It has been one year since Bijli passed. Although she was in our life for a short time, she will always be remembered for her great courage and inspiring us to be more determined to help others like her.
When Wildlife SOS was called in to help her, we felt optimistic that she would regain her strength. There were days she was able to stand on her feet for short periods of time and we felt hopeful her strength would continue to improve. We even started to make preparations for her to come to our rescue center where we looked forward to giving her a few years of great joy. Cranes, trains and trucks were arranged to bring her to her new home.
Unfortunately, even with the outpouring of love that came from around the world, she could not be saved. She had suffered for decades with nobody taking action to help her, and finally when she collapsed from the exhaustion caused by years of abuse, there was nothing that could be done to help her. Sadly, she died in Mumbai from the accumulative effects of having lived a very difficult life. The tragedy is less about her dying and centers more on how she lived.
She had lived her life deprived of basic freedoms, comforts and joys. Her needs as an elephant were almost non-existent to the people who owned her. She was exploited for money. Fulfilling her needs as an elephant would reduce profit margins and the return on investment. Therefore, her suffering was egregious and never ending.
It is heartbreaking to think of her living for decades in chains and walking on burned scarred feet through the streets of Mumbai, one of the most populous citieis in the world. How many people passed by her and pitied her but felt helpless to do anything? How many passed by but felt nothing? There is no denying that hundreds of thousands of people saw Bijli over the course of her lifetime and that her suffering was very public. Which begs the question, why was nothing done to help her before it was too late?
The unfortunate fact is that there are many more Bijli’s out there needing help and her case was not unique. Some are older and have decades of chains and mistreatment behind them, others are young and have decades of shackles and abuse ahead of them. They live not just within the borders of India but in neighboring countries as well. Therefore, elephants collapse and die from this life all the time. However, unlike Bijli, there usually aren’t people there to mourn them when they are gone.
It is one year later and I want to tell Bijli that her death was not in vain. She lives not only in our hearts but guides us to take stronger action on behalf of India’s elephants. We are more committed than ever to improving the lives of the begging elephants that live like ghosts in our cities. We have a long way to go, but we know it must be done and can be done. We hope you will stay with us for the journey, starting with Raju.
In loving memory of Bijli.
May her soul rest in peace, foraging happily in a lush green forest.