By Daniel George
CHENNAI: True to his name, Ganesh Giri had much to do with elephants. As an eight-year-old, since he wanted to do nothing else but be with elephants, his mom Geetha let him drop out of school and become a mahout's assistant.
Giri's love affair with elephants ended in the most tragic way on Wednesday morning when Malolan, an 18-year-old male elephant of Sri Ahobila Mutt in Selaiyur trampled the 21-year-old junior mahout to death.
Giri had served at temples in Tiruverkadu and Srirangam. Malolan, named after the mutt deity, was brought as a three-year-old from Assam.
Police said Giri was trying to chain Malolan's left foreleg when he tripped and fell. The elephant is said to have accidentally stepped on him. Police said Giri, a resident of Satyanagar in Kovilambakkam, died on the spot after bleeding from his mouth and nose. He was declared dead at a private hospital in the vicinity.
Police said the youngster was employed with the mutt for two years. Ganesh's mother Geetha told TOI, "He was crazy about elephants and spent his entire childhood and youth with them. I tried to put him in a hostel to make him study, but he ran away to be with elephants in temples. When I tried to educate himself he cried profusely saying he could not live away from elephants. He had a way communicating with them. Friends and neighbours nicknamed him 'Yaanai' Ganesh. It's sad that the same animal took his life."
Mutt trustee T S Varadarajan said Malolan has been calm and well behaved for the past 15 years. "This is the first time such an incident has occurred. The veterinarian checked Malolan and advised that he be left alone for a day," he said.
M Sivarajan, the mahout who has been with Malolan for the past two years, said the animal would sometimes be mischievous, but never violent. "When Malo acts mischievous we throw away the stick in ou r hand. He is soon back to his loving self. He was very fond of Ganesh and would be feeling bad about it," he said.
Sivarajan said the elephant, after the morning puja, usually has a breakfast of palm leaves with plaintain pit, okra, carrot, and greens. Later in the afternoon, after going for a walk on the 15-acre campus he would be served cooked rice mixed with ghee, with a little pepper with salt. "Occasionally he has sugar cane. After another walk in the evening, its dinner time and he would retire to sleep by 10pm. There was no change in his routine or behaviour so far," the mahout said.
Ganesh's body was moved to the General hospital for postmortem and later handed over to the family. He is survived by his mother Geetha and brother Balaji.