‘Grandma and the Wild Piggies’… the title is cute and the illustrations are gorgeous, but better yet is the story that Elaine Dias weaves within this book’s pages.
Growing up in Kandy back in the day was truly a magical experience, especially if you were blessed to be in the area surrounded by the jungle. Back then you would almost always wake up to mornings so chilly that you could blow water vapour-like smoke out of your mouths and pretend to be steam locomotives or dragons breathing fire!
‘Grandma and the Wild Piggies’ is a story, and one that is based on true accounts, of Elaine Dias herself – Grandma! – and her encounters with the wild piggies, or wild boar, close to her home up in the mountains.
Elaine Dias was born and bred in Kandy and her childhood days were mostly spent in their home in a little village called Poornawatte, surrounded by jungle and a lot of wildlife… a variety of birds, both plain and exotic, wild hare, wild boar, jungle fowl, porcupines and the lumbering tortoise… “Not now though,” says Elaine sadly, “Where we grew up, you don’t find these animals of the wild anymore… it’s now a ‘residential’ area, which basically means only one species survives here and that’s human!”
Born in the relative ‘wild’ and being accustomed to the wildlife around us, this is how the author has come to love the animals around her, and even tamed and kept some of them as pets.
The story of the wild piggies was related about the wild boar that used to visit Elaine’s Garden in the house she and her husband built in Kandy. It’s an endearing tale but also one with a message of caution… one that alerts us to our encroachment of the jungles which once was home to these wild piggies and all the other wild creatures that once roamed free.
Elaine says, “I was always passionate about writing, and used to write letters to my aunts in Australia and also had a couple of pen pals to fulfil my love of writing. Writing was not my only hobby as a teenager, growing up in Kandy. I would also crochet, sew, collect stamps and so on.”
Life was different back then, and Elaine mentions how she and her sister would walk two and a half kilometres every day to school, never ever taking the bus, but never complaining either as it was part of the fun and frolic of growing up in the laid back, up-country city of Kandy.
Speaking to Elaine on what inspired her to pen this tale, she responds, “I love little children and always had it in my mind to someday write a storybook for kids.”
But life and her career got in the way. Starting work at a young age, her first job was at Mackwoods and thereafter she joined a state bank and continues working there for 38 years, finally retiring a few years ago.
In Elaine’s words, “The happiest day of my life was when I retired, as I was able to go back to doing the things I loved doing in my childhood days, like crocheting and writing. I was able to concentrate on writing ‘Grandma and the Wild Piggies’ mostly during the COVID lockdown.”
Elaine married a hotelier and has two grown-up children of her own, a son who is a practising lawyer and a daughter, both living overseas and is also blessed with a grandson. The entire family are animal lovers and her daughter, who lives in Australia, loves animals the most.
The tale ends with a tinge of sadness: “The forest is slowly growing thinner, the trees gradually getting farther apart and more open ground is spreading. The piggies no longer come as often to see Grandma. Each night, Grandma prays for them to be in a safe place where the air is free of the scent of man. Wild piggies, like all animals, must be free to wander wherever they please and not be prisoners of any man.”
We leave you with this quote and hope that we say many more of Elaine’s endearing tales of the wonder and magic of wildlife in Sri Lanka.