The rising sun was greeted by a triumphant roar. His trunk turned upwards, stretching in salutation to the new day, the Four-Winged Elephant leapt off the ground.
The Four-Winged Elephant pushed hard at the ground, heaved his huge wings and took flight. It was a sight to behold, a sight which was still familiar to the people of the Oriya village where the Four-Winged Elephant lived. He would fly across the morning sky and given the size of the massive mammal, it was as unreal as could be. For the skies are usually thought to be the domain of hollow boned birds which would feed on berries and such and not mammoth creatures who would engulf pumpkins whole.
Like a ripening mango the sun would change colour as it came out and that’s what the Four-Winged Elephant thought the sun to be, a mango. A mango, hung not from the branches of a tree but from the clouds, which moved with the wind and time. The Four-Winged Elephant would soar up in the sky, his trunk stretched out as if to roll up the mango-like-sun with his trunk and into his mouth the moment it seemed within his grasp.
Alas, the sun was too far out of the Four-Winged Elephant’s reach. The elusive promise of a succulent sweet mango which the sun presented would always make him impatient and hungry. It was the poor people of Oriya who ended up paying for the sun’s treachery. He would then wreak havoc on the food grown by the local folk. He would plunder the sugarcane fields, rolling them in bundles with his trunk and taking them whole in his bottomless mouth. He would uproot trees with his massive tusks and gorge on its foliage. Or he would simply pluck the plantains off the trees and pop whole bunches into his mouth.
His hunger satiated, he would launch off to yet another aerial expedition. His gleaming smooth white body would glisten in the sunlight like an opalescent pearl. When the Four-Winged Elephant was air borne, he looked like a flying Rosogulla, a sweet specialty of the village, plump and white.
But when it came to landings, the Four-Winged Elephant preferred to land on the rooftops of the village houses. These houses that were built of simple mud bricks and wood would collapse within moments under his immense weight. Their structure falling apart just like the sugar syrup oozing out of the Rosogulla. And the residents of the house were mostly lucky enough to get out in the nick of time.
The Four-Winged Elephant would blow out the fires with his trunk the villagers lit to scare him. He would break down the barricades they built to protect their fields. And when the villagers came at him banging on the percussive membrane of the dhol and making loud noises, he would simply flap his large ears shut. The villagers tried numerous methods to curb the Four-Winged Elephant, just not the one that could have worked.
With their crops being plundered and their houses being crushed to dust, the people of Oriya could no longer tolerate the devastation that the Four-Winged Elephant would invariably bring about into their homes and livelihood. They knew it was time to take matters to God.
Everybody from cattle grazers to farmers, from the cobbler to the goldsmith, from men to women and children gathered at the temple area, for that was where (according to common belief) God put up in the village. Only the untouchables stayed at the fringes.
The priests then starting chanting hymns and prayers, ringing the temple bells and telling the beads, and invoking spirits that might carry the message over to God. A fire was lit and fed with ghee and the bark of the mango tree. Fruits and nuts were fed into the flames to appease God. All activity had ceased in the village. Everyone waited for God to hear their plight, if not the ceaseless and countless and albeit incomprehensible chants of the temple priests.
At long last, did God hear. Or so, the saffron clothed priests told the gullible gathering, after having read the sign in the red-orange flame that turned a blinding white. With this assurance, everybody went back to their humdrum existence.
God marveled at the blinding faith his subjects had in him. He couldn’t help but be pleased with himself when a mere hint of him would grant greatest of assurance or his mere mention invoke the deadliest of fears. Appeased and fed to eyelids with ghee, fruits and numerous other offerings, he decided to invite the Four-Winged Elephant for a feast at his abode above the clouds, Heaven.
The Four-Winged Elephant was more than glad to accept the invitation to the feast. He was hopeful, that God might serve him the mango-like-sun, because obviously it must be closer to heaven.
