Friday, April 17, 2009

An elephant swims to Crow Island

History was made in Kakka Thuruth (literal translation: ‘Crow Island’) last week, in an unusual manner.

Now, Kakka Thuruth is a beautiful peanut-shaped island just north-west of Olavipe. It is about 16km south of Cochin as the crow flies. Almost all along the coastline of the isle are rice fields which are mostly used for shrimp filtering these days. The central portion consists of coconut groves.

The photo below by Karthiki, taken from the Olavipe ferry, shows Kakka Thuruth on the left:

At about 6.30 in the morning on April 9, the shrimp workers saw a strange movement in the lake on the western side of the island. As the bewildered people watched, a tusker emerged from the water and majestically climbed on to the outer bund.

That was Neelakandan, the first elephant to set foot on Kakka Thuruth.

He had been tied for the night in a plot near National Highway 47. Early morning, Neelakandan broke the shackle, ran south along the highway for a short distance, turned left to a by-road and reached the land’s end at Kakka Thuruth Ferry.

The water mass did not stop the elephant. He just got into the lake and swam across. Well, elephants (a full-grown bull weighs around 5 tons) are good swimmers.

There was a bit of panic in Kakka Thuruth initially because the mammoth creature had arrived without escort. But the distressed mahout and his assistant followed in a short while.

More drama was on. Police personnel from two stations rushed to the spot. On their heels came the Fire Force, and the Elephant Squad of the Veterinary Department.

Neelakandan suddenly decided to traverse the rice field and reach the coconut groves inland. He probably did not know that the water-locked area had a thick clay bed. And he got stuck in the mud.

The police, firemen and the local people tied ropes to the elephant and after a prolonged struggle managed to bring him on to solid ground again. Then water was pumped on to the animal for a while to wash away the slime coating he had acquired.

Attempts to make Neelakandan swim back to the mainland failed. Perhaps he was under trauma caused by the clay trap in the paddy field. And he stayed on, as an honoured guest of the people of Kakka Thuruth, who fed him and looked after him well.

Many persons from surrounding areas and tourists from Cochin, including foreigners, came to visit the hero of the story on the island in the sun.

It is said that the owner of Neelakandan delayed arranging a raft or barge hoping that he could save quite a bit of money if his elephant swam back. Finally, a barge was brought from Cochin on Monday the 13th to transport the jumbo across the waters.

But the drama did not end even with that.

Neelakandan refused to climb the steep ramp to the vessel. He would take a few steps up the incline and then reverse himself to land. After failed attempts, the mahout had a bright idea. He made the elephant turn right about and negotiate the ramp with his back to the barge. On reaching mainland also the same procedure was followed.

Perhaps Neelakandan did not wish to turn his back on the idyllic Kakka Thuruth and the people there.


(Based on newspaper reports and eyewitness account over telephone.)

Click on photo to enlarge. Copyright reserved.


Adheeth said...

This is one story a lot of people followed! n i loved the way you said he dint wanna show his back to the people of "Crow" island!

flowergirl said...

What a fascinating story! I had not read of this in the papers, so it was a treat to read this!


Poor fellow.A different kind of excitement and experience from Gardenia's -


Poor fellow.A different kind of excitement and experience from Gardenia's -

Maddy said...

i enjoyed reading this - a scene that you can imagine and take in..with all the comments that the onlookers ( but naturally - experts in everything) would have passed, the looking busy doing underfed & little policemen..some curious forigin..ers hanging around clicking away to glory...

time to visit kerala i suppose..

Abraham Tharakan said...

Adheeth, thank you.

Abraham Tharakan said...

flowergirl, thank you for the comment. I am happy that you liked the post.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Raji, I shall look up Gardenia's post.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Maddy, you got it absolutely right.

Do let me know when you are likely to visit India.

Kariyachan said...

Luckily 'Neelakandan' behaved like a gentleman, while his short visit to Kaka Thuruthu? Or was he up-to some mischief?

kallu said...

Lovely post. Written with such enjoyment of it all - we can see it all too; the ripples of excitement everywhere caused by Neelakandan's refusal to confirm

Abraham Tharakan said...

Kariyachan, thank you for the comment. Actually on the first day Neelakandan did flex his muscles a little bit. He uprooted an areca palm and threw it aside. But he calmed down after that.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you, Kallu. As a writer yourself you will know that the greatest compliment to an author is the reader grasping the mood in which a piece is written.