One of my favourite anecdotes in the 10th century Book of the Wonders of India, one that I don’t get into on the current episode, is about an elephant. This elephant, “in a city of India,” had been trained to run his master’s errands. He would set out for the market with a bag containing money and a list of required items. Unlike some of the pictured elephants, he would go alone, unburdened by towers full of men. Merchants, understandably, would see him coming - he was not a sneaky elephant. They would put aside whatever other business they were doing and give him all their attention.
The merchant would receive the bag with its money and shopping list and bring out the best of everything at the lowest price. This elephant was not to be taken advantage of. Sometimes, when a merchant made an error in counting out the coins, this elephant would reach down with his trunk and mix them all up, forcing the shopkeeper to start again. Sometimes, when the elephant got home and found he had not been treated fairly, he would rush back and make a mess of the offending merchant’s stall to the best of his abilities, and that was quite a mess. Our elephant had other skills too, beyond personal shopping and rampant destruction. He ground rice with a pestle, drew water from the well, and generally was just very helpful.
For more, listen to the new episode!
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