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It’s sad when angels cry




Subhrajit Samanta
(Indian Short Story Writer)
A Student of Fourth Semester
Bachelor in Media Science
A Content Writer,
A Journalist at Inspiria T.V. PR & Corp. Comm. Intern 2019


The portico of our college was quite impressive, with two replicas of Athena on two sides of the entrance. The entrance was bathed with a harmonious beige tint. The compound was vast, including several acres with two playgrounds and college buildings, hostels for both girls and boys. Our teachers had their quarters on the left side of the playground, while our hostels were located on the right side. Trees lined the entrance, along with a rivulet, flowing round the perimeters of the campus. Green vegetation dappled with mammoth trees gave a serene atmosphere. Any visitor was bound to fall in love with the tranquil aura of the campus, which highlighted the academia.
One of our favourite hangouts was at the side entrance to our science building. During recess we often relaxed on the stairs. On Monday we were often busy with our practical classes. After that we gathered together for a chat. We were a curious bunch of friends who liked to strum guitars, sing songs especially blues and rap. I was the lead singer in our class.
But I had my eccentricities. My complexion was slightly burnt but bright-- kind of Capuccino.   I had only one ambition--to believe in myself. Implicitly, I mean. In college I liked to loiter around the corridors and in the library.
I was known in college as Tashi. At that instance, just before the last class before lunch hour, I was engaged in jesting with my classmates, when a heavy hand gripped my shoulders.
A booming voice filled the corridor.’ Students, do come in and sit’.

Vivek Sir had already opened Strahler’s Physical Geography and was explaining the origin and temper of cyclones. That day in class I stood up and asked the teacher a question, which started the roll of events which led to a strange phenomenon.
i asked, ‘ Sir, what if a cyclone occurs in the human mind’?
Girls started laughing. But boys were scared.
The entire class assumed that Vivek Sir was angry. They feared the worst. But they were mistaken. The teacher threw back the question to Tashi.
‘ Are you reacting to my statements, or are you responding to my findings with another question? How, for instance, can you connect the mind with a physical phenomena.’?
‘Sir, I think that all natural occurrences have an impact on the human mind’, Tashi explained.
‘Now, now, let me ask you. How does the time of day have an impact on your mind’? Sir asked.
All his friends thought that it was a question which I was not prepared for. They started booing. I was in a quandary, to answer or not. But I was not to be ragged. I mustered my courage to give my opinion. I felt it was an honour on my part to respond to the challenge.
All throughout the college, Tashi wanted to do something which could endear him to his classmates. He was now mature enough to respond on his own terms.
He then answered, ‘Sir, it’s not a question of time impacting on my mind”.
‘Then, what is it’, Sir demanded.
‘ Sir, it’s the other way round. Actually, the mind can create its own temporal dimension. It creates its own space as well as time. Sir, the time I take to answer your question may not be at par with others, who may answer the same question’.
 ‘Again, if you think of deep emotional turbulence like love, sorrow or depression, then such feelings tide beyond the normal considerations of time’.
Vivek Sir then asked, ‘ How then must we measure our reactions to different periods of the day’?
‘ I would rather say in that case, we don’t measure time at all. We ought to free our minds from the cramped and conventional notions of time and space’.
‘ Bull’s eye’, said Vivek  Sir. “ It is axiomatic that both such notions are rarely universal. They are always relative to individuals”.
 Sir collected his books from the table. There were quite a number of books. Two of them fell out of his grasp. Monty and Shalini were quick to pick them up and return it to him. But in the process it did not elude my eyes that two of them were remarkable books like Crime and Punishment and Clinical Pathology.
I was dying to ask Sir what made him choose such books for his own reading. As it was recess, I contained my desire to do so.
My classmates gathered round me.
‘ Come on, how did you become so wise”.
‘ Tell us, how come you were so lucid’.
It was then I recalled an incident in the past in which I was at the receiving end.
