The Fallen Elephant

GR Sridhar, Endocrine and Diabetes Centre, Visakhapatnam - 530002.

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There are few immutable landmarks along the Visakhapatnam beach: the Dolphins nose at one end, the red light-house at the other and the Scandal Point in between. For years it seemed there could be more -- a pair of elephants at the Pagoda park standing beside the toy train near the Scandal Point and the Ramakrishna beach. The elephants caught the eyes of Vizagites who rarely saw live elephants, in the circus years ago, and in the zoo these days. They were the delight of children for a couple of generations. Usually children scrambled upon them, from a thoughtfully provided foot-stool.

The elephants must have been captured often in photographs with very many visitors to this popular park.

The last two decades were a period of remarkable changes in Visakhapatnam. The beach has not been an exception. A twin road races past, up to Bheemunipatnam. Not long ago, these roads were a beauty, a joy for ever, until one of them was dug up, underground channels laid, covered, and opened again. Apartments rose high and higher, all along the road. Aeroplanes, pineapples, amoebae, swings and see-saws in new parks were laid; some continue to exist, some decayed and some were demolished.

Yet the pair of elephants, the pagoda and the toy train went on. They seemed to go on and on, like the hills and the Scandal Point. Until a few weeks ago, when the pagoda and the train were left as they were, but the elephants were not. The elephants were displaced. What greeted early morning walkers was an uprooted elephant, pulled from its perch, laid on its side. And another, wrenched equally completely, standing face to the road. A deep trench was all that was left of the popular pair of elephants.

It was indeed a sea change for many of those used to finding the elephants at the sea. The elephants had seen many changes themselves: the advancing sea nearly reaching their feet, a grove of eucalyptus trees felled, stairs leading to the sands demolished. This was a time of change for the elephants, in the park opened over 30 years ago by the Prime Minister of the land -- Mrs. Indira Gandhi when she was still new to the post.

Three months and more have gone by, and there has not been a change in the demeanour of these elephants. Visitors to the park ask, 'What is to happen to these elephants ?' . Only time, and the Municipal Corporation of Visakhapatnam can answer.

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