The promise of elephants!


Book extract from page 26: We’ve allowed our imaginations to take us to a place where we want to be in the future; to a place that has a fully functioning lodge, earning significant income to reinvest into local tiger conservation initiatives, where guests will sip G&T on the veranda after a jungle trek on our elephants. We’ve sold this dream to our boys, Olly and Jamie, and this has helped overcome some of their initial reluctance or lack of understanding of the project and our reasons for leaving the country. We all think we’re embarking on an adventure and have planned accordingly, little taking into account the journey to that goal. We’re ultimately to have an adventure but its shape is to be startlingly different from what we envisage.

Olly’s version: It’s no wonder that some of my worries about leaving my friends in England at an age when I was hoping to get ‘cool’, were settled when I was promised I’d be getting my own elephant. That’s right, where the most exotic pet one of my friends had was a snake, I was going to be walking and feeding my own pet elephant. This was how India was being sold to me.
I remember too, My Dad telling one of his friends in our kitchen in Bournemouth that India’s technology was so advanced that we’d be enjoying computer games and hi-tech equipment before it even reached the shelves in Argos…before even my friends in England could get their hands on it. In fact going to India was going to put me ahead of everyone. I was apparently under the wrong impression of India and whilst there was no covering that it might be a little out of the ordinary, there were going to be perks of living in India that would actually make my friends jealous.
I remember seeing the conviction in my Dad’s face, maybe he was trying to sell it to me but actually knew the reality of what was coming or whether he’d been duped too and the shock of the following few months was going to be as shattering as it was for me. Even so….my own elephant? It was a concept that I couldn’t get my head round and whilst it was obviously appealing, I was dubious before we’d even left Engalnd, let alone within my first week in India, when I realised the only likely pets we would be keeping were rats in the hotel room.
Many of the promises and expectations were quickly forgotten and it became more important to deal with each day and the constant adventures that were being thrown at us than worrying about what we were told was going to happen. It would be something that India would quickly instil in me, take each day as it comes and whilst not ever being in any sort of life threatening situations, there was still an element of survival- physically and mentally! 3rd April 1996 I wrote ‘we don’t even know what we’re doing in a couple of hours, let alone tomorrow’ and within a day of arriving in India I was uncovering a philosophy that would ultimately get me through the unpredictably of each day for the next eight years.
The promise of elephants and the latest computer games is just a standing joke now, at how ridiculous the promises were and the ‘dream we’d been sold’ and their defence- ‘we believed it too’, so it seems they got coned by their own pipe dream too!

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