Palakkad: Kuttysankaran is his courteous best around Rukmini. This perplexes onlookers to no end, given that the elephant will do the bidding of this petite friend even when he is not exactly agreeable with others. And the people of Kongad village in Palakkad have come to accept the bond as a vindication of movies that cash in on the emotional portrayal of such friendships.
Rukmini, the wife of the late Panchavadyam artist Kongad Vijayan, dotted on the elephant ever since he was brought to Menassery temple in Kongad. She would pay him a visit every morning after praying at the temple. The two become thick friends over time and the meeting is now part of Kuttysankaran’s morning rituals.
He is particular about getting his share of the ‘prasadam’ from the temple which Rukmini brings him every morning. Be it ‘aval’ (puffed rice), jaggery balls or ‘payasam’, he devours it all happily as Rukmini pets him. She affectionately calls him ‘Kunchu’ and ‘Kunju’ to which Kuttysankaran replies with gentle tappings of his trunk on her palm. Rukmini treats him to a share of the delicacies made at home for Onam and other special occasions.
Their bond became a fable of sorts when Rukmini coaxed an adamant Kuttysankaran to walk home without any fuss one day. The elephant was returning to Kongad after attending the festival in a temple. He was dropped off in a lorry near Thirumandhamkunnu temple and had to walk the rest of the way. The mahout was drunk and was in no condition to lead the elephant. The mahout's aides were helpless since the elephant was not allowing any of them near it. No matter how much they tried, Kuttysankaran was bent on staying glued to the spot.
When the news reached Rukmini, she rushed to the spot, only to find Kuttysankaran surveying the crowd with a menacing look. The aides of the mahout were relieved to see Rukmini and requested her to help. She was apprehensive of taking charge; feeding the elephant and commanding it to obey her were two different things and she had no idea how the latter was done. She went up to Kuttysankaran, looked him the eye and said ‘come let’s go’. The moment she held it by the tusk, gently nudging him forward, the elephant began to walk.
And so goes the tale that is now part of the Kuttysankaran-Rukmini repertoire of Kongad. The duo is sure to leave behind a lot more