Song of the Cuckoo Bird

"Song of the Cuckoo Bird" is now released by Kindle Press as an eBook.

Since my father was an army officer, I grew up all over India (mostly northern India) and spent very little time during my early childhood in my home state, Andhra Pradesh in southern India. Since my grandparents on both sides were dead, my parents would take us to an ashram by the Bay of Bengal in a place called Bheemunipatnam in Andhra Pradesh to introduce my sister and I to our home state. 

The ashram was housed in a white house overlooking the Bay of Bengal and the guru of the ashram was a woman who I don’t remember much anymore, except that she had long white hair. My mother used to visit the ashram with her older sister when she was young and so it became our “vacation” place in Andhra.

Since I remember I have wanted to write about that house, the ashram, the people who lived there and the magic I remember feeling whenever we went there. 

When I first tried to write this story, I was fifteen and really, what came out then was part juvenile romance and part incoherent. I tried again and again and each time I did, it was part something and part incoherent. Finally, in early 2004 after I finished work on my third novel, I started working on this book again. First it was turning into the story of a widow and then the story of the guru of the ashram and then…into something incoherent. I wrote over 150 pages and finally gave up all pretense of calling it a story because it wasn’t. 

It was then that my husband and I took a night out on the town leaving our son with his grandparents. It was warm in Copenhagen and we had dinner outside one of the several cafés in Nyhaven, the new harbor, and we got talking about the ashram. And just like that as I started telling my husband the stories of the people there what I wanted to write fell into place. The story was going to be about the house, the house with the white roof, the house, which was the ashram. 

As soon as we got back to the hotel room, I started pounding on my laptop keys. The first chapter was told from the point of view of the house that had witnessed it all and so finally, after almost a decade and a half, I got a foothold on a story that I never could quite put into words. The first chapter changed however and the story emerged from the house in the center to Kokila being the center and my protagonist.

Kokila means cuckoo bird in Telugu and the story of the house with the white roof became her story and the title emerged, Song of the Cuckoo Bird. This is my biggest book so far, especially in size as it is about 570 manuscript pages, mammoth for me, and editing this tome was not always fun, but writing it was always a pleasure. The story spans four decades from the late sixties to the beginning of the new millennium and traces the growth of India through the years. 

I called my mother, who lives in California, repeatedly, to ask her to tell me the stories of the people from the ashram, people she knew, anyone she could think of from her childhood days, and she patiently told me the stories and I wove so many of them into this book that the book is as much hers as it is mine.

Amulya Malladi