Once upon a time in Punjab, five elephant drivers were leading their caravan down a dusty road. The elephants were loaded down with spices and other goods. When they reached a pond by the side of the road, the drivers pulled off to stretch their legs, refill their canteens, smoke some weed and let the elephants have a drink.
Each driver dismounted and then attached a chain to the shackle on the rear leg of the elephant he’d been riding. The drivers then attached the end of the chains to saplings growing along the banks of the pond.
See, when young elephants are trained, each is first shackled to a big tree. In ancient times, elephant trainers discovered that the animals become so conditioned to being immobilized by a shackle and chain that it isn’t long before they can be shackled to even a small bush, and they will still remain there until the trainer unleashes them.
On this day, the first elephant in line was annoyed by a fly buzzing behind him. He tried flicking the fly away with his tail, but his tail couldn’t reach it. So the elephant tried swinging his trunk around to swat the fly. Standing on the short slope down to the pond, the elephant lost his balance. To avoid falling into the water, he reflexively shifted his back foot, which had been loosely chained to a sapling.
Noticing that his foot, still attached to the chain, had snapped the sapling in two, the elephant sauntered up onto the road. Joyously dragging the chain behind him, he galumphed up to the second elephant, swung his trunk and smacked him on the ass.
Startled, the second elephant jumped forward, also snapping the sapling that held him.
Meanwhile, the elephant drivers had busied themselves packing a bowl and passing it around. Since they were so high, they didn’t notice what the elephants were doing until the fifth elephant pulled away from the pond and joined the others as they moved down the road, still with the spices and other goods on their backs.
“Hey, you come back here,” the first driver yelled, but it was too late. An elephant can reach speeds of up to twenty-five miles an hour, whereas a human can only hit about twenty, and not for more than a few seconds at a time. The drivers watched, dumbstruck, as the animals lumbered into the distance.
When the elephants reached the next town, they looked for any of their fellow species who’d been shackled, and then swatted them on the ass. Then the whole group, all dragging their chains behind them, moved on to another town further down the road. And so it was that all the elephants of Punjab became free.