Thursday, February 21, 2008

E Is For Elephant

The Day A Toddler Made A Trunk Call

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


She was about three years old at the time. Maybe four years old, tops. The apple of her grandfather's eye, she was a fearless, fesity girl with limpid brown eyes. The eyes would take on a sparkle when she was near an animal, any animal.

She loved the cow. She loved the calf. She wanted to adopt every dog she saw. She enjoyed nothing better than getting her ayah, or carer, to take a crafty diversion on their daily walk so that she could spend time with a donkey in the vicinity. So when - surprise, surprise - an elephant handler turned up with (yes, you guessed it) a full-grown elephant, she thought all her Christmases had come at once.

An elephant? In the city? Look, this was India, a wonderful country where anything was possible. The little girl practically ran away from her ayah's grasp when the elephant hove into sight.The animal's handler spotted her and recognised her spirit. He asked her if she wanted to come for a ride.

She nodded so hard her head almost fell off at its hinges. Meanwhile, her ayah was aghast. An elephant ride? NEVER. No negotiation. Not going to happen.

But I said she was a feisty little girl, remember? She was in awe of no one; she was afraid of nothing. She was determined to get on the elephant. The ayah fled idoors to report this unseemly ambition to the little girl's mother. After all, who in their right minds would send a three-year-old off with a strange man and an elephant?

The three-year-old waited, cannily, until the ayah had disappeared from sight. Then she accepted the offer of the ride and elephant, handler, and delighted tot began to lumber down busy Diamond Harbour Road.

Bear in mind the ayah didn't know the little girl, an incandescent smile on her face, was aboard the pachyderm. She told the child's mother what was unfolding and the child's mother, shocked beyond belief, told the ayah that the child was to be strictly forbidden from getting aboard the elephant.

The child's grandfather just chuckled because that was exactly the adventurous spirit he recognised in the child and loved her for it. He went and got his camera and took a historic photograph of the big beast in the distance. The little girl had been playing dress-ups and she was clad in a miniature orange sari - the splash of orange aboard the elephant was unmistakable.

The servants gathered in awe. The family members alternated between spluttering with laughter at the little girl's audacity and shaking their heads at her, well, her audacity. The grandfather, a lateral thinker, pointed out that no kidnapping could possibly be intended - after all, where would the handler hide an elephant?

I spoke to the little girl this week. She is now a chemical engineer and she laughed at the recollections of that memorable day. She says she felt no fear. She says she felt no misgivings about her decision to get on the elephant. She even remembers the handler stopping to give the elephant some water. But she does not have the photograph of the bold deed. I think it might be with her father now, a tremendous souvenir of The Day The Elephant Came.

You see, the little girl is one of my beloved nieces. Her grandfather was my father. And it doesn't surprise me that she has some strong recollections of the day. Us McMahons, we all have memories like an elephant.

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

59 comments:

dot said...

What a cute little story! I was surprised when I saw your name on it because I thought I had clicked on someone else. lol

daryl e said...

The story alone is wonderful.. the photo of the elephants eye makes it all the better!

Les Becker said...

Oh, I would so love to see that photograph, David! What a great memory for all of you.

~Miss Nelson said...

Wow you have a talent with story telling. I enjoyed reading this.

Flassie's Fil'a said...

Wow! That's fantastic!
Really enjoyed reading
about the memory!
Nice close up of the eye
of an Elephant!

Have a Blessed Year!!!

RuneE said...

A wonderful story - The best Elephant post "ever"!

Jenera said...

What a great story! I have a feeling my little guy will be like your niece, he loves animals of all kinds!

Teachin' this mommy new tricks! said...

Loved the story. Thanks for sharing

John-Michael said...

Tears to the eyes ... a ray of sunshine to the heart ... and a more hopeful feeling for our world. Such gifts you give. Thank you.

Kathleen aka Coffee Mom said...

I rode an elephant once at the circus when I was about 8. Looking back at it, I would never let my kids do that.
Thanks for visiting me, it's always a nice surprise to have a male visitor! You've got great photography on your blog, good eye!

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

Really lovely story very effectively told. Now you HAVE to find the photo (or recreate it in paint
- elephant challenge, eh??) (:

Kimberly said...

What a charming story, David! I can well picture my Emma indulging in similar adventures if given the opportunity!

Seamus said...

What a wonderful tale of childhood independence! :)

Josie said...

What a wonderful story. It sounds as if the little girl has grown up to be a fearless adult, as well, and she still has a lot of spirit.

Ackworth Born said...

marvellous story

leslie said...

This would make a fantastic children's story. Can I use it and Josie can illustrate!!!

Anne-Berit said...

What a wonderful story,and what a fearless little girl,bet her uncle is very proud of her.Great E from you:o)

Jeni said...

That was really a great story, David and I agree with one of the commenters too who suggested it be made into a children's book. It would make a fascinating story for children to read, for sure!

Oh -I don't know what the problem is here but frequently, if I open your blog, the pictures you post often will not show up -if I am using Firefox -but if I open it in IE, they open fine. Any suggestions what could be done to correct this.

Akelamalu said...

What a lovely story David. It brought back two memories for me. The first when I was approx 5 years old and taken to the zoo where you could ride on an elephant. Two bench like seats were positioned on either side of the elephant but the handler asked if I would like to ride on the elephant's neck - of course I said YES!

