a much-loved beast of burden

I've told you about elephants that descend from the hills at night and visit the plantations in Malnad. A recent post of mine tells of the torrent of trucks from the mines of Bellary that has already ruined the Sakleshpur highway—soon the green on either side of the highway will be laid waste, when the ore-dust from the open trucks settles on leaf and soil and cakes them in a sickly red color.

Sometimes on this road, one encounters a different carrier of burden. This one was apparently well fed, and he carried only a small load: I followed him a good distance, and he walked peacefully on the left edge of the road. More often, one encounters an angry one who is poorly fed and overly worked. His keepers are wary when you ask if you may offer him some plantains, and you see the elephant steam and snort and take a step forward and a step backward and crook his giant leg and stamp and grunt and show in so many ways that he doesn't appreciate his captivity, and the labor he is forced into. His walk to work is often long, and when he enters the villages on his route children and adults pour out from their homes shouting aane!, aane!, elephant!, elephant!, and stand and lovingly gaze at him till he is completely out of sight.