“Hello, Sukna forest office,” Cliff O’Brien, the forest officer, answered over the telephone, “can I help you?” “A wild elephant is running circles all around the village, sir!” blurted out a raspy voice from the other end. “Don’t worry,” O’Brien assured, “we will be there in an hour.” “Call the driver,” he barked to the new office peon. The driver rushed in. “How much fuel do you have in the fuel-tank?” O’Brien queried. “It’s full.” “Get ready then,” he ordered.
The wild elephant had left the forests of Sukna Valley in Darjeeling district, meandering into the nearby village in search of food. “It is pregnant!” yelled a local. “Yeah, the wild elephant is going to give birth in some months,” O’Brien agreed. The elephant walked around in the village in hunger. Country-made crackers exploded everywhere, as the villagers tried to drive out the frightened animal of the locality.
“It hasn’t harmed anybody yet!” exclaimed a local. Suddenly, the sound of an explosion shocked everyone. It was followed by a heart-rending trumpeting sound. “Find the source of the sound,” snapped O’Brien in an impatient voice. The small group of forest officials who were engaged in rescuing the elephant followed the sound to the wild pachyderm. “It is in searing pain, sir!” cried out a forest official. “Yeah, her tongue and mouth seem badly injured.” Vertical wrinkles appeared between O’Brien’s eyebrows.
The elephant eventually walked up the Sukna River and stood there with her mouth and trunk in water. “She must be doing this to avoid flies and other insects,” O’Brien sighed. Other officials continued to look on in disbelief.
After hours of attempts by the forest officials to rescue the elephant, it died standing in water.
Post mortem reports revealed that the pregnant elephant had eaten a cracker-filled pineapple left by the locals.
(c) Dipayan Chakrabarti