Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Thump (05/30/13)
- TITLE: The Dance of the Elephants
By Shanta Richard
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It was one of those cool summer nights. The sky was lit up with the brightness of a full moon. The night insects were starting up their chorus. Somewhere up in the trees a sleepy bird was chirruping.
Chandra tried to move to a more comfortable position on her bed. It was useless. There was no comfort for her aching muscles and brittle bones. Cancer was spreading all over her body. Pain pills were ceasing to be of any help.
Breaking the silence of the night, she heard a steady sound – thump…thump…thump. What could it be, she wondered – a leaky faucet, a dog’s tail, the wind playing with an open window or maybe a little Indian boy playing on his primitive drum – the tom-tom? Her thought flew back to her childhood and the Indian forests where she had grown up. Her father had been the District officer in the Forest Department of the Government of India. He was in charge of the Elephant sanctuary in Thekkady in the hills of Madurai, South India. Her earliest recollections were of elephants and the mahouts who cared for them. All the nursery tales she heard were about elephants.
Needless to say that her first books she read were on elephants. Her favorite author was Rudyard Kipling. She loved his book, The Jungle book, and must have read it a thousand times. Toomai, the little elephant boy, was her hero. It was in this book that she read about the elephant’s dance. She wanted to know more on the subject and had asked one of the old mahouts, Gopal, if he had ever seen or heard the elephants dance.
“Yes,” he said, “I have heard about it. But as far as I know, no one has ever seen the elephants dance. It is a mysterious and sacred ritual of the elephants which they are very careful to guard with utmost secrecy. I have been privileged only once in my life time to see their dance floor. I had gone into the deep forest searching for a runaway elephant calf when I came upon a large circular platform hidden away in the middle of dense trees and shrubs. In that area the trees had been uprooted and the undergrowth stamped down to form a circle of packed earth. I could see the footprints of maybe hundreds of elephants. Sometimes when the moon is at her zenith and the night is still, I have heard a faint thump…thump…thump, and when I stoop down and put my ear on the ground, I have heard a gentle vibration. I have never seen the elephant dance but I do believe that once in a while the elephants from all over the hills gather together and dance to praise and worship God and thank Him for their freedom.”
Since coming to America, Chandra had not seen any elephants except in the circus or the zoo. These elephants were so far away from their native forests and would have long forgotten the meaning of freedom and the dance that celebrated it. As she tossed painfully on her pillow she continued to hear that soft thump…thump…thump. She wondered whether somewhere the elephants were dancing. Did they remember her as their childhood friend and were they calling her to come and dance with them? She recalled a hymn they had sung in her church recently, “He’s calling out your name.”Maybe it was time for her to join that heavenly dance in praise and worship and celebrate her freedom from pain and loneliness. Peacefully she closed her eyes to the soft and sweet rhythm of the elephant’s dance.
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