Scrubbing and stroking the hard, scaly trunk of Meena, a 25-year-old elephant, has to be one of the most extraordinary and enriching experiences I’ve had in Kerala. Every morning, elephants at Konni Elephant Training Centre in Pathanamthitta are taken in turns to a nearby canal, where they splash around.
I gaped in awe when I saw two black mammoths, one of them still a baby, stretched out in the creek. “Elephants love lazing around in water,” explained Aji Alex, owner of a homestay in the area and my guide to this elephant Camp in Kerala. When Meena decided to wake up from her slumber, bringing herself to her feet, I noticed a ripple in the stream and retreated a few steps. “She wants to play,” I heard him say and that same instant Meena decided to dip her trunk in the water and spray us.
It is believed that if you walk beneath an elephant, it will bring you good luck and give you a respite from nightmares—a superstition I was tempted to follow. The mahouts asked Meena to keep still as I took three shaky steps in the water under her belly, all the while praying she doesn’t trample the tiny human trudging around her.
There is a nine-acre camp close by which is home to six more elephants of diﬀerent sizes and ages, living in huge wooden cages called aanakoodu. Once upon a time, elephants were captured and trained in this area but this practice has been abolished, and I was informed by the Forest Range Officer that now they rescue orphans separated from the herd and give them a natural habitat to live in. This elephant camp in Kerala also has an elephant museum with an impressive skeleton of the mammal, a café, and a paper making unit.—Apeksha Bhateja