Whenever I see an elephant on the road, I feel like giving it a banana or an orange. And I am reminded of a particular episode with an elephant when I was five years old. The schools were closed and my cousins had come to Allahabad for their vacations from Patna. Our daily routine would be a visit to Sangam with grandpa and eat jalebis on our way back home at Hira Halwai which is a sweet shop in Allahabad. Of course, there would be visits to Wheelers or Universal bookshop, Nagars stationery shop or El Chico for pastries, later in the day.
So one day when we had returned from our Sangam visit, I was sitting with my grandmother, and my cousin sister was engrossed in one of her Enid Blyton books. The doorbell rang and we were asked to go out to the verandah.
Grandpa had seen an elephant wallah on the road and had asked him to give me and my cousin a ride. I clearly remember, the elephant was not very old and was not huge. It had a nice padded cushion on its back and a small brass bell tied around its neck. There was a rope around the cushion to ensure it wouldn’t divert from its place and I was very excited for the ride.
My excitement ensured that I was fearless in touching the elephant for the first time. As I was small, my grandfather’s assistant accompanied me for the ride which was from one gate to the other. And on getting down, I was given an orange by grandpa to feed the elephant which was all the more fun to me.
After me, it was my cousin’s turn. She was sceptical about the elephants’ behaviour and was trying to excuse herself from riding it. Probably, grandpa had sensed that she was afraid, so he asked her to feed the elephant and as the elephant reached out to get the orange, my cousin shrieked and ran inside. It seemed silly to me, as to how one could miss a chance of feeding or riding an elephant. However, She kept peeping from behind the curtains.
In order to make her fear go, my grandfather asked her to come and feed the elephant or else he would send the elephant inside the house. At first, my cousin thought it to be a hoax and refused to come out. Then, the elephant wallah was asked to bring the elephant to the verandah. It was fun for me but for my cousin, it was torture.
Anyhow, after much persuasion and lots of surety, my grandpa brought my cousin and made her feed the elephant. She, having fed the elephant with the orange, hesitated to take the ride. I offered to go with her again and got my second ride. After our second ride, the elephant wallah was given some money and rice, and both of them went away. As I bid goodbye to the elephant, I waited in the verandah not only until the elephant was invisible but also till its bell’s tinkle got inaudible.