 ‘I have learnt something of life from the tragedy of Kismet, an elephant’, I said. Although we were hungry, my friends wanted to hear from me the very incident which impacted so much. I resigned myself to my narration.
An adorable creature. He was the elephant Kismet. He was the main attraction at the resort, Elephant’s World at Elephant’s Day care center at Vinkum. Visitors were welcome to interact with elephants on a day care basis, learning how to feed them, watch them bathing, and see them roam about in the company of men everyday. Visitors were taught to prepare sticky rice balls for the elder ones and help feed the younger ones.
A terrific view of the rolling mountains in the backdrop insinuate the proximity with nature as visitors dip into the stream, watching elephants bathe and pour water on their torsos with their trunks. Amazing how cute they are, when you watch them washing the grime and soot from their bodies, sans perfume. You can help in preparing the afternoon meal for the elephants by selecting the maize and leafy sugarcane. In the evening visitors freak out in the nipa huts with rhumba music, which sets in the tone for the violet night.
But the main attraction in the day care center was the elephant Kailash or tersely called Kismet. He was always so bubbly in good spirits. So affectionate was he that he was a huge draw for the visitors. They like to feed him with rice balls and maize. He enjoyed the attention with his favourite mahout, Figaro. He often rubbed his trunk against him, making sure that he was not far from his sight. He used to play with baby elephants, twisting and turning down the nipa cottages. Often kids would play rap music to entertain him. He loved to dance with the rap beats from Gucci Mane. Twisting his torso ad flailing his trunks, it was wonderful to see him enjoying himself. Naturally, the visitors found in him a jolly companion.
XXXX
On that fateful day, when visitors dropped in for their sojourn at the Elephant’s Day Care center, they did not notice anything unusual. Elephants were lolling about, baby elephants were busy playing with the visitors under strict supervision of the forest guards. And everybody seemed so jubilant as man and animals came together in a tangible ensemble of the organic and corporeal. It was too difficult to explain or steal the essence of this rampant harmony by any theory.
All the elephants were at play. Some were bathing with the visitors in the stream. Others were roaming round in the forest. Yet others were in proximity with the visitors, who were busy entertaining them. This day marked the occasion of the World Environment day and what was better than this closeness of man and nature through the spectacle and experience of  humanity and the elephant kingdom in this day sanctuary-so novel in conception and which was bound to bring about a change in our thinking towards these denizens of the forest. Moreover, the elephants enjoyed being with humanity. What more can we expect than this phenomenon of togetherness, which enunciates love and understanding in nature.
Yet there was something amiss. Kismet was pining. Morose and irksome, he would often roll his trunks on the floor of the forest. He was suffering
But the cause of his misery was yet not clear, even to his favourite mahout. Today, he wasn’t even chummy towards Figaro. Officials were busy taking stock of the problem. Yet none could find a solution to his malady. The veterinary expert was brought in to assess his problem. He took out his diary and made notes. It was essential that he find a solution to this mysterious ailment of Kismet.
He would compare his state with the condition of Kismet on previous occasions. He suggested that a specimen of his blood be sent for routine examination. And yet he repeatedly assured that he did not, in fact, suffer from any serious illness. It was near stalemate for the forest officials. Figaro was also mystified.
‘What could be wrong with Kismet’?
 The sun was tired. Enough, it said. And it was afternoon. He needed rest. Yet, the entire day care community was concerned. Kismet didn’t bathe. He didn’t eat. He was not just his original self. Often, he got up, shook his head from side to side. He trumpeted loudly, especially when visitors approached him. As the day grew old, he turned violent. He was sitting on the grass. Suddenly, he got up and shook himself. As Figaro tried to go near, he suddenly marched upon him. There was no way out. The mahout ran and hid himself.
But it was only he and himself, who could do anything. The vet had given up. Evening was approaching. Other elephants were scared and made themselves scarce. There was nothing that anybody could do to calm him or understand the cause of his malady. It was near surrender on the part of day care officials. They again approached Figaro and entreated to find out the cause of his misery.
