I had planned to write about “ego”, a subject that’s interested me for a while, and even more since I began this blogging. But that would be a bit heavy for a Friday, don’t you think? And anyway, ever since the Arrange Challenge, I’ve been wanting to show you a series of photographs I have of an elephant loading logs onto a flatbed truck.
It was one of those pieces of pure Sri Lankan serendipity. My friend Mo and I were almost lost on the back roads – as we like to be – heading vaguely in the direction of Kandy. We weren’t exactly flying, exploring as we were – exclaiming over shady old trees, or sparkling waterfalls – when, rounding a bend, we were forced to an abrupt halt by a veritable traffic jam blocking the narrow road. Since we’d seen hardly anyone for the last ten or 15 minutes, a traffic jam had to be investigated.
“What is it?”, Mo called. It took a moment for the scene to register. A slight man in a green shirt and sarong, a neatly furled black umbrella slung across his back, sat astride an elephant, legs tucked behind its ears. The elephant, for its part, was lifting a twelve-foot length of log high onto the back of a heavily laden truck. “Come” I croaked. “Come and look.” And for the next forty minutes or so, until the final log was loaded, we joined the other onlookers, watching silently as the animal worked.
It was engrossing: the deliberate precision of each movement as balance married strength to achieve each perfectly executed manoeuvre – performed silently, and with the greatest economy. Everybody involved knew his role, there was no drama, no excitement. Simply the grandeur of the scene before us. This very large animal responding with willing compliance to the directions of his small mahout, as, together, they executed a task which would have taken all these men and twice as many more, the better part of a day to fulfil.