“Daddamasthi’s abilities came to limelight when he stopped consuming alcohol. It was his willingness to give up alcoholism that enabled him to succeed. Adivasis need to learn from him the willpower to find the right path. He was a social and a lively human being. He was a man of work than words. He grew up in a family of mahouts. He started working as a full time mahout with an elephant named Hussain. He used to be depressed when he was not given elephants to look after,” said Masti Ramesh Bhoki.
“When Arjuna was not looked after well, he was handed over to Dodda Masti. It was not easy to handle Arjuna. He doesn’t allow anyone near him except his mahout. With lot of efforts, Dodda Masti developed a bonding with Arjuna. He looked Arjuna like a family member. Arjuna once failed in Dasara, but Dodda Masthi took out the strength in Arjuna,” he said.
He was speaking on the ‘Mareyada mavuta Dodda Masti’ program held at Maneyangala, Kalamandir. The program was organized to remember the memories of Arjuna’s mahut, Dodda Masti, who passed away recently.
“The tribal people look after these elephants like family members. Even after retirement, he was called to carry out the Jambu Savari during Dasara. We enjoy the Dasara. We get drenched in the extravaganza of the Jambu Savari, but we don’t know the risk, difficulty the men behind the screen take. We should know them, their struggle. I appreciate Jana Sangrama Parishat for arranging such a program,” he said.
“Adivasis possess the ability to find the track of animals in the forest. They are capable of smelling the tigers’ movements in the forest. They are capable of finding the amount of honey on the topmost branch of a tree. Unfortunately, these skills are not valued. The media needs to give importance to them and find Dodda Masthis among the tribes,” he added.
“We human beings are responsible for the plight of the elephants. The genetics of elephants are getting manipulated. They are not that gigantic as they were earlier,” said retired forest officer, writer, K M Chinnappa. He was explaining the situation of elephants then and now.
“I respect elephants more than human beings. I learnt to understand them. But their feelings are not understood nowadays. Their habitats are spoiled by humans. We should understand the tender heart of the gigantic elephants. Even an ant bites when we hurt them, but we are playing with the emotions of the elephants, and expect them not to agitate. We celebrate Ganapati festival, but the real Ganapati, the elephants are not valued,” he said.
“My father wanted me to become a mahout. To fulfill his dream, we came from the forest we were brought up. My father wanted to continue his legacy as a kavadi, mahout. He requested the officials to make his grandson a kavadi, but no response is received from them yet,” said Kariya, the elder son of Dodda Masthi.
“Elephants cannot be tamed, but can be kept in a captive condition. Taming the elephants cannot be taught. It is not possible to conduct exams to select mahouts. If not, there won’t be mahouts for the generations to come,” said renowned geologist Rajkumar D.
“The artistic value of the mahouts should be recognized. The relationship between the elephant and the mahout matters the most. Elephants walking in a serious manner during the Dasara is an illusion. It is the mahout who controls the elephants which are disturbed and stressed due to the crowded, noisy environment. We should go to them and ask them what their needs are than deciding ourselves, what they need. It can be learnt by being with their parents and they should be certified for the skill they possess,” he added.
Family members of Dodda Masthi, tribal members and environmental enthusiasts were present in the program.