The very first time I entered the school compound, the very first thing I noticed was the huge blue elephant, whose trunk reached the ground. While we were walking towards the building, my sister ran towards it, climbed on it, and slid down. I remember watching in awe!
I was scared of the Elephant. I would walk into the elephant, but was too scared to slide down the other end of its alimentary canal. I would walk into the dark cave, and stand there. Someone had etched the names ‘Sai Gita’ and ‘Sai Kishore’ with stone. I would stare at it. I would say something, and listen to my echo, sounding like the bellowing of a monster from deep within its stomach
I would walk up gingerly to the top of the Elephant’s head and inspect the world from my crow’s nest. The world that looked small and insignificant from my high position...
Then somebody would scream from the back, I’d excuse myself, and climb back down!!
There were two smaller slides to the right of the Elephant. They were humbler, made of metal and would heat up like a tawa in the afternoon. They were much smaller, and so I’d climb them up, and turn back to face the Elephant, like Jack Sparrow facing Kraken. I would sometimes walk under the elephant, looking at its huge, pillar-like legs in awe.
I remember the first time I slid down its trunk. We were in 2nd standard and after dinner, we were asked to go out and play in the ground.
So we went to the ground to play. Being in second standard, my friends had graduated to cooler tricks like sliding down backwards, or without holding the edges of the slide. Loka mam was at the bottom, helping people to stand up once they had reached the base.
Ready to face my demons, I climbed up, stood for a few seconds and slid down. Loka mam clapped, and said “Very Good!”
But she was Loka ma’am. She’d say “Very Good” even if I shrieked and jumped off in fear!
The “Very Good”, however, went a long way in giving me the confidence.
After that day, the Elephant became a friend. I would spend the entire Games Time climbing up from back and sliding down the front.
Through dormitories and corridors, the sight of the Elephant, standing alone in the ground, waiting for kids to slide down its trunk, gave me hope. It reassured me that the classes would end, and there would be Games Times, and fun, and laughter.
When I returned to the school after many years, the Elephant didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. It’s not very big, probably the size of a real elephant.
I wish it grew as well. I wish it still intimidated me. I wish I could climb it up again and scream while sliding down. Over the years, as we grew up, the Elephant was replaced with games like Cricket, Chick-chasing and Age of Empires. But it’s still there.
The Elephant, standing alone under the hot sun, waiting for kids to slide down its trunk.