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“Hi, it’s Chris Raja reading from The Burning Elephant.
‘Get away,’ commanded the stern-faced inspector with a stick in one hand and a rifle in another. ‘Get away, all of you, this instant!’
The baton-wielding constables tried and waved their sticks to disband the crowd, but a few, including the stray dogs and the two Hindu priests, refused to go.
Govinda watched as the inspector loaded his Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle. It featured a ten round box magazine which was loaded manually from the top. It was the British army’s standard rifle during the Raj days but it was still used by Indian police. His heart lurched. The elephant looked stately but sad as it raised its trunk with pride, flapped its ears and shook its head whilst it swayed its trunk and legs from side to side. A leg was bruised from where it had broken away from its chain. Alarmed the elephant tore into a group of people. Did it really have to end this way? Govinda wished that there was something he could do.
‘Leave it alone,’ he cried but the inspector took no notice. The Hindu priests protested and the school children were screaming and jumping on each other. Some were pretending to be elephants and they lifted their arms like trunks. Teachers looked on helplessly trying to catch students and pull them out the way of the rampaging elephant.
The inspector shoved the last .303 cartridge into the rifle and aimed straight at the elephant’s forehead. It was like aiming at some holy sacrament – Boom! – the dogs scampered. Crows flew away. Govinda jumped. The elephant let out a terrible sound and turned its head up with indignation. It charged wild as it headed straight for the inspector. He looked like he was done for but shot again and this time hit the elephant near the trunk. The second shot staggered the elephant and it moaned. Govinda felt it in his shoulders: the pain and the terrible sound of the gun.
‘It’s going to fall,’ the younger constable screamed. After a few seconds the elephant’s hind legs collapsed beneath him and he landed on his belly. It seemed to Govinda that the ground trembled but it was not like in the movies where a bullet hits something and makes a hole and a little red patch of blood. No. The blood didn’t even come out at first. It began to seep out very gradually.”
ABOUT CHRIS RAJA:
Chris Raja migrated to Melbourne from Calcutta in 1986, and almost twenty years later he moved again, further inland, living and working in Alice Springs since 2004. Chris was co-guest consultant editor of Meanjin’s Australasian issue in 2004 and since then has been a regular contributor to Quadrant, Southerly and Art Monthly Australia. His short story ‘After the Wreck’ was adapted for radio and broadcast on ABC Radio National’s Short Story Program in 2007. His play ‘Drew’s Seizure’ was performed at Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs in 2009. Chris worked as the NT Correspondent for Art Monthly Australia from 2010 to 2011 and he is currently a History and English teacher at St Philip’s College, Alice Springs. He and his actor wife Natasha co-wrote ‘The First Garden’ with the assistance of a grant from Arts NT which premiered in September 2011 and played over six nights at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden. ‘The First Garden’ will be published in 2012 by Currency Press. Chris is co-curating ‘Art of the Nomads’ at the Chan Contemporary Art Space in Darwin in April 2012. Chris has been selected for the Australian Society of Authors 2011/2012 mentorship program.
“I took part in the Varuna Longlines Program (Reading and Consultation) May 2008” Chris Raja
Selected Publications – Fiction
2011 ‘The Burning Elephant’ Southerly, Vol. 70, No. 3
2009 ‘The Arrival’ Fishtails in the dust: writing from the Centre, Ptilotus Press, May
2008 ‘Drew’s Seizure’ Southerly, Vol. 2, No. 68, Little Disturbances
2004 ‘After the Wreck’ Meanjin, Vol. 63 No. 2
2003 ‘White Boots’ Meanjin, Read My Lips, March
2002 ‘Reaching Through Walls’, The Age, April 13
2001 ‘Riding towards the valley of colour’, The Age, November 17
2001 ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’, The Age, October 20
Selected publications – Non Fiction
2011 ‘Ian Britain (ed.) The Donald Friend Diaries: Chronicles and Confessions of an Australian artist’ Art Monthly Australia, Issue 244, October
2011 ‘Special Moment in Hidden Valley’ Quadrant, Volume LV Number 9 September
2011 ‘Rupert and Me’ Quadrant, Vol. 1 No. 1, January-February
2010 ‘Driving Mr Nelson’ Quadrant, Vol. 54 No. 10, October, pp. 94-95
2010 ‘Namatjira’ Art Monthly Australia, Issue 230, June, pp. 53-55
2010 ‘Miss Olive Muriel Pink’ Resident, May-November, p.148
2010 ‘Mount Liebig Photography Project’ Photofile Issue 89, April-July
2010 ‘Diana James: Painting the Song: Kaltjiti artists of the Sand Dune Country’
Art Monthly Australia, Issue 228, April, pp. 44-45
2009 ‘Off and Racing in Wallace Rockhole’ Alice Springs News, November 5
2009 ‘Bromley in Alice’ Art Monthly Australia, Issue 219, May, pp. 22-24
2002 ‘Helping teachers stay genuine in a profession littered with rhetoric’
The Age, August 28
2001 ‘I’ll lead the classroom revolution’ Education Age, The Age, December 5
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