A mule driver is a muleteer and an elephant driver is a mahout. So what sets them apart from the fact that one drives a mule and the other an elephant? The differences are manifold. The major difference is that the mule is less of a threat to the muleteer than an elephant to a mahout. The day the elephant decides to take on an unarmed mahout, it might turn out, in all probability, to be the last day for the mahout. However, there are no such lurking fears for the muleteer. Whereas the mahout has to be alert in his handling an elephant.
In the Thamizh language, there is a saying YAANAI IRUNDHALUM AAYIRAM PON, IRANDHALUM AYIRAM PON ( translated into English it means AN ELEPHANT IS WORTH A THOUSAND GOLD COINS WHETHER DEAD OR ALIVE). It may be so for the tuskers, but the death of a female elephant may not produce such benefits- even though the clever ones could market the elephant hairs and its teeth for astrological and medicinal reasons, at prohibitive cost. The point is that, if an elephant turns out to be a rogue, killing it would not be a good idea as its replacement may not be easy. Whereas if a mule dies, its replacement may not be that tough. So a mahout has to be innately careful, as he is dealing with an animal with tremendous strength and could be productive to the point of bringing prosperity to him.
The MAHOUT’S methods of dealing with an elephant could be threefold: he could deal with it in an affectionate manner; he could deal with it using his wit and thirdly using his strength.
In the state of Kerala, in India, the mahout uses three different types of implements to control the elephant. The elephants which are used in pulling logs and other hard jobs are treated with greater harshness, as they are meant and maintained to accomplish time bound tasks. But the elephants which are used in temples for ceremonies are obviously treated with greater reverence and therefore the mahouts treat them with tender care at least in front of the besotted devotees.
So here we see that Economics and Functions define the attitude of the mahouts! The mahout who is handling the temple elephant, is AFFECTIONATE towards his elephant. The food for the elephant comes from the devotees and the mahout gets his dakshina from the TRUNK BLESSINGS granted by the elephant and the money received in cash from the devotees for placing the trunk on the head of the devotee!!
The THIRD method of dealing with an elephant is through WIT. The mahout has to be smart and outwit the elephant every time that the elephant submits meekly to the superior intelligence of the mahout. This type of mahout and elephant are found in the CIRCUSES now and earlier, in the ARMED forces. The elephant does not have defined humdrum tasks, but have to perform before spectators and in exigencies of the battle. They need to UNDERSTAND the Mahout’s instructions.
On the whole the MAHOUT takes the colour of the FUNCTIONS that the elephant is required to perform!!
So far as the MULETEERS are concerned, they are not half so glamorous as their elephant counterparts!! They come out as persons USING mules to carry loads and perform hard tasks. In any case even the parentage of the mules are suspect!! A MULE by definition has a DONKEY for his father and a MARE for his mother!! If the mule were to have a HORSE for his father and a jenny donkey the mother, then the offspring would be called a HINNY!!!
I have been fascinated by the HORSE SENSE. A horse has 64 chromosomes and a donkey has 62 and the mules have 63. Incidentally this blogger was born in 64, Shakespeare in 64, Galileo in 64………..So please decide whether you are a horse, mule or donkey!! The STALLION does not MATE WITH A JENNY DONKEY and therefore HINNY is hard to come by. That is HORSE SENSE! But a MARE mates with a donkey and produces MULES and they are used as draught animals world over. One can easily find muleteers on hilly terrains in India where there are no roads. They have MULES and they negotiate those hilly paths and carry the burden placed on them!!
The idea of this blog is not to bring out the differences between muleteers and mahouts, but to state how mahouts become muleteers. In the city of Bangalore- which incidentally has the highest concentration of MOTORBIKES in this great country, everyone is made a muleteer. The roads are narrow and congested and u can not take the elephant of your car out, and you need to become a biker and thereby a muleteer!! Get into the bylanes and such straits that you feel like a muleteer. You may even have to switch oof your bike engine and push it through the congested paths and pavements like a muleteer!!
IF IN INDIA YOU WANT TO BECOME A MULETEER, AND YOU HAVE FANCIED YOURSELF TO HAVE BEEN A MAHOUT EARLIER, GET INTO THE CITY OF BANGALORE!!!
Once Salim Chisthi, the sage who advised Emperor Akbar, told his own sons who complained that the Emperor Akbar was poaching their wives and concubines thus : IF YOU BECOME A FRIEND OF A MAHOUT, MAKE THE ENTRANCE OF YOUR HOUSE LARGE ENOUGH TO ACCOMMODATE HIS ELEPHANT TOO!!
The city of Bangalore is bursting at its seams, yet there seems to be no programme to make the roads larger, wider and capacious!! Instead the city is making MULETEERS out of us!!