May brought a lot of heat, and Myna’s mother forbade her from playing outside in the heat.
“Let’s play with my friends,” you say. Myna remonstrated. “Amma, it’s dull inside.”
Why don’t you help me prepare dinner today? her mother’s advice This had never happened before, so Myna was really shocked. Even the gas stove was off limits to her.
Myna always found the kitchen to be a fascinating place because of all the vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, and greens from the spices and veggies.
The white rice, however, captivated Myna the most. She enjoyed how it could be both tough and harsh, but when cooked, it melted and became fluffy.
For once, she preferred to feel it on her fingers versus being fed by her mother. She was growing up and maybe today was the day to ask her to take care of her own feeding.
Can I feed myself today, Mama? I want to be a big girl, and I’m five years old.
You can try, but keep things clean.
Myna thoroughly enjoyed eating by herself as she felt the warm rice on the tips of her fingers. But despite her best efforts, she was unable to avoid creating a mess.
She picked up the dropped rice from the table after supper and considered where to hide it so her mother wouldn’t see. She then recalled how her mother frequently left food leftovers for the birds close to the Banyan tree in the courtyard.
Myna quietly yelled “can-caa” before sneaking out to the Banyan. A young crow emerged from the Banyan before she could stop and see if her mother was watching. The crow hopped over and ate the slightly smushed rice after Myna stretched out her hand.
“Kakai, you used to eat from my hand, but now you eat from mine.”
Kakai ate several meals from Myna’s hand over the course of the following few weeks as it took Myna some time to learn how to eat by herself without making a mess.
And each time Myna gave the bird food, she would share her day’s events with him. Kakai would occasionally vanish into the Banyan and come back carrying presents for Myna that he had acquired while exploring. It used to be a yellow ribbon. Another time, the button was pink.
Myna and Kakai would hide out in the garden at night and see the stars while Myna’s parents, uncles, and aunts sat on the veranda. And on such a night, Kakai presented the young girl a beautiful silver sequin in her hand that twinkled like a star.
That is how things went up until Myna turned seven. She was no longer permitted to play outside in her village when anything changed, even when it wasn’t too hot or rainy.
One morning Myna and her students were sent home because their teacher had vanished, and everyone appeared uneasy, if not afraid.
Many of Myna’s aunts, uncles, and cousins started to move or talked about moving to countries like England, Canada, and Germany.
The older women stopped standing on the corners and shouting about other people. Soon, nobody was really sure what was going on. The tales Myna told Kakai got progressively more depressing.
Myna’s father was on the phone for so long one night that she could hear his low mumbles as she was about to fall asleep. He awoke his daughter early the following morning and said:
You and Amma will be visiting your uncle and cousins in London. You can help them all speak Tamil more fluently while making a tonne of new pals.
Appa, how about you? questioned the child.
Her father told her, “I’ll be here for a long.” “You’ll see; everything will turn out for the best,” she said.
People were hanging from the doors of the airport train because it was so crowded. More and more people crammed into increasingly small quarters. Even one man who was dozing off with his head on her father’s back was visible to Myna.
Myna felt something for the first time in her life flood her heart. She regretted both leaving Sri Lanka and not having the chance to say goodbye to Kakai.
She noticed monkeys, mist, distant temples, and lovely woodlands as she peered out the train window. Then, while swaying to the beat of the train, she dozed off while ensconced in the silky folds of her mother’s sari.
The next time she opened her eyes, she was in an airport with her father hugging her close and saying goodbye. She must have slept for a very long time.
More people than Myna has ever seen in her life were present. Everyone appeared to be leaving something significant behind and leaving it for good, as evidenced by the large bags in their hands and the sadness in their expressions.
“Appa, I’m afraid.” Why can’t I remain here with you?
Her father asked her to watch over Amma. As soon as you land, I’ll call. You have to have courage, my child.
Myna slept the entire flight, which was the longest she had ever taken. When she finally opened her eyes, she found her uncle from London holding her.
He brought her to his car while covering her in a heavy blanket. Myna’s mother’s eyes were watering and her teeth were chattering, so she had to wear his coat.
Myna had a hard time falling asleep that night while snuggled up at her uncle’s home in London. She feared that she might never be able to sleep again. In the kitchen downstairs, she could hear her mother and aunt talking.
She snuck out of bed and opened her window, but there was not a single star to be seen in the night sky. What an odd nation.
