Padayappa – The Lovable Hero of Kerala

For two evenings now we have been hearing fire-crackers burst to drive off padayappa – a lone (approx. 50 to 60 years old) tusker roaming around the tea estates. Padayappa means Son of the Warrior or big brother.

Last night we were both excited and apprehensive; there was a chance that this magnificent animal would pay us a visit. We took the dogs in early, and went to bed expecting to be woken up any time. Unfortunately it didn’t happen. I felt deprived of a chance to see this iconic tusker at close quarters, scary as it would have been.  His visit might have meant probable destruction in the garden and he would have feasted on pumpkins and other veggies growing in the vegetable patch. That would have been okay. Few mind that as he needs to satisfy his hunger. Deer, sambhar, hares etc. are regular visitors. Humans have mindlessly encroached upon their territory and now cannot complain.

Padayappa is not a rogue elephant. Deprived of a disturbance-free, large source of food, he roams around in search of it in other areas. He visits home gardens, the market and other vicinities only to steal food.  He is a gentle, harmless giant but of late, insensitive hoodlums heckling and menacing him makes him irritable around humans, giving him a bad boy image. Another, great cause for concern is human intrusion in his and other wild life’s natural habitat.

This pachyderm, a local celebrity has won hearts because of his calm, non-aggressive nature. Recognisable by his massive tusks, (the right one slightly smaller than the left) and a limp in his hind leg he draws instant attention. Locals respect him; he sometimes causes traffic jams but vehicles wait for his majesty to pass by; tourists consider it an honour to take selfies with him; shopkeepers of the area don’t mind him raiding their stores once in a way because his fame brings them more customers. For the tourism department he is a brand ambassador.

Hadlee Renjith is a wild-life photographer. For the past nine years he has tracked padayappa’s movements. According to him Padayappa is the "most human-friendly" wild elephant he has ever seen.


More By  :  Shernaz Wadia

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