Rain had just started to pitter-patter on the stiff, broad leaves overhead when I finally spotted him: Trunky, the rotund Asian Elephant, with ears as wide as bamboo sails and a trunk that swayed like a cobra enraptured in its hypnotic dance. Trunky, the crown jewel of Bhutan’s wildlife, held court in the belly of the jungle.
Finding Trunky was not an easy task. Oh no, not one single bit. You see, the jungle is a puzzle, a labyrinth of twisted vines and towering trees, a leaf-laden maze that often repels the most seasoned explorers and, well, just anyone who isn’t a parquet flooring aficionado. Hence, it was a calling for me with my notepad, binoculars, and stubborn persistence.
In the heart of this verdant jungle, I first spotted a harmonious hustle of sambars, whom I lovingly called the "Samba Crew," pitter-pattering their hooves in the mud. I imagined them echoing, "He's that way, Neal. Past the bamboo grove, hurry or Trunky will vanish like yesterday's dream!" Those brown-eyed dancers were my compass in my adventure of locating Trunky.
Upon sighting the bamboo grove, I tiptoed past the whispering grass – yes, grass here whispered, quite convinced they hosted the jungle’s gossip columns – and I felt it. The pulsating vibration underfoot, percussion notes from a colossal heart. Trunky was near.
In the hushed quiet of the early morning on my second day, Trunky finally graced my vision. Majestic, mysterious, and mutely mirthful, he was munching on some succulent shrubs, his tiny eyes twinkling in the dappled sunlight. The rustle of the foliage was like a symphony, the occasional trumpets were either a jungle serenade or, more likely, Trunky's complaints on the breakfast menu.
Over the next few days, I watched Trunky, etching in my memory the details of his life: his bathtime in the nearby creek, where he rolled and wallowed like a child at Christmas; his enthusiasm for scratching against tree trunks, as if enacting a solo ballet; his respectful relationship with a lone mouse deer, Micro-Bambi, who chomped away steadily under the elephant’s generous shadow.
There was a tender spaciousness in Trunky's world. His love for regular breaks meant he would often sit mid-journey, his giant ears flapping lazily while the Samba Crew danced around him. In his interactions, Trunky was like a polite concierge of the hotel named Jungle – never meddling, but present, observant, ensuring everything was as it should be. "Keep to your left, Micro-Bambi, there's a fallen log!" I'd imagine him saying.
There was an instance when a feisty gibbon, Long-Arm Larry, swung down a branch, baring his teeth. I held my breath as Trunky considered the intruder. Then, as if choreographed, Trunky extended his trunk – a peace offering, and Larry, quickly climbed atop it, chattering away. "Oh alright, let's not make a mountain out of a molehill, Larry."
That was the general mood in Trunky's universe – sharing the space, offering respect, demanding nothing, radiating a vibrant, pulsing calm.
Studying Trunky and his wild comrades, I've learned that we, humans, sometimes without noticing, get stuck in our microcosms and forget about the grand world that blooms synchronously. We often overlook the ballet of life that unfolds daily in the wilderness – a dance where the dancers know their steps well, where they balance each other out, and where they remember, quite persistently, to take a bow.
So, here’s to Trunky – the star performer, the peacekeeper, and my friend. Keep dancing, old chum. Your audience waits eagerly for your next act.