Some years ago. We were in Kaancheepuram. We saw the great .Ekambareswara Temple, the Kamakshi Temple, and the Varada Raja swami temple.
While going round the Kamakshi Temple, we saw the temple elephant tethered to a post with a heavy steel chain.
The missus had a bunch of bananas in her hand. Being an ardent devotee of Ganesh, she holds elephants in great esteem and regard. She also respects them as the descendants of the great emperor of the elephants, the Gajendra, who was saved from the clutches of the big mugger and blessed with salvation, by Lord Vishnu. When in the presence of one, she treats the pachyderm as the manifestation of Lord Ganesh. So she tore away a few bananas from the bunch, handed over the rest to me and proceeded towards the pachyderm. The elephant, I suppose, was hungry. It was twelve in the afternoon and the sun was blazing hot.We were walking bare foot and the floor was hot.
The elephant sensing that the lady was approaching him to feed him the bananas, rushed forward, the chain dragging noisily on the ground. The missus, seeing the behemoth rushing towards her, got panicky and ran a few steps backwards, stopped and looked back.
The elephant evidently understood that his potential benefactor was afraid of him. He slowly stepped back a few steps and stood calmly there in anticipation. The missus meanwhile recovered her composure. She calmly went near the beast and proffered the fruit.The elephant gracefully took the bananas with his trunk, put them into his mouth, and then lifted its trunk and gently placed it on her head, as though to bless her. An object lesson in communication with one’s fellow beings.
While in the Varada Raja Perumal Temple after we paid obeisance to the Lord we went to the ‘golden lizard’ on the wall to touch it customarily. It is believed that the fall of a lizard on ones body portends an omen. The part of your body on which it falls determines whether the tidings would be good or bad. It is further believed that touching the golden lizard on the wall of the Kanchi temple, wards you, of any such potential effect, bad or good, should a lizard fall on your body any time later in your life.
When I think of a lizard, I am reminded of an astonishing story of two real lizards In Japan, which I read on the net. The story goes like this. A house owner in Japan was renovating his house. While peeling off the wooden panelling of a wall that was affixed to the wall about a decade ago, he noticed that a lizard was impaled to the wall by a long nail, by chance . It ought to have died by any count, if not through the injury, at least out of hunger, but surprisingly he found it to be still alive. The house owner, kept a surreptitious watch on the lizard. To his surprise, he found another lizard approaching his immobilized companion and feed him with a few insects which it held in its mouth.An object lesson in caring for your fellow beings in distress.
Sometime in the late eighties, I was in Kyoto along with two of my colleagues and
a Japanese escort, named Tomayo. We had visited a few beautiful Shinto shrines built of wood and their elegant rock gardens and lakes, out of a long list of such places of interest that I had listed out, when one of my two friends who accompanied me on the visit, got bored and asked Tomayo whether there were not any places more interesting than that. The escort did not show his irritation. He had taken pains to prepare an optimal route to cover the list I had prepared, which was getting disturbed by this ad hoc request. He enquired, with no evidence of sarcasm, whether we wished to visit the Kyoto Zoo. My friends having jumped at this, soon we were at the zoo which was at the other end of the city. It was sometime in February. It was cold, there was a slight drizzle. We saw a few animals and then came to a big gorilla, which was sitting on a big raised platform. He was not exactly sitting in the Padmasana, but he sure looked like a saint sitting calm and quiet in deep repose, like a Bodhisattwa, oblivious to the bustle around him. From there we moved to the lion enclosure.There was a huge lion, which appeared to be old and bored. There was a smaller and younger lioness too, within the enclosure. Just as we were nearing the enclosure, the big lion slowly hobbled to his smaller companion, evidently in an amorous mood. Just as it touched the lioness, which was looking at us angrily, she turned around quickly, raised one of its forepaws and dealt the lion a swift hard smack on his face. The lion took the blow lightly and went back to its place silently and reclined again. Our escort, with a dead pan expression on his face, explained, ” De dame is noth intheresthed.”
When I read in the other day’s news paper that an inebriated husband slit his young spouse’s throat,, just because she declined her partner’s advances, I could not but salute the King of The Wild, for his composure in the face of a graver provocation.
And as regards gorillas, I remember to have seen a video of a man sitting near his shack in a forest or was it a gorilla sanctuary somewhere in Africa. Soon a group of young gorillas led by their mother passing along that way, sees him and approaches him. While the mother watches over her brood, to ensure that the man is not hurt by her children, each of the young apes go to their fascinating Caucasian cousin, touch him warily, and then smooch him with their wet lips and tongues on his cheeks and ears and when each of them was done, they slowly move away. Have I ever done so to one of these cousins of us?. So much for my love of my neighbours.
I find from the news paper, that it is Save-the-Sparrow Day. Sparrows were as common as common crows a few years ago. But they are hard to find these days. Not that crows abound, Even they have dwindled in numbers, in recent years, but not due to any crow-eaters who no doubt. abound these days, (ask Bapsi Sidhwa, if you have any doubt ). But that is a different matter.
Sparrows, cute little birds. Charming to see the way they bathed vigorously, in puddles of water. Or some times even in cool fine sand. Their innocence in trying to peck at their own reflections in the mirror, I found interesting from the point of view of evolution of intellect in their bird-brains.
Talking of sparrows, I am reminded of a sad incident that I was a witness to, some time in the late seventies.I was in my early thirties.My office was about eight kilometers away from my house. The public transport was reasonably good and not very crowded those days. The bus-stops to and from my office were near my residence and my office respectively. My routine was to get up a bit late in the morning, finish my morning ablutions leisurely, read the news, eat my brunch, take my packed lunch and go to the office.
The work was not very heavy, though many of my friends used to grumble about the ‘grind’. Promptly at five in the evening, we used to evacuate the office premises, as my boss used to say, ‘ at the sounding of the air raid siren’. I caught the bus back, and home soon, would lie on the couch, well, dog-tired from the day’s toils. No wonder I began to gather a little, why little, considerable mass around my waist, yes, I was by no means a rolling stone, though in a few years, I sure, would have looked like one, if I did nothing to prevent the contingency. When my girth began to be noticed with amusement by others, I thought it was time for some action.
The evenings were cooler, so I thought, why not I, instead of taking the evening bus, walk back home.
While thus walking back home one day, I saw a fleet of trucks carrying grains, pass brushing past me near a bottleneck in the road. The traffic has increased, there was an impromptu place of worship on one side of the road and the adherents of the faith were adamant not to let the authorities shift it to a better place else where. Some of the grain bags on the trucks had holes in them, through which grain leaked onto the road. Two sparrows were darting smartly on to the road, picking up a few grains with each sortie. As I stood fascinated at their skill in dodging the traffic, a car grazed one of the sparrows and sped away. The sparrow was in pain. I suppose it was hit on its wing or a leg and fell on to the ground. It was trying to fly away but was not able to do so. Its companion was clearly distressed. Shrieking, (it was clearly not chirping), and unmindful of the traffic rushing along beside it, it tried for a few cliff- hanging minutes, to goad its companion to move away, but it was not successful. As I and a few distressed onlookers stood riveted there, horror-struck, soon a car passed over both the birds, plastering them onto the ground. To this day as I pass along the hallowed ground, I pay a silent homage to the two friends, or were they lovers,I do not know.