Anna tharra- elephant’s corridor
Have you ever heard about this ‘the elephant’s corridor’? Well something of that sort does exist and this is a strip of land through the entire forest that the wild elephants use to travel and they will not go through other than this path. May there be an ocean or may there be a desert, they will not budge. This is probably also needed because this track is like the way of the jungle and is even the path used by other animals. These mammals will destroy anything that comes in their path. So years back it did happen so that they were left with no choice but to cause complete chaos.
Years and years back…
My uncle used to work in the forest department. His first appointment was in the Annakkayam reserved forest which comes in between the route of Chalakudy and Pollachi. In that first year something incredibly frightening happened; which in later years became a thrilling and exciting story for uncle to recall and to tattle on. Even after what happened to uncle, it happened again, not very serious the next year, but still it happened and the reason for its repeated occurrences was the stubbornness of the men.
Unknown about this forbidden path the forest department built official quarters; independent, small houses in that area. One of the houses came in the way of these substantive creatures and unfortunately my uncle was the resident of this house.
One evening while he was taking a nap wearing something I would call the Kerala pyjamas for men which consists of nothing covering the top half and only a long piece of cloth which covers the entire bottom half called mundu, for free circulation of air or what I don’t know, anyways that’s the day when the elephant’s decided to pay him a visit. So while he was dozing all of a instant he was woken up to the reverberations of the ground and a sound louder than his snore. If it had been few years since he had taken up this job he would have recognized it as a stampede, but since it was his first time and he had been living in an environment where normally humans live, basically I mean in a city or a village, in his case village and definitely not in a forest, so his thought obviously wandered off to that of an earthquake. He did the practical thing of dropping to the ground, getting under the cot and holding on to its legs.
The vibrations kept coming closer and closer and suddenly there was a noise, ‘thud’ something was belabouring the side of the building to which his head stood pointed and the house shook. Mind can be really misleading at times and my uncle thought a tree had fallen on the structure. But then there was a clash again and the structure’s vibration didn’t even start from the bottom which is usually what he had heard about a earthquake but it started to thrum from the side and vibrate of to the other side’s including the bottom of the building. But uncle being really smart laid still. Again there was a commotion and he could hear the bricks from the side falling off and this time what I think he thought was probably that there are 10-20 trees falling on it, after all it’s a forest. He didn’t bother to explain it to us but from his action I have come to the conclusion that he is lazy and a coward.
He held on tightly to the underside of the cot and hoped this will pass soon. He started praying to all the gods and sang the hymns and whatever phrases he had caught from the prayers his mother and sisters usually prayed. In Kerala, men don’t have to sit and sing prayers every evening, only women have to, I have no idea what is the reason behind this tradition, but that’s just how it is. On one side out of fright and on the other side because of his dedication to follow the tradition he couldn’t remember the prayers and couldn’t keep his mind off the continuous pounding on one end of the quarters. But he was too scared to peak out, he felt safe under his cot. He wanted to scratch his back but was too frightened to move. After a continuous ringing of two minutes on the side of the building all the bricks had fallen off. There was a last thud and then it stopped. He turned his head to the side; a shadow slowly appeared on the tile followed by the tiles besides his cot cracking. He closed his eyes because of the pain that went through his ears and when he opened it there it was, the giant limbs of an elephant covered with loosely hanging but tough grey skin.
He was perfectly still for a moment with an inclination towards staying in his sanctum very strong. Then his instincts changed when he heard the same sound of a tile breaking right above his head. He knew, the next stride, would be on his chest. He rolled to the side of the door from the safe haven under his cot. He looked back to the sound of breaking wood, one second late and he himself would have been in the same fate of that of his very less used bed. He wouldn’t have been alive to tell the tale. But he didn’t have time to ponder over his narrow escape. He quickly went for the door which was unlocked by luck; he has had a lot of luck that day, as he was almost going to leap out he felt something scratch his bottoms and a sharp pain and then he jumped.
Next minute he was lying flat on his stomach in a puddle with mud splattered all over his face, some of it even inside his mouth and there was a burning sensation on his buttocks. He was suddenly picked up by unknown arms and taken to one of his fellow officer’s quarters. He was naked other than for a half a piece of underwear. The last sharp pain he experienced was that of the elephants tusks that probably had plans to pierce it’s tusks through his body but instead was left disappointed in attaining only his garments, mundu and a small piece of his underwear, while uncle sprung from there for dear life.
While he was treated, clothed and was put to a peaceful slumber, the wild tuskers were trying to break down the other wall. From the stories he gathered the next day he got to know the happenings outside. They were trying to call him the whole time but were too scared to come inside. They were sure he was going to die and seeing him dive out of there felt like a miracle. Those who stood there after he was carried inside saw a piece of cloth hanging on the tusk of one of those beasts.
Uncle was packed and sent home after a day and he couldn’t sit on his rear for almost two months. In his later years of service he was once again appointed there and heard how they foolishly rebuild it for almost five to six years and how every year they came and destroyed it. They did it until a researcher came and informed them the theory of the elephant’s corridor; they couldn’t just use their common sense and stop the construction. Two cases either they are imprudent or they had dung in their brains. But after what happened to uncle no one was ready to risk staying there again after it was rebuild, so thankfully no one else had near death experiences and get their butts scratched by an elephant’s tusk because it was itching. Also by God’s grace the elephants didn’t take it as their annual task to destroy a house and didn’t follow suit by destroying the house near it when they saw the house they have been usually destroying has not been reconstructed that year.
This is what actually happened which he had written to my dad the next day and my dad had showed me the letter. But if one hears it directly from uncle there will be few extra details such as how he tackled the elephants, broke their tusks and left them to shame. If you sit long enough you might also hear him bragging about how he did the kaliyamardhanam upon the head of the herd of elephants. Anyways uncle is now retired and safely at home, but now when the ground rumbles he expects a herd of elephants to pop out instead of an earthquake!