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Himalaya

Day 100: Kaziranga

Kaziranga, Nagaland and Assam 
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Football at the 2nd Kaziranga Elephant Festival. Even Wednesday could beat this lot. But why should they have to play with a human-sized ball when they're ten times bigger than us ?
Michael Palin - HimalayaOnce in the arena, a short speech explains that the motivation behind the elephant festival is to encourage local people to see the elephant as their friend and not something that tramples through their villages, damages their crops and destroys their livelihood. Unfortunately, this is but the first of many speeches on the theme of elephants as our friends, which the elephants and ourselves have to stand and listen to for over an hour in the hot sunshine.

Once the long peons to biological diversity and ecological integrity are over, the elephants can get on with what they're there for. Playing football. It didn't seem a very bright idea when I first saw it in Kunming and it doesn't seem so here. Elephants are not natural footballers. You might as well get the Arsenal squad to pick up tree trunks with their noses. It's just not their field of expertise. They do their best, of course, but their ball skills are painfully slow and their ponderous movements and the commentator's attempts to present this as the last few seconds of a World Cup Final hint at desperation.

The elephant tug of war, on the other hand, is much more promising. The point here is quite simple to show how much bigger and stronger elephants are than humans. Not an oft-disputed fact, you might think, but the proof of it is wonderful to watch. No matter how many men rush out of the crowd to grab the rope, and I reckon there were at least 60 clinging on to it at one point, the elephant merely has to walk a couple of steps to have them tumbling after him like the tail of a kite.
Kaziranga, Nagaland and Assam 
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 100: Kaziranga
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Kaziranga
  • Book page no: 234

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