First published in Sanctuary Asia, Vol. 36 No. 2, February 2016

By Bittu Sahgal

How extraordinarily lucky we are to be living on a subcontinent that still sustains wild elephants. Not because they are such beautiful animals… which they are. Not because our cultures and religions have been so deeply influenced by their magnificent aura… which they have. Not even because their wild spirit elevates our own flagging souls… which it does. 

We are fortunate because like other wild creatures, elephants possess the technology to repair the survival infrastructures that we unthinkingly convert to inedible cash in the belief that this will enhance the human condition. Where is the humility that allows us to recognise that we are punching holes in our sinking Titanic by killing off wild species and natural ecosystems?

Let me put it simply for the benefit of militant economists. The largest land animal in the world is one of the gardeners of our fragile and very threatened Eden. Without the maintenance services of elephants, the ticks that feed off them, and the grasshoppers and termites that share their grass, the entire economic and social fabric of India will come undone. 
Not slowly. Fast. Very, very fast. 

Don’t believe it? You imagine this is a ‘wild’ exaggeration? Well… you could be right... or wrong. Reflect on that awhile. 

Meanwhile, we commoners have some reflecting to do too. Have we been basking too long in our past greatness, wisdom, and tolerance? Have we landed up with politicians and planners who believe they have metamorphosed into the invincible gods we invented? Are we all playing bit-parts in a deadly charade that involves our parroting the economic mantra that growth and development at the cost of the natural world will actually benefit our much-suffering poor and our children? Do you too feel a twinge of pain at the hollowness with which mantras are recited these days at exquisite festivals venerating the sun, moon, earth and water while we desecrate all such treasures? And Lord Ganesh? Should we continue to look the other way as his stolen ivory finances terrorism?

So much to reflect on. So little time!

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