Likely Stories : The Elephant Doctor of India, by Janie Chodosh

May 13, 2021

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Janie Chodosh has written a marvelous story of The Elephant Doctor of India.  She is a former elementary-and-middle-school educator and environmental scientist at Santa Fe Community College.


Janie writes, “Eight-year-old Kushal Konwar Sarma stood by the river that flowed through his small village in Northeast India and watched Lakshmi get a bath.  Kushal, or ‘KK,’ as his friends and family called him, knew he should be at home studying.  He knew his mother would scold him.  But he didn’t budge.  How could he sit with his nose in a book when a few yards from the family compound a full-grown elephant was being bathed? // Rai, the elephant handler, or mahout as they are called in India, used a brick to scrub Lakshmi’s thick hide, removing dead skin and getting rid of parasites and insects.  He gave her a pedicure, scouring her toenails—five in the front, four in the back—and scraping away calluses.  Lakshmi drank water with her trunk, playfully spraying, trumpeting, and enjoying her bath time.  When she emerged from the water, her dark skin gleamed.  The freckled pink spots of her ears shone softly in the light” (1-2). 

Dr. Sarma is a noted veterinarian.  Janie Chodosh writes, “There were changes in the land, too.  Many forests in Assam were converted into tea plantations, while at the same time tens of thousands of people poured into the region from neighboring countries.  These changers were hard on elephants.” […] On a Monday in May 2012, a forest department warden called Dr. Sarma to say that a young, wild tusker had been injured at the Paneri Tea Estate, several hours from Guwahati. // Dr. Sarma closed his eyes and thought about all the times he’d been called to help an elephant that had been injured in a tea plantation.  Calves fell into ditches and couldn’t get out. 

Adults ate pesticides or herbicides that had been sprayed on the crops or that hadn’t been adequately stored. […] ‘He touched a sagging power line’ the wardens explained.  ‘He’s been electrocuted’ […] ‘Is he still alive?’ Dr. Sarma asked, fearing he was being called to conduct a postmortem examination of the bull. // ‘He’s still alive, but he’s lying on the ground, and he can’t get up’” (101-103).  After several attempts, Dr. Sarma, said, ‘Come on,’ […] urging the tusker to stand.  The elephant paused for another moment, then tried to rise.  The mud was too slippery. […] ‘Come on,’ / The animal slowly climbed out of the mud. […] He took a careful step […] and made it onto the dry grass” (110).

Janie Chodosh has penned an impressive story of this majestic being.  The Elephant Doctor of India is an enjoyable story for any one who cares about wild animals.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!