April 27, 2008
Prithviraj came to my immediate attention as he was standing in a very compressed pasture next to his mahout. My research vet Rinku and I almost synchronically voiced “this animal looks deeply depressed.”
As we inquired the current mahout told us that this 11 year old male had already five mahouts in his young life. The reputation was that he is confused and does often not know what is ask of him. Prithviraj is supposedly afraid walking through water. We were told that when he was younger he was playful and even naughty. He then went through some training (I don’t even want to know what they did to him) and after that he went into depression. We learned that one particular mahout trained him harshly. Since then besides being depressed he is a poor eater and only nibbles on grass. There was no question in my mind that this little fellow needed all my love and healing skills. As I gently approached him I noticed the harsh quality of his pupils. They seemed to be frozen from trauma.
I asked the mahout (a kind men) to introduce me to his elephant. First touching his head and letting my hand speak with deep compassion I sensed quickly that we will bond fast. Within minutes his pasture responded in drifting towards me, then he smelled me and wished to face me. Worked on his hip and he leaned into the pressure, a little later he turned to face me again and to have his mouth touched. I circled his lips and the jaw started to drop inch by inch till – with the tickling of the tongue – the mouth opened and eventually the trunk ended on top of his forehead. This was the beginning of a most sweet relationship. Prithviraj followed me around whenever I was on site and he with his mahout ventured near me. I made sure to give him small mini sessions as often as possible. He enjoyed tremendously to have his tongue massaged and could not get enough of it. Most touching was to see his personality change, he became more alive and playful. In the beginning I was so struck by the tears who once fell out of his eyes in a bow. What a release for him to feel save and me holding healing space. I will never forget that moment as tears where pooling in my own eyes.
Meanwhile the mahout saw clearly the wonderful response of his elephant and with affection said to the vet “Elke is now the mother of this elephant “. This kind men even laid down for a nap and said referring to his elephant, “when his mother”(Elke) is with him (Prithviraj) he does not worry”.
My goal now is to write to the authorities at the park and see if they would take a suggestion not to rotate mahouts with Prithviraj. I think it is of utter importance for him to stay with the men who is in charge of him now. As adolescence time is approaching this bull could become dangerous. I see such a need to teach about touch there and we ask a few of the mahout. Indeed they seemed to see it from a positive side. My team made effort to keep the mahout in a good mood and we often brought goodies for them to eat.