Keeping jumbos fit from day one

Elephantine task

Mahout Thimma Equally synonymous is the man who makes the pachyderms fit for the grand finale.
Dr Nagaraj has been the caretaker of Dasara elephants ever since he joined the forest department as a veterinarian in 2000.  Prior to this, he was working at Mysore City Corporation (MCC) after a short stint in Tagadur in Nanjangud taluk.

“Balarama was senior to me, as he had already made his debut a year before I joined”, said Nagaraj in lighter vein, when he recalled his maiden assignment. Since then, it has been a smooth journey for him. Dasara or no dasara, Dr Nagaraj is on jumbo service whenever he gets a call to treat sick animals or rogue elephants troubling villagers in the borders of forest.

Having 19 years of service as a veterinarian, Nagaraj has the credit of being a part of several operations capturing 25 wild elephants till now. The recent one being in Mysore where two wild jumbos had raided the city of palaces on June 8. The other operations include that of Hassan, Alur, Chikkamagalur, Bannerghatta, Arsikere, Polybetta to name a few.

Ask him about the challenging cases he has come across, he recalls treating Kanthi, also a Dasara elephant. ‘She had suffered deep wounds in an elephant attack and it took nearly four months for recuperation. Almost all the nerves had been administered IV fluids”, said Nagaraj about the severity of the treatment. 

Another was a Zoo bred elephant which was treated for two  years. Vijaya, a Dasara elephant again was suffering from partial paralysis. She was not able to lift her trunk to feed self. As a result the mahouts and kavadis had to literally feed her. However, due to continuous treatment, she recovered later, rewinds Nagaraj.

Popular as ‘doctru’ among mahouts and kavadis, Nagaraj also eagerly awaits for Dasara to begin, to prove his mettle again and again.

New mahout

For Thimma, who has been accompanying Dasara elephants for over a decade, forthcoming ‘Jamboo Savari’ is a special one. For the first time, he will be manoeuvring 53-year-old Balarama, popular as ‘howdah elephant’.

All these years, he was matching steps along with the pachyderm as a ‘kavadi’ looking after the needs of the animal, during the d-day. It’s indeed a promotion for him, though he is not gung ho about it.

The reason-- it’s the job he has to deliver as a government servant. There is no special meaning attached to it, he says in a firm voice.

“I am confident of delivering the goods”, Thimma told Deccan Herald. He joined service 23 years ago, but his service was regularised two years ago along with a few others. When Balarama succeeded Drona in 1998 to carry golden howdah, the major attraction of ‘Jamboo Savari’, it was Dodanna who enjoyed the privilege as a mahout. He did the job for three years till his retirement.

He was succeeded by Jadiya, but just for an year, as he too retired from the services later. Sannappa who too retired last year, had performed the role with ease for four years. Now, it’s the turn of Thimma to carry on the legacy of his predecessors.

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