Figaro pondered deeply. He carefully rehearsed his dealings with Kismet for the past week. He mentally checked his food intake, behavior, his mannerism. But he couldn’t find any misdemeanor during the past few days. There was nothing he found suspicious in his dealings either with him or the visitors. The Vet asked him once again about his ablutions. Kismet pondered again and fell silent. Suddenly, he jumped up.
‘I think I have found the cause for his strange behavior’, he cried out.
‘What is it”, asked the Vet.
‘ It’s that I forgot to clear the encrustations behind his ears. Any case, it’s not much. I fear’.
At that the Vet became angry and excited. ‘ You have done an unpardonable mistake. It’s because of that he has turned abnormal. It is likely to make him violent. I have to find the tranquilizers now’. Saying so he ran into the office.
There was no time actually. Kismet stood on his great legs. It was a pitiful but a scary sight. Figaro approached him very cautiously. At this the community shrieked loudly.
‘Don’t go near. Be careful’ everybody shouted.
Well said but not done as something had to be done. Evening palled on the horizon. The sun was feeling sleepy and about to drown in the far corner of the sky. Crickets called out to each other in urgent cries. In the depths of the forest there were signs of animal jubilation as day slowly faded. Something had to be done as Kismet was unstable. And that something could only be done by Figaro.
Still there was no sign of the Vet with his tranquillizers. Figaro was approaching slowly and tried talking to him in low monotones. The pall of darkness drew closer. The mahout was concentrating on the elephant and had gone quite close. The rest of the visitors and officials were astounded to see the brave Figaro almost within the reach of Kismet.
At that instance there was a loud cry from the Vet as he emerged from the shadows with his tranquilizer gun. He was trying to get the syringe in line with his gun. Kismet was distracted and this made him very angry. Without warning, he rushed towards Figaro. Before he could try to run away, Kismet caught him with his trunks. In lightning speed he wound him with his trunks and threw him on the ground. When Figaro struggled to get away, being heavily injured,  Kismet did something which was not normal in the annals of animal relations with humans, especially between the mahout, who was a long term friend of the elephant.
Kismet pounced upon the hapless Figaro and all of a sudden, trampled him with his heavy foot. It occurred so swiftly that all of us couldn’t make out whatever happened in front of our eyes. It was cataclysmic. Sudden.  Inexplicable. Inevitable. Death happened to Figaro at that instant. But what happened following Kismet’s actions was more lamentable.
The Vet was still struggling with his array of syringes and unsuccessfully tried to adjust them in the nozzle of his gun. But the damage was done. Kismet was baffled by his actions. He was not at all himself. As he stood there, flapping his huge ears and turning his head sideways, he sniffed the blood and tattered clothes of his favourite mahout. Figaro was truly dead, mauled by the creature whom he loved. Not that Kismet didn’t love him. The amount of intense feeling he nourished for his dead keeper held him in thrall. He was awestruck by his own doings. He lifted up the Figaro’s clothes very slowly, sniffing all the while. Suddenly he trumpeted loudly. There was a wild rush of people and elephants, who stamped away and ran frantically out of the scenario of death.
However, it dawned on all that Kismet had lost control over himself. He became truly a mad elephant. There was no way he could be retrieved. He had cut himself off from all sorts of liaison with either animal or human. There was no turning back. He left no way to regain himself. He was sincere in his love for his keeper. And now with his killing him there was nothing he could do about it. Now it was all between the Vet, armed with his gun and tranquilizers.
Simultaneously, it behoved on all the people that he was past normalcy. There could only be one way out of it. Kismet had to accept his fate. The guards were alerted and brought. Now that the Vet shot his tranquilizers into the elephant without any substantial effect. But he was too late and it was left to the guards to exterminate the elephant once for all as he had become unsafe not only to himself and his eccentricity might affect others of his clan.
