The Day God Tamed the Elephant
by Prabhula John
T

he year was 1987. Our father felt he would be able to better provide for his family if we migrated to the U.S.

Before we left India, our parents had a stern conversation with the entire family. Dad said, “Although we are going to a foreign country, we want you children to remember we are Indians. Our customs and our culture are different. When you are older and you go out to college and work, you will be required to live according to their culture. However, when you step inside our home, you will still be living in India. Anybody who disobeys your mother’s rules will be shipped back to India to a boarding school!”

Thankfully, my parents raised obedient children. None of us gave them much trouble growing up.

Twelve years after our move, with all the kids now working, my parents felt it was time for my sister and me to be married. Letters and phone calls were made to our church and friends in India, searching for suitors. A Christian man was found for my sister through church members who highly recommended him. My sister’s future was coming together nicely.

My dad told us because we were so close to each other, it might make sense to get us married at the same time so I wouldn’t feel alone when my sister left home. So we began to make wedding plans for two.

Before long, my parents told me a suitor had been found for me. He was the son of my childhood Sunday school teacher.

We soon went to India to meet our suitors. Although this was an arranged marriage, our parents were a little more liberal than traditional Indians. Our dad told each of us if for any reason we decided our suitor was not the man we should marry, we could back out. Even if we were at the alter during the wedding, all we had to do was look at Dad, and he would stop it.

After prayerfully seeking God’s wisdom and guidance, my sister and I were married two days apart, since we were two years apart. Having a double wedding would lower my father’s status, which was unacceptable in our Indian culture.

After the two weddings, our parents thought it would be in the best interest of us girls if we went on our honeymoon together. Our grooms asked us where we’d like to go. We decided on going back to our summer home in the mountains, since we hadn’t been there in 15 years. Our grooms were gracious and agreed. So, the next day, bags packed and car loaded, we headed to the mountains.

However, our childhood memories did not recall we had to pass through a jungle to reach our summer home. Now as adults, and a little nervous with our respective grooms, whom we barely knew, we were more vigilant of our surroundings.

En route to the mountains, in the middle of the jungle, a truck had pulled over to the side of the road. There was no other vehicle in the vicinity, and our chauffer told us we needed to pull over to see if we could help. Nightfall was coming, and the people in the truck would not be safe in the jungle. Our husbands assured us we would not be in danger, and we would leave as soon as they could assess the need and help the truck’s occupants.

Thankfully, the travelers in the truck had only stopped to look at a herd elephants gazing near the road. They looked inside the car, and pointing at my sister and me, said, “You might like to take a closer look at the elephants, since this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

My sister was wearing a sari, so she decided to stay in the car. My brother-in-law said he had taken many pictures of elephants and this would be easy, so my husband and I should step out of the car and he’d take a picture.

Since he was older and apparently had experience with elephants, we stepped out of the car for the picture. An elephant mother was with her two calves, who were eating bamboo shoots. They were across the street from where we were parked, and a six-foot-deep ditch separated the jungle from the road.

My brother-in-law looked through his camera lens and said, “You should go closer to the elephants for a better picture.”

My husband questioned him about our safety, and he assured us he had taken pictures of elephants a hundred times before, and it shouldn’t be a problem.

My husband and I jumped across the ditch, posing for the camera, using the elephants as our backdrop. When the camera flashed, the mother apparently felt threatened and trumpeted for help. Soon, we saw two herds running toward us from inside the jungle.

My husband screamed, “Run to the car!” and tried to grab my hand to cross the ditch. My athletic abilities are limited if someone is holding me, so I pushed his hand away and jumped the ditch. But out of fear and loss of direction, I ended up running toward the jungle instead of running to the car! (We later found out my brave brother-in-law had already reached the safety of the car and sat behind locked doors.)

When my husband realized I had not followed him, he started screaming my name. I realized I was running the wrong way and turned around to see where he was and where the elephants were.

To my dismay, the big mother elephant was 50 feet away from me.

Looking backward while still running, I slipped and slid down a slope that was overshadowed by a large thorn bush. I was now stuck under the bush.

When I tried to get up, the bush pushed me back down to the ground. All the while, my husband was screaming my name, looking for me.

I yelled back that I was stuck under a bush. I quickly prayed, Lord, if this is the end of me, save my husband. Let him not come looking for me and get trapped here to be killed by these elephants.

However, my husband was resilient. He came looking for me from the other direction and dragged me out from under the thornbush. “Follow me, and be fast!” he said.

We finally got to the car, and even before we could shut the door behind us, the chauffer took off, telling us if the elephants got to us, we’d all be in trouble.

After hugging each other and thanking God for our safety, my brother-in-law said, “The elephants in the zoo never acted that way.”

Momentarily, I forgot he was older than me and was my older sister’s husband, thus I should not speak harshly to him. I blurted out, “Are you insane, man? The elephants in the zoo are chained to the feet and caged behind iron bars. I’m calling Daddy!”

My sister told me to calm down. My husband quietly placed his hand in mine and said, “Let’s be thankful for our safety, and just praise God for His goodness.”

Late that night, we reached our cabin in the mountains. It was just as we had remembered it. After thanking God for keeping us safe despite our poor judgment, we retired to our respective rooms.

Upon our return home, my husband was nervous to tell my dad about the elephant encounter. Daddy simply smiled and said, “I sent you kids to go have fun and get to know each other; instead, you decided to go chasing elephants. At least you’ll cherish this memory for the rest of your lives, and it has certainly built a bond between the two of you; so all is well.”

We later learned God created the elephant to have empathy. If a smaller creature is fallen and helpless, the elephant usually will not hurt it. So when I slipped under the thornbush, God had tamed the elephant from following me and crushing me to the ground.

Twenty-eight years later, we still remember the incident with much laughter, and praise God for His goodness.

 

 

 

Prabhula John is youth pastor for the Rockville, Maryland, Church of God.