She noticed a small plum tree drenched in kitchen light when she peered out into the garden. Myna sobbed while whispering “caa-caa,” wishing for Kakai to come as he had for so long from the Banyan tree.
Myna bundled herself in her blanket before sneaking outside and reaching the small tree. The trees began to tremble, and a black bird swooped down and landed at her feet.
The bird reassured Myna in a sing-song Tamil, “Don’t be afraid.” I could hear you calling. You’ve just arrived. If you intend to dwell here, you will require feathers that are considerably thicker and fluffier than the ones you are currently wearing.
Myna checked to see if the home was still there by looking behind her. Yes, this was actually taking place. In London, there was a Tamil talking crow.
What is incorrect? The crow questioned, perched on a branch to have a better look at her face.
Myna was unable to hold back her tears. She admitted, “I want to go home.” “I want to experience the starry night sky once more.” There was a crow friend of mine whom I never said goodbye to. He’ll believe that I left him.
“Perhaps he is concerned that you would believe he has left you,” I suggested. In any case, he will understand that you didn’t intend to forsake him because friends don’t do that. I previously had a close relationship with a crow and a deer.
The crow didn’t have the traditional friend a crow would have, but every day they went to the same field in the hamlet with the deer. All day long, they conversed and laughed, and at night, they pointed out absurd star patterns.
The farmer decided to build nets around his field after noticing deer devouring his crops one day so they couldn’t get back in.
The deer yelled as she plummeted to the ground after becoming entangled in the nets the following time she and the crow went to the field. The crow could see that his friend’s leg was completely entangled, making it impossible for her to stand.
‘ “Fly away; don’t get into trouble for my sake,” the deer commanded. I’ll be picked up by the farmer. That’s it for me. But rather than taking off, the crow racked his brain for a strategy. The shrewd bird quickly figured out a way to save his friend.
The farmer told the deer to lie very, very still until he yelled at the top of his lungs when the crow noticed him approaching the field with his pistol. Don’t move a single muscle, blink an eye, or take a breath.
When the farmer approached, he was certain that the deer was already dead because it was lying so still. He set his rifle down and started taking the net off.
The crow then shrieked as loudly as it could just as the final piece of netting was taken off, startling the farmer to death! The farmer stumbled, and the deer suddenly sprung to life and bolted like he was being pursued by a lion!
Myna grinned at the tale and made an effort to convince herself that Kakai would understand her desire never to depart without saying goodbye. Myna speculated, “Perhaps Kakai is flying over me, exactly as in the story.”
When Myna began attending school in London, many students inquired about her origins, and she made a lot of new friends.
She quickly improved her English, was able to share stories from her home and her adventures, and did so with the support of her new professors and a lot of hard effort.
She only revealed the existence of her crow to Lisa, her best friend, though. Lisa laughed that the Tamil word for “Myna” was “blackbird,” especially since Myna was buddies with two crows.
Myna’s father finally showed up and embraced her, telling her that even if she appeared larger than life, she would always be his little child. He said that the crow had likely also left Sri Lanka when she inquired about Kakai. When she enquired as to their return date, he said that he was unsure.
He told his daughter, “We have to make our home where we are now.”
Myna had trouble falling asleep that night. When her father suggested that they needed to make this place their home, she wasn’t sure what he meant. Maybe the word “home” didn’t mean what she had believed it did. Maybe she was homeless.
She started to cry but stopped when she heard a tap, tap at the window. The crow was perched on the plum tree when she opened the window, and he had a number of items hanging from his claws.
He flew up and dropped three items into Myna’s palm as she extended her hand: a yellow ribbon, a pink button, and a sequin that shone like a star in her hand.
‘Kakai?’ Myna shrieked. “You were right all along! You came with me here?
I could hear your tears falling like a monsoon and you never forgot me, my kid.
You abandoned your house for me? Myna murmured.
Home is not a physical location, my child. If you look up, you will notice that the sky above us is the same as it was in our courtyard when we were far away. The same moon is visible to both of us.
Myna raised her gaze to the sky and noticed the stars, which were present but weren’t as dazzling as they were in the north of Sri Lanka.
The kind crow stated, “Home is about people and the sense of belonging and love.” You have two residences. Both there and here might be your home. Two universes exist underneath one sky. You are at home no matter where you are loved.