Puthukkad: Even as the elephant lovers of Kerala mourn the death of Thiruvambadi Sivasundar on Monday morning, the beast’s former owner could not help reminiscing the olden days. Pookkodan Sivan, as the elephant was known before he was sold to Thiruvambadi in 2003, had eloped into the forest for 19 days, said Pookkodan Francis.
Sivan was working with the loggers of the Rama Verma tea plantation at Vellikulangara in 1988 when a new mahout was brought in to take care of him. Sivan, like any other elephant, was highly sensitive to its human companions. The change of guard upset him so much that he just went into the deep forest in protest.
Francis’ men followed the elephant into the forest and spotted him several times. Sivan, however, refused to budge. Francis said that he was advised to tranquillise the elephant but he refused. “I did not want to hurt the elephant. If he did not want to come back, let the forest have one more elephant,” he said.
Sivan surprised everyone when he came out of the forest after 19 days. The tusker was in no mood for captivity though. No mahout could chain the elephant. Then Francis went to the spot with a bunch of plantains in hand. Sivan followed his master home like an obedient child.
The people gathered on either side of the road to welcome back the star elephant, Francis remembers.
Francis used to visit Sivan every year on the eve of the Thrissur Pooram even after he sold the elephant. He would gift him with plantains and other favourites. He said that he could not do that for the past four years due to problems related to old age. He could not even go to pay his last respects to the dear Sivan.