The second memory is from 1999 when I rode an elephant down the beach to the sea in Sri Lanka where it promptly gave me a bath with water from its trunk!

I want to do it again! :)

Petunia said...

The story and the picture are wonderful:D

Angela said...

Very touching story! I do believe that each animal has a soul. You can see that soul, if you look close enough. This story is so wonderful because it shares the fact that an animal and a person's soul can connect. Thank you for sharing with us! :)

Jen said...

Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.

katydidnot said...

that girl is brave and audacious and fantastic!

Ida said...

Wonderful E! :)

Tiffany Norris said...

What a sweet story! Elephants have a special place in my heart--my alma mater's mascot. Roll Tide.

Sandi McBride said...

What a truely wonderful post. Why am I not surprised that it was about a member of your own family? I often have dreams of India, you may think me insane, but feel very strongly that I once lived a former life there. But maybe you don't...after all, the handler recognized your dear one's spirit. I am in awe
Sandi

Paulie said...

Absolutely enchanting story. Have you thought about writing a children's book about it? I think it would be a bestseller. Perhaps an artist could draw the child on the elephant. Think about it. I used to be a kindergarten teacher and I know children everywhere would enjoy that story.

Helena said...

Lovely story and a great ABC post! Loved that last photo!

My ABC post took me so long I'm having to retire from comments for a while as my fingers/wrists are playing up again!

Lucky that Bob is now fully trained in foot typing.

Nap Warden said...

Great story David!

I am sending all my pics to you for titles btw...Yours are so clever:)

mrsnesbitt said...

Fantastic! Love the rich dialogue.

Sharon said...

Wonderful story! What a treasure that little fiesty girl was and, I assume, is as an adult.

Fletch said...

1. Loved the story. I shall 'steal' it for the Portal (at your instigation - in case I get 'nastygrams' from your visitors). I might re-run your 'Bali' elephant story as well ...

-----------------------------------

2. @ jeni

Clear your Firefox cache. The browser is probably fetching a previous page that had that 'pic' problem at the time you visited.

Momma said...

What a lovely story! Have you read "The Life of Pi"? You have a similar way with words. Beautifully written...Peace - D

Katney said...

Wonderful, David! Wonderful!

Corrie said...

How very charming. Here's another vote for it to be made into a children's book.

Jules~ said...

What a wonderful story! It is not your typical story weave that families share around the reunion table and that makes it all the more special.
I could just see that precious little girl wrapped in orange riding atop that elephant. The girl's eyes sparkling with excitement at the world before her. Thank you for this picture.

Tammy said...

What a wonderful story!!! I loved it, I almost cried because it was so sweet.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

That's a great story. Love it. I would have LOVED to have done that at that age, but my folks would have reacted the same way.

lime said...

what a marvelous memory! having a very strong willed daughter (who's been that way since she was 18 months old) myself i could COMPLETELY imagine the exchange! thanks so much for sharing. :)

Lilli & Nevada said...

Great story and the eye of the elephant is wonderful

D... said...

Perfectly wonderful story! I would love to be able to take an elephant ride one day.

Golightly said...

David,

What a wonderful story and memory, I have often been intrigued by India. One of my favorite books (and don't laugh) is The Far Pavilions. I read it years ago and thought if I ever had a girl I wanted to name her Anjuli. Anyway, love India.

I must also say thank you for stopping by my blog and gracing me with your king words and humor.

A pleasure.

Andrea said...

This is a cute story. Good E post.

Misty Dawn said...

Ahhh - David, this is one of my favorite posts you have ever done! I love it!

Berit said...

Beautiful picture!!!!! Very good E

mayur said...

Hi David,

Nice story. Made me recollect my childhood . Nicely carved up. Would surely love to read more stuff from you.
Thanks to a great website news.linq.in for exposing me to your great work!

Mima said...

What a truly brilliant story, so beautifully told. I could see it in my minds eye as I was reading, and so wanted to be that little girl!

the mother of this lot said...

What a fantastic story. I wish you could find the photograph!

Zathyn Priest said...

What a wonderful story and a beautiful memory for her to keep. I too would love to see the photo of her in her bright orange sari on board the elephant :) Ten out of ten for her stubborness in making the elephant ride happen. Yes, it would make a great children's book!

Dragonstar said...

David, that is such a beautiful story! What a priceless memory.

Lori said...

I loved reading this, David. I don't get a chance to read all your posts but am glad I caught this one.

How wonderful that your niece still remembers. You need to find that picture!

nitebyrd said...

Lovely story!

A.Bananna said...

what a precious story!! You get post of the day today!

have a beautiful day!

Am'n2deep said...

Very cute story. I wish more adults would keep spirit of a child!

When I was a little girl they used to give elephant rides at the zoo-- I have pictures of b. and I riding together.

Kerri said...

David...this was a beautiful memory!
Thank you for sharing it with us!

Sandy Kessler said...

Be still my heart from the mother of a 33 year old son who told his mom a joke on the phone last night because he knew she felt badly- answering machine- great story memories where they take us huh??

Corey~living and loving said...

what a lovely story. I love to hear of adventuresome girls. :) what a wonderful memory.

have a great day David!

Neva said...

You leave me speechless with your stories and photos...you are amazing.

gs said...

david, what an enchanting true story.i loved reading every bit of it.
gopal