Saturday, 8 May 2010

An Elephant Anecdote (a.k.a My First Story)

To anyone who missed it yesterday, I posted the winning post in the poll: an extract from one of my novels. It's the opening to TEA WITH DEATH, DESIRE AND RAGE and I would love to know what people think of it, whether you've got any suggestions to make it better, etc.

And, as I promised in said post, because it won by such a close margin, I thought I'd post the other popular ones over the next few days. So today we have the runner-up: a childhood anecdote involving an elephant, an anecdote which, incidentally, has enormous writerly bearing as the event in question led to my writing my very first story ever.

I was four. And yes, the story is hilarious and awful looking back on it now, but we'll come to that in a bit.

The first thing I should mention is that my father owns a coffee estate a few hours from Bangalore, in a place called Coorg where, actually, most of TEA WITH DEATH, DESIRE AND RAGE is set. This place is surrounded by forest, a forest full of the loveliest things, like tigers, wild elephants, and deer. And not the fat little deer you see in England, either. Proper slender, spotted Bambi-like deer with their gorgeous brown eyes.

Anyway, we must have been staying on the estate for a bit, as we often did. On one of our little trips into the forest to see if we could spot some game, we happened across a rather large elephant. And, let's face it, when you're four, even the smaller elephants are pretty darn huge. We were in my father's white Jeep, I think, and if there's one thing wild animals don't like, it's bright white things (it's strange to them, and so, a threat). So the elephant, no doubt protecting a calf hidden somewhere in the trees, chased us.

You wouldn't think they can run fast, but holy cow, they can. Fortunately, my dad has excellent reflexes, and he jammed the accelerator the moment he saw her start to move. She stopped chasing us after about thirty seconds. Which doesn't seem long, but if you're sitting in an open Jeep and watching an elephant bear down on you, thirty seconds is a long, long time. 

Being four, my memory of this incident is slightly blurred, especially since I get confused between this time and the other few times we've been chased by elephants.

The point of this, however, is that when we went back to the house that night, I sat down and decided to write a story about it. I think it ran something along the lines of 'we were chasd by an elefit and I was sked'. It was, dear readers, the moment the writer in me awoke, electrocuted by drama and nostalgia. It was my very first story, and I think my dad still has it, kept safe and folded in his desk drawer in his estate study. It's, quite frankly, somewhat embarrassing for me to look at. 

I think I'm a better writer these days. But, hey, we have to start somewhere, don't we?

*I can't remember who took each of the photos, but they're all from various times we've been to the forest/estate. And yes, the elephant is real. No, it's not the one(s) that chased us.


  1. Well, I'll take you. November, most like.

  2. Of course, you'll probably cower at first sight of an elephant in all her fury. :)

  3. nah, i'll be ok. its the tigers that concern me. and lions ;-D

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  5. Oooh, thank you for pointing out that typo, how careless of me!

    And yes, I do have weird memories from when I was ridiculously little. Though some I fear I must imagine from scratch.

  6. No worries... Typos are our bane. : j
    If you have time (I'm sure the opportunity will crop up) please feel free to point out my typos as well.

    Out of curiosity, if you don't mind my asking, do you have a good memory in general? I tend to only remember stories... And stories are plastic, they are always ready to adapt to any situation. I'm asking because I'm interested in the relation between long term and short term memory, and about the kinds of things people remember.

  7. yes, she has a ridiculous memory, it puts the rest of us to shame unfortunately :-) and she mentions her good memory once in a while...

  8. Hmm, have to think about that. I have a really, really good long-term memory, so I remember stuff from when I was little and lyrics from musicals and lines/quotes from plays and stuff. But I can be really forgetful about short-term stuff, like basic things like remembering to take meat out of the freezer or something :) Guess you can't have both!

    Just saw Steve's comment. Haha. It's true, I do boast about it sometimes :)

  9. along with your twenty bloody twenty vision. git.

  10. Yuck. Just said 'stuff' three times in the space of two sentences.

  11. .... I find I have nothing to say, but reading your interaction leaves me with a bemused appreciative smile. Och, I just said something!

  12. Haha, yeah, sorry about that. You'd think Steve and I would be able to talk like normal people instead of exchanging comments on the blog and annoying everybody else!

    That said, everything I've written above about my memory is true, if that helps you any! I find the idea of memory quite intriguing too. What's yours like (if you don't mind my poking my nose in)?

  13. It's not annoying at all, quite the opposite. It makes me grin.

    It's a casual interest, seeing how people think... And yes, thanks, every first hand experience helps give meaning to the theoretical stuff I've read.

    Fair is fair, ask and be asked. ; j

    As I said, I mostly remember stories. I have a very poor memory for numbers and details like names and places... But things with practical applications I remember pretty well, like stories or how to build something.
    I'll readily remember the lady who gave me a free extra pastry at the store because she told me she has a kid who is traveling across Europe on stilts. I'll remember that for over ten years, even though I don't remember the lady's name, or when exactly she told me the tale.

    Seeing you two chat like that made me briefly reconsider my decision not to put a chatroom on my blog. Then I realized the only person I chat with like that lives with me. : j

  14. That is amazing. How, how did he or she travel on stilts? How?

    But yes, I know exactly what you mean, those are the kinds of stories you can't possibly forget! Still, I envy that. As useful as my long-term memory is, it does fail me sometimes when I'm trying to remember a story my granddad told me when I was five or six, and that's really annoying.

    Do you ever find smells or sounds triggering off a totally random memory you'd forgotten about? I find that so fascinating.

    Haha, I fear that even if Steve and I did live together right now, we'd likely still interact here. Probably because it's fun :) But with me still at university and him off across the country, sometimes we do have to resort to blog banter!

  15. just saw this post, wow! sounds like you had a very exciting childhood! great pictures too.

  16. Actually, the stilt example was just something made up on the spot to illustrate my meaning. Half historical thought, a french guy walked to Russia from France on his stilts. (can't remember who or when... A while back? The picture was in black and white :p)

    I've had stilts on my mind and in my browser lately because, this morning, my significant other took me to a class where I got to try and play with powerstriders (basically spring loaded stilts). That was a lot of fun, but I'll stick with my wings.

    No, I don't really get the Proustian memory trigger... My memory seems to be mostly dual state. Either I remember it or I don't, and things don't usually seem to change categories...
    I wonder if that difference in memory types is characteristic of specific personality types. Oh well, I guess there would be no way of doing without some heavy statistical research. : j

    As long as you stay in touch, I don't suppose the medium matters. It's impressive how far tech has come from snail mail.

  17. I love this, especially the ending! It's made me start thinking about what awakens the writer within all of us... I'll have to give this some thought!

  18. Just catching up with your posts and loving the elephant story.
    Coorg..I've always fancied going there after reading Dervla Murphy's "On A Shoestring To Coorg" many years ago.