Gul Mohar English Class 8 Poem - The Elephant and the Tragopan

Gul Mohar Edition 9 Orient Blackswan

Gul Mohar English Poem - The Elephant and the Tragopan

Writer of the poem - Vikram Seth
Summary

“The Elephant and the Tragopan” is an extract from a poem by the same name in a collection of poems - Beastly Tales by Vikram Seth.

The animals and birds are at a general body meeting discussing the effect of the terrible news that Man is planning to build a dam and a reservoir to save water for humankind, on this occasion the wise elephant is speaking about the impending danger to them by man’s schemes for his development.

The Elephant knows man through its long tradition of serving them. It adds man is a bewildering blend of opposites: gentle and dangerous, sensible and unpredictable, caring and cruel, level - headed and crazy. Basically man is driven by a selfish desire to prosper at the expense of others. He thinks he is the master of the universe and has the right to exploit animals for his pleasure, killing them to adorn him with the display of wealth. As a result he creates an imbalance in the ecosystem, endangering flora and fauna. He has been ungrateful to animals that have served him faithfully, taking them for granted as if he was meant to lord it over them thus making them feel insecure. The irony is that man worships animals as gods and holds festivals in their honour. He even writes moral stories about their goodness and greatness, yet does not care for them.

It is not just the animal kingdom that man exploits; he ravages land and water mindless of the ill-effects of such destruction. The elephant focuses on specific problems they will face when man builds a dam, with no thought for the loss of life on land and water. The trout are pleased that the dam will provide them more water without realizing that the explosives used in the process will choke them to death before they have chance to thrive. The leopard fantasy of having a forest full of deer but not realizing that other creatures die out or flee and they have to remain homeless and die of starvation and face other threats like dangers of submersion of land, harmful effects of air pollution. Man has been reckless in the name of progress by exploiting the environment. He does not realize that interdependency is at the core of harmonious living. He is like trout and the leopard dreaming of benefits that he will not be able to enjoy, for his attempts at ‘progress ’are suicidal. 

The elephant concludes its speech by urging all the endangered species that the only way to protect themselves from imminent danger would be to unite in their fight against man, vowing to live or die together.

Development can become a regression of ethical and social values when a selected few benefit from such projects at the cost of displacing many. The poem is eco-centric in nature (concerned to protect the environment). It is a social satire in which the elephant is wiser than man. It knows the extent of destruction man can cause nature which is detrimental to his own well-being.  The elephant sees man as anthropocentric and wants to change his mind set to a bio-centric.


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