Did you know elephants are ticklish? I did not know this until Dr. Byers told me after I climbed down the back of the elephant, grasping at the animal’s soft hide I just finished going in circles on.
We were scheduled to have our elephant ride last Thursday, unfortunately the adventure was canceled because:
The elephant had the flu.
Luckily, he recovered after a week of rest and we were on our way to the grounds where the elephants lived. Now, let me say that these elephants are not treated poorly, malnourished or overworked. They are well fed, given baths weekly and used to help with labor and work in the city of Ahmedabad. At first glance I thought I walked into a single-animal zoo, but Dr. B’s wise words and past experience told me that these animals were well taken care of – this only sunk in after I had time to reflect. This blog post is dedicated to reflection and the question of what I stand for. Jennifer wrote a similar blog about this experience and what she stands for going into the new year and it’s important to remember that what we stand for changes and is always hard to define.
When we arrived I couldn’t get out of the vehicle fast enough. I had never seen an elephant so beautifully painted, with pastel colors red and blue drawn intricately on the animals hide. Of course, I anxiously walk towards the one where a man stands and he suddenly waves his hands across his body motioning, “No, no, no!” I stop and realize the elephant was going to be given a bath. I definitely can’t touch that elephant is what ran through my mind at the point, no matter how much I like wildlife, but I did.
Let us just say this; Jen was not so willing to get on after she realized how large the animal was or seeing the man who lead the elephant whack the animal with a bamboo stick. (This is where Dr. Byers’ comment on it only tickling the elephant comes in, we didn’t know that at the time, however.) Jen had a difficult time mustering up the courage to continue on with this delayed adventure but she hopped on more graciously than I and we were ready to go.
We continued around a small, grassed area where my emotions were fluctuating. I was on a natural high due to my excitement, I kept thinking: I am in India and riding an elephant?!, but I was also wondering why I was sitting on that elephant in the first place after seeing Chris’ face. He was obviously upset and usually when I see people who are upset I go and ask them what is wrong. I knew what was wrong but I put myself and my mission first and disregarded his. Chris was so sure of himself and where he stood and so was I. I was someone who stood by their friends and family in their decisions and opinions but here I didn’t. We rode around twice more, one time we saw the elephant use the loo, which I thought was hilarious, another he stopped to get a bite to eat. The experience made me feel so many different emotions that I didn’t know what to do with myself afterwards.
Since New Years and the much delayed publication of this post I have thought about what I stand for. I realized there are many things that I do advocate for and stand against. I am currently President of Active Minds, a mental health awareness organization on Marquette’s campus that fights to reduce the stigma against mental disorders, I was involved in Gay Straight Alliance in high school and continue to fight for gay rights at Marquette through my beat on the Tribune and through campus clubs. I stand for equality, equal rights and I stand for everyone to have the freedom to voice their opinions, ideals and to exercise their morals. The moments that I was on the elephant with Jen made me question my beliefs but they also made me realize that the things I do fight for I do so with my whole heart. The elephant ride was not just a tourist attraction or on the list of “Thing I have to do in India,” it was a wakeup call for me and my commitment to what I strive for. So, all in all, thank you dear elephant, and thank you dear India for the lessons you taught me.