Junk food jumbos

One need not be a kid to pause in one’s tracks curiously to admire an elephant — the black giant led by a mahout, thundering on its way with long and aggressive strides and a brass bell clanging resonantly, a precursor of its ponderous passage. The admiration for the elephant would become manifold if it happens to be a mother with her calf, the baby elephant enjoying freedom to move within the reach of the superintending mother’s  long trunk.

And so it happened that my daughter and son were looking with wide open eyes at the mother-kid duo in the
forecourt of the Kamakshi temple in Kanchipuram. “Can we give these bananas to the young elephant?” my plucky daughter asked the wiry minder, taking a bold step towards the pachyderm. Alarmed, my son, the younger one, took a few steps backwards and clung to his mother.

The mahout was emphatic. “No, no bananas or coconuts for the junior. He has a digestion issue.” My daughter was puzzled. “What do you mean, no bananas and coconuts? Aren’t they the favourite snacks of elephants? What can we give instead? Pop corn? Potato chips?  Roasted peanuts? Or candies?”

I thought I saw a twinkle in the eyes of the mother jumbo. Since she would not be able to ask what she wanted for the son, the mahout said with a broad grin, “Both like biscuits. Yes, you won’t believe, biscuits. That too, Marie. And nothing else.”

We quickly went out of the temple and bought from the shop outside two big packets of Marie. My daughter gave both the packets to the mahout. He opened one and strewed the circular biscuits near the baby elephant’s forelegs. Without any ado, or a formal nod of thanks, the frisky calf began to make short work of the biscuits, swishing her little tail in happiness. The mother elephant seemed to apologise, “Pardon him, folks. He is too young to know he should say thanks.”

Before long, the mother put her foot down and stopped her kid from eating any more. But the growing young one would not listen, having an elephantine craving for snacks. The mother nudged him away firmly from the biscuit heap.  And let out a curt monosyllabic command that made the calf perceive its mother’s ire on its disobedience.

“Though the big one also adores biscuits, she will not touch them when her kid is nearby fearing she will set a bad example,” the mahout said and added. “Mothers will be mothers, whether bipeds or quadrupeds.” My daughter nodded and asked. “What about a drink  to wash down the biscuits? I bet they would not prefer water but maybe a Pepsi or a Coke?’ The mahout grinned broadly and said, “Neither. They guzzle Mirinda. You are welcome to get it from the same shop. But not ice cold, please.”

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