The author of Donald Trunk, Sri Lanka’s swimming elephant, met the village kids from around Jetwing Warwick Gardens, while researching the book’s sequel, and the terrible evils of the British elephant killer Major Thomas William Rogers, who wiped out over 1,400 elephants. His appalling 11 year killing spree annihilated most of the hardy elephant herds that had weathered the extreme climatic change of the freezing cold Central Highlands, six thousand feet above sea level, and surprisingly it was not an elephant that finally got him, but a blinding flash of lightning.
Luckily, the day we decided to try Meena Amma’s amazing Line experience, the weather was fantastic and the kids came to meet us from all over the hidden valley of lush green tea. We expected 15 to 20 kids and parents to turn up at 7.30am to hear the Donald Trunk, Sri Lanka’s Swimming elephant story and to be given their very own copy of the book as a special new year gift, but the turnout was overwhelming, in a good way.
Proving the love of books and the power of the bush telegraph, which is still way better than any kind of social media, we had over 100 children from three villages turning up in their rainbow of colorful festival saris. What was even more amazing and surprising, in all the madness, was how they lined up quietly on arrival to receive a wonderful book to share with their brothers and sisters. They all loved the satirical take on a naughty Sri Lankan elephant, who gets the wanderlust spirit, like many pioneering Sri Lankans before him, to get away and seek experiential treasures in faraway lands before discovering that one’s homeland is where the real treasure is to be found.
The kids listened to the story with wide eyes, hissing at the snake encounter and laughing at all Donald’s mad escapades and were sad, when the Sri Lankan navy brought him back. Janet Anderton’s humorous drawings that brilliantly bring Trunk to life made some of the kids ask if he was real or not. One little girl wanted to stick all the pages up on the walls of her home so that all the family could enjoy the story from start to finish.
After my explanation of the book, everyone looked through it and told me how they liked sugar buns too, like Trunk, and I explained why too much sugar was bad for their teeth. The boys wanted to know more about the ocean and all its different creatures. So many questions followed it was hard to keep up.
A toddler kept us on our toes as he kept coming back for another copy of the book, he loved it so much, and amused us as he could barely carry one copy, let alone three. At the end they all got on a giant boulder for a New Year celebration picture with the Jetwing team, Amzar, Samad and even me and then danced, ran or were carried back to their mountain homes by their loving grandparents to put their very special gifts away.