(Where British writer Vanessa Able decides to travel across India in the world’s cheapest car – a lemon-yellow Tata Nano – named Abhilasha)
A few hundred metres before the intersection of the work-in-progress NH7 Highway and the rural road I was going to take, an elephant with a brightly painted face lumbered into view, galumphing from side to side with a man I presumed was its owner balancing sleepily on its back. Upon spotting Abhilasha, the elephant was visibly moved, and upon spotting the elephant, Abhilasha slowed down to a mesmerized stop. What were they doing on the deserted highway? The elephant stepped up its pace and came lurching towards us at what seemed from the nerbous recesses of the drivers’ seat to be stampede speed. I flinched and did what I could, considering the resources I had at hand. Glancing over at the passenger seat, I saw my handbag, the Lonely Planet, some biscuit crumbs, half a bottle of water, a thermos flask full of Vivekananda sweet milk coffee (wherefore art thou now at my darkest hour, oh saintly Indian sage?) and my phone. In a split second I grabbed the phone and considered calling my mother for one last sorrowful farewell before more constructively turning on the video camera and filming the elephant’s trunk coming in through the passenger side window. If I was going down, at least I’d leave some gruesome footage behind for the news networks to play with.
Now, if you’ve never had an elephant’s trunk groping blindly around your dashboard while you sit and quiver only inches away like Sigourney Weaver in Alien, I can assure you it’s quite an unsettling experience. I was sure it would end in either my own dismemberment or, less likely, in a soft-focus Disney scene where the creature and I make friends and the elephant follows me and Abhilasha off into the sunset. After a few moments, however, I realized that neither eventuality was likely to materialize. The elephant’s bristly grey trunk seemed to actually be looking for something specific, and upon reaching my handbag, it seemed like it had hit the jackpot. Concerned I may be on the brink of a most unorthodox mugging, I gave it a tap on the trunk hard enough to communicate my displeasure but still light enough not to ignite elephant rage.
Vanessa Able, The Nanologues