Stories that change your life!

The Elephant And The Ankush

Up close with elephants is not new for those who belong to the state of Kerala in India, popularly known as ‘God’s own country’.

I visited a nearby temple during one of my customary annual visits to Kerala, where each temple had an elephant or two for use during festivals.


I had seen elephants uprooting large trees with one push, pick and throw them away like we can a small twig.  I was confused when I saw one in the temple with no chains, no fence, just standing there swaying its trunks gently with not even a rope tied to its leg as always described in the popular story of the elephant and the rope. It just had a very long stick resting against its body which had a small hook attached to its end touching its giant ear.  It looked like the stick was left hanging to one of its ears.

The mahout was no where in sight and I was terrified if the elephant would just charge at me and crush me to pulp under its giant feet.  I saw that the elephant was not paying any attention to me standing close by as if I did not even exist.

When I finally saw the mahout, I asked him how these magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to break free and get away.

“Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same type of stick called the Ankush to bring the elephant under control.  We tug at its ear using these sharp edged hooks just so that when they try to move it will hurt them enough for them to stay.  It’s a signal that they shouldn’t move. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they should not and cannot break away when they have the hook hanging over their ears.  They believe the stick which is as good as a twig can still hurt them, so they never try to break free.”

I was angry at the pain and torture meted out to these beautiful and gentle giants, so early in their life, the pain of which they carried in their mind long after they turned into powerful adults.

These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hooked onto painful past experiences and have struggled to move on?

How many of us have long forgotten our strengths and are leading a life conditioned by limiting beliefs like the Ankush? 

How many of us prefer to endure the pain, than break free from the Ankush?

How many of us have avoided trying something new, because our past attempts at change have hurt us?

Worse, how many of us are being held back by the hook of someone else’s limiting beliefs?

What I learnt from this story?

This story is somehow metaphoric of our life.

Am I carry an elephant mindset?

I started to reflect, like the elephants, how many times have I gone through life hanging onto a belief or negative hook, that I cannot do something about?

And that too simply because I failed at it once before! Or I was afraid of it before! Or I was hurt by it before!

I think that every one of us can relate to this story. The feeling, of having failed at something or another over the years really pulls back from our personal growth and development.

Over time, we may have begun to believe that we are not capable enough of doing a particular thing, infact anything.

We accept this as the truth and limit ourselves to a very conditioned world.

So my dear friends, no matter how much the world tries to hold you back with their versions of the ‘Ankush’ please don’t be afraid.  Chug along with the belief that you have the strength and will do it, no matter what.

The fear coming out of the pain of past failures, obstacles and challenges you faced should not stop you from getting to success and being happy.  You deserve that!

It’s time for you to come out of your “Elephant Mindset”

Hope you enjoyed listening to this story and learnt a few lessons along the way?

I would like to state that I do not agree or support any kind of violent acts, torture or restrain of animals and believe that they have a right to be left alone and grow in their own natural habitats.  Thank you for your support. 

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