Pasenadi, the king of Kosala, had 16 bad dreams one night. His Brahmin consultants warned harm either to his kingdom, his life or his wealth. They recommended all kinds of sacrifices to avoid danger. However, Queen Mallika suggested that the Buddha should be consulted. The king followed her advice.
His 15th dream of a wicked village crow attended by mallards was interpreted as the rise of the ignorant, cowardly and inferior category of footmen and barbers into kingly stature over kings of genuine royal descent. The kings of genuine descent will have to patiently watch the men of inferior birth and stature tread the royal corridors of power.
Who is the real victim of this analogy? The crow, of course! The innocent bird has drawn such similes throughout the oriental folklore history. Even in modern terms, he is portrayed mostly as a scavenger bird. If fox stands for shrewdness, the crow has symbolized the filth.
Fortunately for this unfortunate species of the genus Corvus, someone has come to their rescue, finally! That’s none other than Captain Elmo Jayawardane. He opens up his literary versatility to challenge this unmerited state of affairs. With his latest novel, he forces us all to eat crow: our ideas about the innocent creature have been wrong.
The book is about crows. The narrator is Kakiyan who is the son of Stanley Crow and Alice Crow and brother to Lucille Crow and Rodney Crow. They live in a Jacaranda tree, called the Jacaranda condominium. It was not us humans – or the Great Ones – who first lived in condominiums, but crows. Kakiyan flies about with his friends and lives a carefree life. The book tells about the kind of life they lead. Roy Crow is an old crow who teaches all the little ones how to fly. The Train crow is Victor crow who loves trains so much. He lives in a railway station. In the meantime, a nascent love affair between Mooshu Crow and Rami Crow comes to the surface. They go watch a football match. And the book is titled ‘Kakiyan: The Story of a Cow’.
Captain Elmo Jayawardane is more known for his award-winning novel, Sam’s Story, which deals with social conflicts. The Last Kingdom of Sinhalay earned him the State Literary Award as well as the Gratiaen Prize. The rest of his books bring us to various strata of social conflicts. Yet Kakiyan’s book pulls us from all such predicaments and perches us with crows.
“Crows are birds that are rarely appreciated. No one really notices a black crow unless in annoyance. We see them often and curse them often, but seldom do we sing their praises or voice a word of admiration. That’s a lot of a crow in our known world,” Jayawardane takes pains to justify his case.
Kakiyan came to his mind some years ago. That forced him to write his story, the story of a crow.
Best still, he claims to have never read any written word about crows. “I do not even know whether there are books about crows. I am sure there must be. What I did was, I watched crows, how they flew, how they walked and how they bathed in mud-puddles, and so many other crow related activities that are common sights in our day to day life.”
All that Captain Elmo wanted was to pick up a new subject and write something different to what he had already written. Then he found his muse everywhere in one form. When you hear and watch them, he goes on to say passionately, you will find the species so fascinating. Then it so happened: “I just wrote what I saw coining stories around them. No special reason or an incident to trigger me.”
On the surface, the Kakiyan is a collection of fables. But where does it take us? In his unique featherweight writing style, Kakiyan and his peers take a journey, crowing over their experiences with much delight, stimulating us to be up with the crows.
Mama Alice, Victor Crow, Grannie Vinnie, Roy Crow and some other crow fellows, will come out and share their story through Kakiyan. All this counts perhaps because a crow knows more than you and me. And there is one way to find out more. Captain Elmo Jayawardane guesses you may have to read the book for that.
The book will be launched on December 6.
“Who’s going to read the story of a crow?”
That was a common comment in everyone’s beak when I first mentioned to my friends and folks at home that I am going to write a book about my life. Some voiced it aloud; a kind of protest cum ridicule; some muttered and whispered condemnation, and a few others swallowed their opinion in sympathy and made faces appropriate to this literary nonsense by a crow. That was all frontal, the behind the back ‘admiration’ I could not know, but I am as sure as the rising of the morning sun that there would have been plenty of voiced or mimed mockery at my expense by some kakos who were waiting impatiently to laugh at me.
Oh, well! That is to be expected. Even in the crow world, it is always the norms that are respected. No one wants to believe in things that haven’t been done before. And first-timers seldom hear the cheers. I knew I would be no exception. But I was determined to enter the book world and place on record what things we did as kakos, so that the inhabitants of this planet would know more about us, our lives, and what a wonderful clan the kakos were. Of course, there were a few, very few, who supported me and cheered me on to write our story in spite of the fact that the majority thought I was stark raving mad.