Death came to Kismet. It was inevitable. And as the guards shot into his head there was widespread grief both for Figaro and Kismet, who slowly crumpled beside the body of his favourite friend, guardian and keeper. It sent shock waves throughout the camp. After the terrible incident there was total silence. Nobody said anything. It was only the laughing hyenas that scented their food. The entire arena was cordoned off for the last rites of both man and animal.
My classmates were deeply moved.
When I was narrating the story we were unaware that  Vivek  Sir was quietly listening intently a few steps away.
We were a bit taken aback as we were huddling on the steps in front of our canteen. But when we addressed him, he went away. On the spot we found nothing unusual as he was often busy with college affairs. Ye,t as I now look back on the scene, I confess I found his attitude quite strange. Although he was intently listening he offered no comments.
Indeed, his quiet departure raised a few questions in my mind but considering the circumstances I found nothing so remarkable at all. As it was, the autumn fest was in the offing with a lot of pomp. It was so special to us, as being students of final semester we were about to leave college.
Xxxx
Having been blessed with a few day’s holiday before autumn festival in the college, the four of us decided to visit Vinkum, where the carnage of the elephant and its mahout occurred.
The sky being clear on one fine Wednesday, Monty, Nalini Bikram and myself sneaked out from the college hostel for a day’s visit to Vinkum. We planned to visit the place in the morning, aiming to return before the approach of dusk.
We hired a private car to the railway station. As the train came, we noticed a beggar approaching us. We ignored her and quickly bundled ourselves into the chair car. Vinkum was only an hour and half’s distance from our station. Monty was excited. Nalini brought out her mouth organ and started playing. It was a day which will be embedded in our memory for many reasons. It was not only a rare visit to a place where we never had been but considering the carnage , which occurred a few months back, so fresh in my mind, and we found it worth a visit. The carnage actually occurred when I was in school in the second year.
However, inspite of the holiday mood we were in, I found myself a bit on the sombre side as it was myself who had been so near to the spot of the carnage. But I was careful not to spoil the mood of our holiday. Bikram was detailed to bring some snacks and while we were having our food and twittering happily, I located one of the causes for my seriousness. As Bikram spread our snacks , the beggar whom we earlier came across again accosted us. This time we parted with some food for her. She dispersed with a rare smile. In my mind, however, I found her smile quite mysterious.
Now, I asked myself, ‘ Why would she smile at us, considering the fact that it was our second meeting and that too on separate occasions’.
I was lost in my thoughts, when suddenly the train slowed and we were frightfully busy to embark. As the train stopped we alighted and made way to the taxi stand. As we opted for a taxi and got in, the vehicle started. The taxi maneuvered the island around the station and sped towards Vinkum, but not before I got a glimpse of the beggar from a distance. I had second thoughts about her. Now, was she tailing us to Vinkum. Anyway, I found my hypothesis preposterous and kept looking at the road.
After twenty minutes we spied the forest enclave where the elephants were herded in the amusement park. My friends were quite delirious with the prospect of an elephant ride and their happiness made the day for us.
‘ Tashi, you will pay for the ride, Bikram will look after the food, Monty will be in charge of resthouse and I, Nalini said will arrange for expenses for our return trip’.
‘ Pass’, I said.
As usual I arranged for the elephant ride and dear me, what a ride it was. The elephant named Bisto took us deep into the forest. While we were having our ride on the elephant, the monkeys were after us and constantly pestered us for food. We had to part with some bananas for which they were not quite grateful and demanded some more.
We enjoyed the swinging sensation on top of the elephant, Bisto. When we reached a forest clearing, I reminded others the place where the elephant Kismet was shot. And as we turned a corner of the forest I saw a memorial in honour of the mahout, Figaro. At the corner of the forest there were two figurines of Figaro and Kismet.
