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Asiad’s Appu reduced to a cripple
- Best loved elephant awaits painful end

Appu is in pain and counting his days in chains at the elephant camp at the Sri Krishna temple in Guruvayur near here.

The lovable, living symbol of the celebrity mascot of the 1982 Asian Games, which changed the face of New Delhi, is now a pale shadow of his former self. He had slipped and plunged into a well in 1992, leaving him a virtual cripple for life.

Appu was barely six years old when he endeared himself to the spectators and organisers alike at the Asiad with his tantrums and mirthful gestures. He also earned the affection of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The country had watched the colourful inauguration of the games enraptured as sales of colour television sets boomed, making the elephant a nationwide celebrity.

Appu, the youngest elephant in the Asiad herd, had received a hero’s welcome at home in Kerala when he returned from Delhi.

Called Kuttinarayanan when presented to the Guruvayur temple by a devotee, Appu continued to be the star attraction at temple festivals and fetched tidy sums for his keepers.

Tragedy struck when Appu ran berserk, cutting himself loose from his trainers, and fell into a deep well, temple veterinary officer Ravunni Nambiar said.

The mahouts managed to pull him out but his forelimbs were fractured. Even prolonged treatment failed to help Appu regain his mobility. Literally handicapped, he could not raise or fold his forelimbs, undermining his utility as a festival elephant.

Most of the time, he remained confined to the shed as others in the pack trekked from festival to festival, bringing rich dividends to the temple.

Now, while his campmates at the temple are undergoing their annual ayurvedic rejuvenation regimen, Appu is brought special food and medicines in the shed.

He is bathed with much difficulty. Mahouts help him out of the shed and make him lie down on the ground. They then rub and clean the elephant, turning him from side to side.

“Appu is in perennial pain. Only god knows when he will be relieved of it,” mahout Narayanankutty Nair said.

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