World Elephant Day!
ELEPHANT ENCOUNTERS A dangerous face-off, cries of distress at night… A summer holiday in the jungles of Corbett country turns out to be all about eerie encounters with elephants. And at the centre of it is Gitanjali, teasingly called Hathni – ‘she-elephant’ – by her three boy cousins because of her size. Or is there more to the nickname? Does Gitanjali share some deeper bond with the big, gentle creatures? Take a ride through the jungles of the Kumaon Hills this World Elephant Day (12 August) in this spine-tingling book that sees celebrated writer and naturalist Ranjit Lal at his best! An extract from That Summer at Kalagarh – for children 10 (or even 8) and up: The words had hardly left her lips when a shrill scream of rage froze them in their tracks. This, followed by a deep, sonorous rumbling sound, like an angry roll of thunder, and then another enraged trumpet. Hathni wasted no time. With one fluid move, she picked up an astonished Aveek and plonked him on her shoulders and shouted: “Run! He’s coming!”And now Rawat too was charging back the way he had come, waving frantically at them to flee downstream. Vijay, his face set, trained his rifle at the bend, covering his colleague. Ajay and Ajit splashed blindly downstream, not daring to look back, their breath whooping out of them in great gasps. Then suddenly Hathni stopped and spun around, squarely facing the stream bend. She put Aveek down, but held him close, his face buried in her lap. She stared, unmoving as a boulder, as the huge bull elephant rounded the bend in a welter of spray, his enormous ears flapping dangerously. His trunk was already rolled up safely, and his tusks thrust outwards aggressively; his ebony body shone. Round that bend he rumbled like a runaway locomotive, and then spotted the schoolgirl standing stolidly in the middle of his path, glaring back at him. For a second it looked as though he would be right onto her but then, inexplicably, he skidded to a halt, and surveyed the scene with cold angry eyes. He tested the air with his trunk, apparently confused. Then he emitted another shrill trumpet and stomped one great front foot into the water, frustrated, but made no move. Rawat by now had rejoined the group, and the two forest guards had taken up positions, their rifles aimed unwaveringly at the great beast some twenty yards away.“Nahin maaro! Don’t shoot him, please!” Hathni pleaded suddenly, staring at the great beast, her eyes calm once again. “He’s only bluffing!” Imagine the scene! A picturesque forest stream curling around a bend, flanked by tall rocky cliffs on either side. A humungous bull elephant, straddling the stream at the bend, testing the wind with its trunk, its small eyes cold with baffled rage. A plump, serene-faced schoolgirl with calm eyes and damp hair, standing firmly in the middle of the stream, staring at the swaggering demon, not twenty-five yards away from her. A little boy, clinging onto her for dear life, his face buried in her long, grey T-shirt. Two tense forest guards, standing splay-footed, their rifles at the ready, aimed at the monster elephant. Some distance downstream, two more (medium-sized) boys, perched on top of a high rock where they have scrambled, looking down at the stream, knees knocking and gibbering. The elephant trumpeted again, and the guards’ fingers tensed around their triggers…
On Elephant Day you will also want to meet another elephant of a very different kind – the lovable Beautiful Ele the Beautiful Elephant of the Aditi Adventures series (for the same age group), who tries hard to be logical and sensible and patient (but doesn’t always get there). How did she come to be called Beautiful? That’s a story you’ll have to read! Looking for picture books for younger ones? Look no further! Check out our Instagram where we've featured a few of our ele-friends!
August 12, 2021