With the Word Environment Day falling on Friday, I am thrilled to review Magnificent Makhna by Aravind Krish Bala from the house of Tulika, because it talks about another environmental issue.
Makhnas are tuskless elephants that are usually aggressive, says the author. The story of a particular makhna, Moorthy, which lives in the Theppakkadu elephant camp at Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary is the gist of the book.
This gentle giant was once a feared beast. When tree-cutters and poachers were ravaging the Gudalur forests, this makhna took matters into his hands and got savage in revenge. This put a comma to the poaching and felling of trees and the forest regained its original wilderness. The tribals of the region, understood the makhna’s motives and worshiped him.
But then, as is usually the case, mainstream humans, in this instance, officials from the Forest Department interfered. The department sent a team of veterinarians and marksmen to capture him. This account of his capture by Thangam (an sharpshooter) and others is a thrilling read.
Ironically, after Moorthy’s capture, the pause in the destruction of the forest ends.
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- The irony in the story is very striking. Nature preserves. Humans destroy. Whenever humans interfere, there is an upset of the balance of nature.
- The narration is so flawless and gripping, that I was watching the capture of the makhna in my mind’s eye.
- The dark illustrations of Sandip add to the mystic mood of the forests. The picture of the elephant silhouetted against the moonlight refuses to go out of my mind. I am left with a lingering eerie feeling, with the image of a shot elephant walking waywardly into the forest replaying in my mind.
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- As I was browsing through the same title in other languages, I saw the Tamil title as மாபெரும் மக்னா யானை – it sounds strange and doesn’t convey the intended meaning. Maybe it was used for alliterative effect. I wonder if the title would have been the same if the story was originally written in Tamil! I’d have gone with “அதிரடியான மக்னா” or “மிடுக்கு மக்னா” or “கம்பீர கஜா “.