Feeling sad, but not quite as it was an accident which was overlooked by the authorities, and remembering that such destiny was neither planned nor desired, we felt the pain and suffering, which both the man and the elephant endured. Yet it was a lovely day which will be embedded in the annals of our memories. It was an accident which was inexplicable, however culpable . But as I thought over it, I felt it might have been avoided, considering the feeling of both the mahout for the elephant as well as Kismet for Figaro.
As the day waned, it was time for us to leave. We trooped into the canteen. Food and beverages were shared by us all. We had so much to talk about, especially the well-groomed elephants. They were civil and obedient.
Nalini then asked an inevitable question. ‘ How  is it that Kismet went mad’?
The answer was stated in my account of the carnage, where his mismanagement by the authorities was spelled out.
‘ Dereliction of duty’, commented Bikram.
‘ Misshapen destinies or destinies warped’, was my summation.
As we finished our food we prepared for a take off to our college dorms.
Too many memories took part in our leave-taking. I was submerged in many events in my past. My past  took into cognizance of the land of elephants. A land dominated by man but made beautiful by these elephants. I remembered that King Porus was taken prisoner by Emperor Alexander when he was on his favourite elephant. 
 
When we moved away from the amusement park we  donated some money for the welfare for the elephants, creatures whose destiny was to make us happy by sacrificing their freedom. But simultaneously it was an inescapable that they came into contact with humanity for good or worse.
Something then happened which changed the course of one person’s destiny. As we were about to leave the place I was accosted by an aged person, who gave me a letter to be delivered to one of our teachers.
I was violently disturbed to pore over the addressee of the letter.
 It was addressed to Vivek Sir. On the spot I had a notion that somebody related to him was a resident of the locality wanted to share some thoughts or messages with him. Nothing amiss, of course. But something vaguely disturbed me so much that my mind became a whirlpool of thoughts and presentiments.
In any case we entered our dorm, following a swift passage on the train. As it was dark we were happily located inside our rooms. Quite satisfied that we had spent the day to our advantage, I sat outside the little balcony of our dorm and stared at the letter.
I had second thoughts on opening the letter. Yet, maintaining my integrity, I did not open it.
I stared at the passing moon, playing with the clouds at night. There was somebody playing a violin at one of the rooms. ‘That must be Shalini’, I mused.
‘ Wait, wait. Did I tell you that I was in love with her’.
In the dark there was the moon. And the moon was Shalini, I figured.
Yet, deep in the night, sleep forsook me. The figure of the beggar haunted me. ‘ who was she’?
I found no answer.
Xxx
The sequel & the answer

Next morning when I woke up, the first thing I did was to look for Vivek Sir in the hope of delivering the letter. But my friends in class told me that he had left the college.
I was taken aback. Of course, I thought , the secret must be in the letter itself. The coincidence was too much to be dismissed.
The letter to him.
His resigning from the college.
Trembling, I opened the letter.
‘ Dear Vivek’, the letter ran. ‘You must be feeling bad over the incident of the carnage, where two innocent lives have been lost. I feel guilty and lost. Please forgive me. What has been done cannot be undone.
Indeed, the fate of the elephant may be imbued to me. And yet, and yet, you see. It could not be helped. Being my son, you must understand my feelings.
I had no option but to shoot Kismet.
But options were limited. Do forgive me.
Yours Dr. Nimjal.
Click.
Now everything fell into place. Vivek Sir’s quiet eavesdropping. His resignation.
He must have felt pretty bad. But well, he faced the accountability as he was the senior Vet..
He felt somewhat guilty.
Guilty as hell.
As I mused, the gongs of dining hall rang sonorously.
I did not understand many things. Of course, what Vivek Sir felt could not be explained. It was his mind. I couldn’t be part of it.
Misshapen destinies, was all I could surmise.
I remembered what Adolf Hitler wrote in his Mein Kampf.
‘Eternal Nature inexorably avenges the infringement of her commands’.
The gongs of dining hall again summoned us. It rang urgently. It tore open my thought process.
I got back into the world of our college.
Somehow, I felt guilty.


Subhrajit Samanta ©