Friday, March 6, 2015

That White Elephant


                                          Photo courtesy: AFP

These days one is seldom adequately shielded from news intrusion into the daily life. First it comes through the phone, which is smarter than its user and quite efficiently manages all the apps and news sites. If you ignore those during the day, these are repeated on the Ipad alibi their secret relation over the cloud relation. The next front off course the good old idiot box for those who have access to its remote control. Till recently the confusion for me was to determine who was the idiot in this relationship of beauty and the beholder. With the advent of the smart TV, I have somewhat reached a resolution with a great deal of reluctance. And if you managed to escape all of these, the morning newspaper compensate for the great loss.
Earlier in the week I was made aware that a white elephant has been found in Myanmar. I thought what’s new in that? Most of us have grown up knowing the metaphorical meaning of this word. A white elephant, is not a possession and is usually out of proportion to its usefulness. Most of the times, its owner can neither maintain it nor dispose it off and eventually goes down with it. There are plenty of White elephants all around the world and abundant in the private sector and public sectors of our beloved “land of joy” which used to be filled with milk and honey. At least that is how the famous poets, writers and littérateurs have presented it to us. Once in a while, we find a few of those  in our personal sector too ...  like I have this blog.
This term, I am told, have its origin in the story of the monarchs of Siam. They used to give away one of these animals as a gift to the overzealous courtiers in order to ruin the recipient with the cost of its maintenance.
But this news actually referred to an elephant which is white in colour. Something akin to the mythological creature Airavata, the white elephant that carries the king of Hindu gods called Indra. An animal that befits the king of the king, the lord of the lords. The urge to know a bit more about this animal sent me scrambling for the internet. It was to seek the assistance of Mr Google to be more precise and ended up being a little enlightened, acquiring some fascinating details about white elephants. My special thanks goes to Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_elephant) and AP (The Associated Press).  
Unlike the mythological Airavata, mortal white elephants are rather pinkish in colour with fair eyelashes and toe nails. They are actually albinos. They have been revered for centuries in Siam and Burma, the present day Thailand and Myanmar. They were traditionally the royal pets and usually very well pampered since they symbolised power and prosperity. According to history Siam and Burma had fought a war in the 16th century over the possession of 4 white elephants.

This one is a 7-year old female and was captured on 27 February 2015 in a forest of the western Ayeyarwaddy region of Myanmar. This is the ninth such elephant in captivity in Myanmar, while the other are housed in various zoos and parks. Those who are interested in meeting a white elephant now know where to go...


Most importantly they are many times luckier that the Albino boys of Tanzania who are regularly snatched from their family and sacrificed  for black magic.

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