant at heart


Once upon a time, in a hot and humid jungle (though one with stretches known better for heat and dust), there lived an old elephant. She was a big, slow, lumbering elephant, with a long but not always happy history, and it was widely accepted that she had known better days.

She was prone, the other animals knew, to lie back and scratch herself and talk nostalgically about the glorious past, her great accomplishments in times long gone by, but when the other animals listened they did not forget that that was really a long time ago.

After all, for some time, the elephant's own stretch of the jungle had come under the sway of a fierce lion from far away. Despite her size and strength, the elephant had proved no match for the lion and had been cowed into submission, until the day when the lion, tired of subduing distant lands, had finally slunk away.

Despite this experience, the elephant tended to lecture the other animals, secure in the conviction that she had all the answers.

She would raise her trunk and trumpet her views about the right way to do things, the correct manner of living, the ideal principles according to which to organise the jungle, and the other animals would nod politely, trying not to point out that the elephant herself hadn't done all that well, and that she was visibly becoming a bit mangy and flea-infested.

She certainly was not the strongest animal in the jungle, for her way of doing things meant that she did not grow as big and strong as she might have. (The other animals, not entirely kindly, spoke somewhat patronisingly of "the elephant's rate of growth").

She was large, of course, and that meant she could never be entirely ignored; as she came steadily, unblinkingly (and unthinkingly) on, the smaller animals at least had to get out of the way. But the number of animals who did as she did, and lived as she told them to, dwindled with each passing season.

In another part of the jungle, to the south-east, another group of animals was faring much better than our elephant. They were a sleek band of tigers, their stripes glistening in the sun that seemed inevitably to shine on their patch of forest.

The tigers were lithe and well-muscled; they ate well, they bounded about, and they grew strong and contented. While tourists still came occasionally to photograph the elephant, the tigers attracted swarms of visitors, who took pictures and films which framed the tigers' fearful symmetry.

The visitors also gushed about the greenness of the grass the tigers grazed on, brought them ever more food and water, and stroked their backs till their coats glittered.

If the elephant noticed what was going on, she pretended not to; far from wondering what shoulder and what art might have twisted the sinews of the tigers' heart, she acted as if the good fortune of such small little creatures was of no consequence for an animal as large and important as an elephant.


But then, one day, she fell ill. She lay down and bellowed, until the veterinarians from the big animal hospital came running to see what the matter was.

And when they had examined her, they told her the sad truth: either she would have to change the way she was living, allow others into her jungle patch and pay attention to the needs of the other animals (needs she could help them fulfil), or she would soon have to sell her tusks to be made in-to ivory trophies for the mantelpieces of distant humans. "My tusks!" she exclaimed in consternation (and horror). "i'll never sell my tusks?!"

"Why, then," the vets said, "you must change. You must become more like the tigers." The elephant blanc-hed (which looked particularly awful under the grey pallor of her mottled skin), but said nothing. She lumbered heavily to her feet and plodded uncertainly towards her new destiny. Slowly, very slowly, but with the deliberateness for which she was known, she began to change.

As the seasons passed, the other animals began to notice that there was something different about the old elephant. She brushed off the fleas that had begun feasting on her. A certain sprightliness entered her step.

She still moved with that familiar elephantine gait, but there was a pronounced sway from side to side now, as though she was prepared to entertain all possibilities. The old fat began to give way to muscle. Her ears flapped in a way that suggested she was — surprise! — actually listening, instead of merely lecturing others.

She dipped her trunk into clean water and sprayed it liberally on herself, washing away decades of dirt and mud (though some clumps still stubbornly clung to her). She began to grow — how she began to grow! Soon the visitors started crossing over from the tigers' sanctuary to take a look.

And they started chattering to each other in excitement, since they could not believe what they were seeing. For, appearing on the elephant's back, at first faint but soon clearly visible, was the unmistakable sign of stripes.

Large, black stripes, swirling confide-ntly around her torso. And then, even as the visitors gawped with disbelief, the elephant's dirty grey skin began to acquire a distinctly golden hue.

There was no doubt about it. The elephant was becoming a tiger. Miracle of miracles! All the animals came to look, and admire. Some were afraid: imagine the strength of a tiger within the size of an elephant! What would happen to the rest of the jungle?

Others said there was no reason to worry: whatever stripes she grew, the elephant would always be an elephant at heart. And still others said, it can't last; the stripes will fade away soon enough, and we will again see the comforting sight of our old plodding, stumbling friend.

Which of the animals would be right? Who knows? Tune in a few years from now, when we will recount the next episode of our favourite animal fable.

2 comments:

nimit said...

great story ..... but is the tiger referring to China or the USA

Abhishek Kumar said...

yup it is great...
Lion = USA
Tiger = Other south east nations probly including china

Read again!