Being Niya

“The only constant in life is change,” the raspy voice of the wise old croc, Cronilot, echoed

through Niya’s mind as she stood swaying very gently.

She had planted herself in a section of the stream where the waves crashed slightly harder

against her stumpy grey legs, purposely wading deeper in so the stillness of the stream was

almost lost.

“Reflections of my mind?” she thought out loud, tilting her head and lifting her trunk out of

the cool water before dipping it in again.

Niya had been visiting the stream from when she was young, and continued to do so as she

got older, but her visits were always dependent on the state of her mind. Two seasons ago she

began coming on a daily basis. Her visits were always at twilight and usually by the time the

African sun rose and bathed the stream and park in light, her mind was silenced. But this had

not been the case more recently; her mind’s banter continued relentlessly. Now, with her legs

submerged in the stream, she swayed her trunk slowly, hoping to quieten her spirit and create

a sense of peace.

The bush around her was abuzz, as various other animals approached. A high-pitched shriek

echoed through the sky as a fish eagle swooped down in a sharp dive, talons outstretched,

grabbing a fish and flying up into a nearby tree.

A herd of hippo marched past, grunting while they gawked at Niya standing quietly in the

middle of stream. Every day they stopped and asked the same question: “What are you

doing? The middle of a stream is not a place for elephants.” But today they continued without

any comment. ‘They’ve finally become used to it,’ she thought and chuckled slightly.

‘A sense of acceptance at last?’ she thought as she lazily waded towards dry land, feeling the

morning sun already beginning to burn her delicate grey skin.

“You should watch where you’re walking, young one!” a voice scolded, and she smiled at the

large elderly crocodile that suddenly emerged from the depths.

“Cronilot! I am so sorry! I didn’t see you! But I was actually just thinking about you!”

The wise croc seemed to grin as he raised his head higher out of the water.

“Still quite unsettled, I see,” he observed. His unusual slit yellow eyes seem to scan through

her thoughts, and maybe even through the aches and pains of her body.

Cronilot swam slowly in the direction of land, obviously expecting Niya to follow. She


Raising his head again, Cronilot spoke:

“Interesting times, as always.”

He coughed a laugh and seemed to choke before clearing his throat.

“What is your place in this world, young Niya?” he continued. “This constantly changing

world where you heart seeks comfort but as soon as it is uncovered, things seem to have

moved on?”

‘He can definitely read minds,’ exclaimed Niya mentally.

Cronilot stared up at the blue skies and continued chatting as if speaking to himself.

“This creates quite the dilemma, doesn’t it? Maybe you have changed more, and thus

everything seems different? Maybe therefore you should not attach yourself to the old?

Changing times, hey? Where? Inside or outside? Mmm?”

As silently and smoothly as he had arrived, Cronilot changed his direction, dipping his head

below the water as he swam back towards the centre of the stream.

Niya moved up the bank slowly, and as she did, she grabbed a trunkful of mud and splattered

it over her body. ‘Sunscreen,’ she thought, grinning broadly. With a final spray of mud, she

moved towards a nearby tree she had noticed on her way down. Stripping some of the leaves

with her trunk, she placed them delicately into her mouth and chewed loudly.

A trumpet of a nearby herd of elephant echoed through the morning air, carrying with it a

message for the elephants further inland.

Niya grimaced dryly as she remembered her pubescent years, and how difficult she had

initially found the supposed innate ability of all elephants to communicate over vast

distances. The pain and frustration this caused her was further exacerbated by the younger

elephants in her herd, who mocked and tormented her for her inability. I hope that it’s not…

Niya paused as a lump developed in her throat. Distracting herself, she grabbed a large shrub

and shoved it into her mouth.

“Whoaa! That’s a mouthful!”

Niya purposely chewed slowly as Mala, her elderly aunt and the matriarch of their herd,

stepped out from the trees and raised her trunk in greeting. Her wrinkled ears flapped back

and forth, creating a welcome breeze, and she stomped the ground as if attacking an unseen

rodent. Settling next to Niya, her fan like ears still flapping, the elderly cow elephant smiled


“Had your morning dip yet? Clear’d your mind? You been coming on a daily basis lately.

Ev’ything ok, girl?”

Mala’s eyes scanned her niece’s body as if expecting a response from an appendage.

“I am the eldest elephant in our herd. I have herd it all!” Taking Niya’s silence as an answer,

Mala continued, wheezing with laughter and causing her entire body to shudder as her trunk

flayed from side to side.

Niya smiled politely. She trusted Mala but was finding it difficult to speak to any of the


“My dear, you have grown quite serious in your olda age. You should lighten up! But I am

sure that you will, soon-ish”.

Mala winked mischievously, which Niya purposely ignored. The old elephant coughed loudly

and spat some gunk to the ground to clear her throat.

“Mmmm, yes. Life’s such an interestin’ phenomena. I don’t know why we took it so

seriously in our younga ‘ears. Niya, my dear.”

Mala paused and lumbered towards the stream but continued to speak back over her shoulder.

“The world is changing, girl, and so are you. You have gone through a lot in your short life

and you have experience plenty, but what is to come…”

Mala dipped her trunk into the stream, sucked up a tank of water and wobbled back to Niya.

Niya smiled and closed her eyes as Mala pointed her trunk to the skies and sprayed a fine

mist, showering the two elephants. She giggled uncontrollably, memories of her youth

flooding in.

“You’ve loved that since you were a child. Don’t think too much, Niya. We are all here to

support you and you gonna be a great …” Mala’s sentence was interrupted with the entrance

of a large bull elephant.

“Hello there, ladies!” boomed Haan, as he stomped through the field creating a trail of

smashed shrubs and bushes.

“Well, I will leave you two love birds – or calves – or whatever!” laughed Mala as she trudged

away, ears still flapping.

Haan watched her go, then affectionately bumped his head against Niya’s. Gently he ran his

trunk across her abdominal region. He spoke in a soft whisper, his big brown eyes shining

with love.

“You going to be a great mom. You know that, right? I know it, Mala knows it and I’m sure

this baby knows it too.”

Niya blushed. She felt herself relax and for the first time in two seasons, the warmth of the

sun seemed to penetrate her heart, spreading through her entire body and finally dissipating

the banter battering her mind.

“Yes, I am going to be great mom,” she whispered back gratefully.

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