Francis Levy Headshot

Train in India Hits Elephants

Posted: Updated:
Print
"Train in India Hits Elephants Crossing Track" (NYT, 11/15/13) may be the saddest story reported this year. There have been many terrible stories. Certainly the carnage following the typhoon in the Philippines is a constantly unfolding Pandora's Box of horrors. Add to that the case of Ariel Castro ("Death in Prison of Man Who Held Ohio Women Captive Prompts Investigations, NYT, 9/4/13) and the kidnapped girls in Cleveland, the young woman recently shot in the face in Chicago ("Fatal Shooting of Black Woman Outside Detroit Stirs Racial Tensions," NYT, 11/14/13), the 9 year old boy killed ("Boy, 9, Is Killed by S.U.V. in Brooklyn," NYT, 11/2/13) when a SUV jumped the curb in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, the twisters that recently reeked havoc in the Midwest. Add to that the suffering that still lies in the wake of Sandy and the fact that there are people in New York and New Jersey whose lives have still not returned to a semblance of normality (one displaced family was reported eking out an existence cramped into a Times Square hotel room where they have subsisted on fast food). Rob Ford continues to provide comic relief as North American's resident Falstaff and George Zimmerman keeps getting arrested. The power of poetry is that it contains eternity in a finite number of words. The elephants are like poetry. The image of them being destroyed epitomizes the sentiments of helplessness and senselessness which are the essence of pure tragedy. In addition elephants are large and stately, fitting the Aristotelian view of tragedy, which alludes to the fall of a person of greatness. What better representation of the larger than life figure (animal or human) than the elephant? There was one female elephant who the Times said literally "fell into a ravine below the tracks." The Times quoted a statement Hiten Burman West Bengal's forestry minister gave to the Associated Press to the effect that

"The herd scattered but returned to the railroad tracks and stood there for quite some time before they were driven away by forest guards."

The image is awful and yet also creates its own brand of awe.

"More than 26,000 elephants are believed to live in India, where they are closely associated with the Hindu god of wisdom,"

was how the Times writer Hari Kumar began his concluding paragraph.

{This was originally post to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}