This side story is a part of the Marriage Made in Heaven (Part I and Part II) and The Suicide and the Accident stories.
This experience occurred on Friday March 4th 2005, only 4 days after I married and moved in with my new wife Shyni who I had only met for the first time 12 days earlier. It occurred in village of Kumily in the state of Kerala South India.
As I was leaving for my morning walk into the forest my inner voice intuitively told me to take my camera with me, that I would see elephants. The only resistance I had was that I had never seen any thing other than wild monkeys and deer and that I had all of the scenic nature pictures of the landscapes that I needed, I did not want to carry unnecessary equipment. But the message was very clear, so I went back into the house and got it.
On my way up the mountain I ran into two native Indian guides showing a Scottish man around. I always cringed when a native saw me in the forest because I know I would be getting a lecture about the safety of trekking in the jungle alone. This is the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Not only are there wild tigers, but there are also wild monkeys, cobra snakes, and elephants which have been known to kill people, even tourists. It is dangerous and it is illegal to trek alone without an official guide, so it was possible I could have been given a fine as well, or even been taken to jail. In reality they were actually locals giving illegal guided tours of the forest to visiting tourists, but I did not know that at the time. I thought they were official guides. The guides signaled me to come to them.
When I got there I received the expected lecture and then they pointed out some rustling in the trees and told me it was elephants. A few times I could see a bit of grey, or even a trunk, through the trees, but I never got a good view of the elephants. It was easy to see the direction of their movement because the trees and bamboo would move as they passed through. When it became clear that the elephants were heading in our direction the guides ran away in a hurry. They were very cautious, too cautious in my opinion. They started to descend the mountain, with me following them reluctantly. After walking less than a minute they turned to me to ask, “Where are you going?” I replied, “I would like to go up the mountain.” One of them said, “Ok, but be careful.”
I began heading up to the top, until the others were out of sight. Then I stopped and thought for a moment, I would like to get some photos of those elephants. Is it worth the risk? I decided it was and headed back towards them. We met up fairly quickly since it turned out they were heading my way at the exact same time.
There they were. The elephants were on the very same path I was on. In full view, open space, only 20 feet in front of me. I snapped a couple of photos and then got frightened and backed away to where they could not see me anymore. I gathered up more courage and set camera to video mode. I walked back to where I had a good view of them and started filming. Both times I squatted down low on the foot path, making myself look smaller to communicate that I posed no threat to them.
Slowly the elephants were walking towards me, once they got too close for comfort I turned to walk further away, when I turned back to see how far they had come I noticed that they had picked up their pace. I stopped filming and headed for safety. They stopped walking about the same time so I got a couple more photos. Then the big one in front stamped his foot on the ground a couple of times and made a few noises, I took that as a signal to back away again. Once I did, the elephants made a right turn and started heading away from me.
Cautiously I followed taking photos and video as we went. Within about five minutes a few of the elephants stopped to eat the bark off of a tree. Slowly and cautiously I made my way to a place that I perceived would be a safe spot to get more video and photos. Unfortunately there was too much brush in the way so I climbed the nearest tree where I was able to get good photos. The elephants watched me as I climbed. I was just a little worried they would come after me once I got up into the tree, but more worried that my climbing would scare them away. By the time I got up into the tree one of the elephants walked away, only two elephants remained. From this vantage point I got some excellent photos and video. At one point I began coughing which scarred the elephants away. I figured I had enough good photos and I would not risk my life any further trying to get more. All up I spent about twenty five minutes with the elephants.
I proceeded to the top of the lower peak and had my meditation time. When I returned back to Shyni’s house I said nothing until I had the photos on my computer for the show. Everyone was surprised to see those photos, especially at how close up I was. Shyni looked at me like I was both incredibly brave and stupid. She told me, “Don’t make me a widow so soon.” Many times during the day she lectured me about being careful. I reassured her by telling her, “I can tell when I am safe or not. Most animals are peaceful and can feel that in me and there is no problem. But if they are not I can tell, and I would stay away.” Shyni then told me, “If you ever have to get away from them run downhill. They can easily run uphill, but downhill their weight gives them trouble so they must go slowly. When Shyni’s mother returned home late that evening she told Shyni not to let me go hiking in that forest alone again. She made many comments in Malayalam. Even though I did not understand her words, I could feel her sense of shock and fear for my safety.
I do not suggest that you try such a thing unless you are very good at reading energy and very good with animals. What I did was dangerous, I risked my life. But for me it felt right. I did not feel like I was in danger. Mentally I knew the chance was there, but I did not feel the danger.
Read the next chapter here - The Kidnapping and the Wedding
Love and Blessings,
Author of Unforgettable: A Love and Spiritual Growth Story
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