On the day of the grand feast, the Four-Winged Elephant barged into the entire village milkmen’s cow sheds. He would then suck in all of the milk in the pails with is trunk and raise it over his head, letting out a shower of milk. He bathed himself in milk. For he was going to meet God and must be spotlessly white. Nobody in the village had milk that day.
Next the Four-Winged Elephant ran amidst all the flowering gardens, so that the bloom of the flowers would rub off on him, leaving behind a pleasant fragrance. The Four-Winged Elephant had perfumed himself with a fragrance that wasn’t naturally his own, but since he had to meet God, there seemed no harm in doing a little wrong to look right before God.
Thoroughly groomed, the Four-Winged Elephant spread out its magnificent wings and set out for as high as could be, because that’s what God’s address should be. He soared above the clouds and higher still.
The gilded gates of heaven opened for the Four-Winged Elephant. Strangely, God’s residence wasn’t a palace or a meadow, but an orchard lined with trees bearing the mango-like-sun. The trees were so heavily laden that they bent as if in obeisance for the Four-Winged Elephant. He couldn’t contain his happiness at seeing his coveted fruit at such an approachable proximity and immeasurable abundance.
the people of Oriya could no longer tolerate the devastation that the Four-Winged Elephant would invariably bring about into their homes and livelihood. They knew it was time to take matters to God.
Without a moment’s delay and completely forgetting about his host’s absence, the Four-Winged Elephant flew about the orchard with a child’s delight. He was orgasmic, as he first bit into the succulent flesh of the sweetest of fruits he had ever eaten. He shut out all his senses, except the taste buds on his tongue. The gustatory pleasure of eating the mango-like-sun filled the Four-Winged Elephant with ecstasy.
The Four-Winged Elephant would go from one tree to another, one mango-like-sun to another, and one gastronomic pleasure to another. The Four-Winged Elephant ate as many mango-like-suns as only a Four-Winged Elephant could eat.
Inebriated in the sweetness of the mango-like-sun, the Four-Winged Elephant rolled on the velvety grass and dozed off into a very deep sleep.
And it was only after the Four-Winged Elephant had slipped into slumber that the host, God, came on the scene. Seeing the four winged creature, God smiled with paternal pride at having created something as majestic as the Four-Winged Elephant. But he knew that this child of his hadn’t turned out well, and therefore didn’t deserve the glory of the four magnificent wings which he had blessed him with.
God then took out his sword and chopped the four wings off in one swift motion.
All this while, the Four-Winged Elephant had been dreaming about the orchard of the mango-like-sun trees. He envisaged himself perched on the bough of a heavily laden mango-like-sun tree, his outstretched trunk reaching out for the closest golden drop of joy. The fruit is just within his grasp, when the bough snaps!
The Four-Winged Elephant spreads out his wings, only they aren’t there! The elephant opens his eyes in sheer terror and the nerve racking sensation of hurtling down the sky awakens him. The white elephant fell from heaven, like the moon sinking down to the earth in the day sky.
When the Elephant did hit the ground, he landed on a barren land, and got rolled up in mud and dirt. The milky white Four-Winged Elephant was now beyond recognition. What once had been the likeliness of a pearl, now resembled a bead of clay.
At finding himself robbed of beauty and the four wings, the Elephant ran into the forest to hide his shame and wallow in his sorrow. All the descendants of the erstwhile Four-Winged Elephant, were wingless and dirt brown. They are often seen spraying themselves with water, but it is all in the vain hope of being reinstated to the pearly white glory of their ancestor.
As for the four wings, God gave a pair to the beautiful Peacock, who would dance in order to cheer up God, whenever he would shower his tears on earth as rain. The other pair went to the Banana tree, so that its huge leaves would serve as the platter out of which God’s faithful followers may eat.
About the Author
Nikita has been interested in anything from her grandmother’s bedtime tales to great literary works. She is one of those who still write letters and send postcards. She dreams with her eyes open and hopes to make something out of her scribbles.