The troubles began for the little tusker when he turned 20 years old. It all happened in our land, the land where there are stone quarries, saw mills, gunsmiths, and blasting powder. Mannupaara Subin was the richest man in the area.
Mannupaara was not his family name. It was a moniker given to him by the public because he dealt in mannu [sand] and paara [granite]. Around the time we are talking of, suddenly a thought came to Subin: why don’t I get married! From the moment the thought occurred to him, he could not sit, stand, lie down, walk, or run. When he sat, he wanted to stand; when he stood up, he wanted to lie down; when he lay down, he wanted to run; when he ran, he wanted to walk. He was in a lather over the idea.
The idea of marrying entered his mind when he came across Thithimol, the most beautiful girl and the unrivalled braggart of that land. Subin conveyed his wish to her, but she brushed him aside. Finally, it was her friend who told Subin the secret.
“Man, you won’t be able to marry her just like that. You will have to give her a gift to bring her around.”
“Is that all? What does she want as a gift? A car? A diamond necklace? A world tour? Let me know now and it will be delivered tomorrow,” Subin assured her.
“Aiyye, nothing corny like that. They are things that anyone who has money can buy for her. It must be a gift that no one else can give. First you find something like that. Then organise to get it. The rest we shall see later.”
This sent Mannupaara Subin into a tizzy. Was there such a thing? He had to find it. In the days that followed, he started to urgently look for such a gift, leaving every other work unattended. When you have all the money, what can’t you buy? On top of that, it must be unique. This was a big conundrum. When one thinks along these lines, marriage itself is a conundrum. However, one can’t escape from marrying, can one?
Mannupaara Subin’s stress levels went up. Once he got tense, he had this condition that made his limbs tremble. To control that, he was advised to eat wild buffalo meat. Shivering all over, Subin headed straight to Gunner Chandy’s home. That was one place where he could get wild buffalo meat. But when he reached there, there wasn’t even a strip of wild buffalo meat in Chandy’s home.
To get rid of Subin’s shivering, Chandy gave him ground hibiscus flowers mixed in tender coconut water. However, when Subin drank it, his shivering increased.
“Son Subin, why are you shivering like this?” Chandy asked, as he watched the chair itself shake.
“Because of worry and tension, Chandy-chetta,” Subin said, still shivering on the chair.
“Why do you have so many worries?” Chandy wasn’t ready to let go.
“You see, I have to give a gift to Thithimol. Something that no one else can give.” He managed to say shyly.
“Oh, you want to marry her?” His question received only an embarrassed nod from Subin in reply. Then Subin asked, “Chandy-chetta, can you think of such a gift?”
Although he replied “In my knowledge there’s no such thing”, Chandy racked his brains to think of something that qualified. Why? Because Subin had pots of money. If he delivered such a gift, Subin would reward him with a sackful of money.
It was a wedding. When Chandy wondered what could be an appropriate wedding gift, what came to his mind was the most beautiful married life he had seen. Not only among the marriages he had seen, but among the ones that the whole world had witnessed.
“Shucks, what gift could he have given?” Gunner Chandy asked himself aloud.
“Who had given whom, chetta?” Subin was all agog.
“Oh, they are not people, they are elephants. I was wondering what gift Peacock Plume Tusker would have given his wife Leaf-ear on their wedding?”
“Peacock Plume Tusker?”
“Yes, there’s a tusker in our forest. Not only me, no one would have seen tusks bigger and more beautiful than his. His tusks are not white. When those tusks catch the sun, they reflect the colours of a peacock’s feathers. There is no better sight than that in the world. That’s why he’s called Peacock Plume Tusker.”
“That’s interesting!” A few thoughts flitted through Subin’s mind and he suddenly asked, “Can I get those tusks, Chandy-chetta?”
“Aiyyo, Subin. That doesn’t look possible. The mooppans claim he’s no ordinary elephant.”
What the mooppans – the local tribal chieftains – had said was true. After all, wasn’t Peacock Plume Tusker the miraculous elephant who was filled with Elephantam that had come down from the heavens. He was born in springtime. He grew up receiving love from all the elephants of that forest and the neighbouring ones too.
He not only received their love, but he also returned it, multiplying it many times over. As a result, though they were of an unseen beauty, none of the elephants cast an evil eye on his stunning tusks, which kept growing as a manifestation of pure, resplendent Elephantam.
Excerpted with permission from Elephantam Misophantam, Vinoy Thomas, translated from the Malayalam by Nandakumar K, Eka/Westland.