Sunday, 25 January 2015

Close Shave From Elephant

One of the patrol team members who was at the beginning of the line shouted, “Azai! Mem Sangay!” and it was enough to make all others run in different directions. I saw the head too, it was enormously huge with a trunk swaying like a huge snake - pendulum.

Making rounds in the wild life sanctuary brought us close to dangers from the resident of the area more than the dangers that we expected to encounter. The dangers from the small snakes and leeches and insect are comparatively not considered a problem at all, when faced with bigger problem at hand. The enormous weight of the ration, paltry bedding and the weight of the arms and ammunition cannot let us drop our guard down until the harbor is established.

It was during the rainy season that we were on patrolling along the border. The sky opened up just for a while in between incessant rains, as if it was taking a break to gather more water to bear on us with more rains. During one of those breaks from the rain the journey began looking for openings in between the thick undergrowth and slushy grounds. We were thankful that it did not rain but it lasted for only a few hours, when we were in the middle of the thick undergrowth the rain started again. To safe our rations from getting wet, more than ourselves we stopped to put on the rain coats over our bags. We were wet already from inside due to sweat, so rain or shine does not matter much to us, except for the rations.

When we were busy putting on the rain coats the scout shouted with exigency in his voice that is understood by everyone that the “mem sangay” is approaching. In the territory of the elephants, the people fear calling elephant as elephant; the beast is referred to as “Mem Sangay” – the old lord. It is revered due to its size and the amount of damage it can do to us, it is revered now because we do not want to cross its path and we have other mission at hand.

All, including me ran for our life and I heard that it was following me because I can hear the swishing sound of the undergrowth right behind my back and I kept running and it kept coming right behind me. I was getting tired and thought that now I better face it for if I kept running I would be trampled under its feet sooner or later. I drew my weapon and looked back, with my back firmly resting on a trunk of a tree. It was huge and green with irregular shape. I made noise and it replied in human voice. To my consternation and respite, it was one of my friends covered in rain coat, over the load that he was carrying in the rucksack and the noise was produced by rubbing his loosely hanging rain coat against the thick undergrowth.

That was the time I realized that my other friends might be running thinking that the beast was coming right behind them. I shouted at the top of my lungs to stop running and inspect the surrounding. The swishing and trampling noise of the undergrowth stopped. We gathered at the opening where there were less undergrowth - actually the undergrowth was trampled by the herd that rested there as we can see the fresh elephant’s dung strewn around.

The count up was done and found that all were present. Upon asking whether anyone got injured; one guy raised his hands and said that he got hit on the shoulder by elephant’s foot. It was found that as everyone ran that guy too ran into the running elephant’s path making the jumbo beast take a leap???? over him emitting a noise of surprise that was heard by all, touching him with the foot on the shoulder rendering him not able to carry his stuff.

We carried on with the journey after taking a break and learning a lesson to not to run without confirming and with a round in the chamber, if the requirement arises, ready to fire. Otherwise what is the use of carrying a weapon?

We were extremely lucky for not having any casualty that day, but having to go through that area time and again, I just don’t know when our luck would run out.  It was indeed a close shave from the elephant (ummm sorry) MEM SANGAY.