Our drive to the aptly named Serenity in Kerala was a kaleidoscope of colourful interest both on and off the road. Not least we passed a highly over-laden lorry - a great mountain of palm leaves on wheels - which was heading two hours up the twisting road to Serenity to feed its resident elephant.
The following morning after breakfast Lakshmi, said pachyderm, arrived alongside her attentive mahout to spend the morning with us. She works afternoons in the surrounding rubber plantations that cover the hills as far as the eye can see. All the Serenity staff came out from the plantation bungalow to greet her as elephants are much revered here. During festivals they’re painted in patterns of shocking pinks and bright yellows and taken into the local Hindu temple. Lakshmi is the name for the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity and the embodiment of beauty so she’s always in demand and the absolute star of the show.
It seems that the way to an elephant’s heart is through her stomach and we were given an assortment of food to offer her. Bananas proved to be very popular as were crushed coconut, (crushed, that is, underfoot by Lakshmi), mangoes and jack fruit. It’s very strange feeding an elephant, as the trunk approaches your hand it resembles a snake weaving its way through the air before curling itself around the fruit and deftly swooshing it back to its mouth. The elephant’s twinkling eyes suggest she’s enjoying every mouthful and everyone watching can’t but smile. When one jack fruit failed to pass muster, either it was bad or unripe, it was thrown to the ground and then stamped on hard in utter disgust!
Having very slowly and gently knelt down to allow the children to clamber on top Lakshmi’s meal continued with delivery now from above and behind. Her trunk stretched gracefully over her back in a wide arc to delicately search for food offered from those onboard and now out of sight. Breakfast over, for the moment, Lakshmi then proceeded to set off down the track, complete with her passengers and amble down to the river for her morning bath.
Posted by: Andrea Hulme