The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sabitri in love, get out of way
- Elephantine elopement

Ranigunj, Aug. 29: Picture this: 20-year-old Sabitri has run off into the jungles with her 26-year-old lover, name unknown, and the two are romping around happily in a pool.

Enter, the Hitler-like father, just at that moment of bliss. Eyes flashing fire, he orders her to tear herself away and return home with him.

Petrified, Sabitri throws her arm around her lover and clings, eyes pleading. The lover shifts subtly, positions himself as a living shield between her and the enemies and shuts them out.

So what’s unusual about this hackneyed Bollywood love story, did you ask' Nothing much. Only, in this tale, the lovers are not humans but elephants.

A wild tusker from Jharkhand enacted such a play of passion in the middle of the night, breaking through the fence of the circus Sabitri belonged to, running amok among the tents till he found her and leading her away into the jungles.

Three of Sabitri’s fellow female elephants — Gayatri, Chanchala and Mala — that had been trumpeting loudly in unison followed the lovers out.

The incident happened around 2.30am today at Kumarbazar, some 175km from Calcutta, where the Olympic Circus had set up camp 10 days ago.

“We were jolted awake by the sounds of the rampaging tusker. We found that our female elephants were making a lot of noise and straining to free themselves from their shackles,” circus manager Chandranath Banerjee said.

Worried that the tusker would wreak havoc, Banerjee ordered his staff to set the four free.

“The tusker was in a frenzy. So, I instructed our mahout to free the elephants to avoid further destruction. The tusker then led all four to the nearby jungles,” he said.

First thing in the morning, Banerjee dialled the forest department and sought help to find the elephants. Gayatri, Chanchala and Mala were brought back soon after, but Sabitri could not be found.

“The wild tusker from Jharkhand crossed the Damodar river late at night and entered the town,” said Jivan Dafadar, range officer (Mangalpur forest).

“We suspect that the tusker headed for the circus after hearing the calls of the four female elephants.”

The range officer said his team had kept up efforts to locate Sabitri and finally spotted her frolicking in a jungle pond with the tusker. The two were then moving from Badam Bagan to Nepali Para of Ranigunj.

When the team, along with Sabitri’s mahout Kalimuddin Sheikh, tried cajoling her to come back, she looped her trunk around the tusker’s leg and he protectively shielded her with his massive torso, Dafadar said.

Sheikh said this was the first time she had disobeyed him.

“Sabitri was raised by me since childhood and has always been obedient. But the tusker seems to have stolen her affections,” he said.

Till late at night, forest officials were trailing the elephants with flaming torches. They were last seen heading towards Mejia in Bankura district along the Ranigunj-Mejia road.

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