Dear Ezra and Lian,
I was going to write a book called, “The Snow Tiger In The Jungle”. It was going to be an awesome epic. It was going to be about a Canadian boy growing up in an unnamed country in Asia. It was going to take place in mountainous jungles.
The story begins with this 4 year old half Asian/half Caucasian boy playing with ice. (Ezra when you were 4, you loved doing that. Just like Lian does now at the same age.) The boy is outside of house and watching him is the Snow Tiger from the edge of the jungle. The Snow Tiger is so curious about the boy. He is unlike any boy he has ever seen. He is also talking perfect Tiger language. (Though the Snow Tiger understands all languages of all creatures, he clearly and surprisingly hears his own tongue being spoken.) The Snow Tiger thinks the boy looks delicious, but he is so curious to see ice so far away from his home in the snow covered mountains.
Suddenly he jumps out in front of the boy and lets out a great roar. The boy is not frightened or even bothered. Instead, he gives the Snow Tiger some ice to lick. Thus begins a great friendship between the Snow Tiger and the boy. The boy and the Snow Tiger start talking with one another. The boy’s mother looks out the window of the house to see her son. She can’t see the Snow Tiger. Only those who have been roared at, can see him. She thinks to herself, “He’s talking to the angels.” This is what the local tribe say babies and toddlers do when they are babbling to themselves. (It was said about Ezra when you appeared to be talking to someone in the corner of an empty room.)
There is a belief amongst many Mizos that tigers only kill evil people doing wicked things. The story assumes this myth to be true. Thus, the Snow Tiger is prevented from ever eating the boy because he has a pure heart. One time though, The Snow Tiger is about to eat someone. The Snow Tiger waits at night. He is outside their window and licking his lips as the human is about to do this terrible thing. At that moment, the boy appears in front of The Snow Tiger. The boy distracts him. The Snow Tiger is angry with the boy. He explains who he really is; he both protects and punishes the people who live in these hills. He also is really hungry and has to eat some living thing. Since the boy really loves this person who The Snow Tiger wishes to eat, the boy finds a solution. He brings his pet dog as a substitute. With a roar, the Snow Tiger grabs the dog and with one shake of its neck, it is killed. The Snow Tiger runs off into the darkness. High up in a tree, he eats the dog. (Even though this book is about a four year old, it is only to be read by much older children.)
After some adventures together, the book would introduce the boy’s father. He is an untrained volunteer trying to help poor farmers deal with a plague of rats. The plague is caused by a once-every-50-years “gregarious synchronous flowering of bamboo”. The plague leads to a famine as the rats eat everything above ground. Sounds a lot like mautam doesn’t it?
A couple chapters into the story, we slowly begin to realize that this boy has autism. For The Snow Tiger In The Jungle isn’t just about a boy. It’s about Ezra Morgan and his father Tim. It’s not inspired by their experiences, it will actually detail what their life was like. It will compress 9 years into a few months inside the book. As Ezra began therapy in 2009, I realized he was changing. I wanted to have a reminder for him when he was older of what his life used to be like. I also want to secretly tell you what my life was like as well.
No one could ever challenge me on the facts or information in the book because it was “fiction” No one would ever worry about the author’s tone or mental state because the story was a “fantasy”. I would have time to craft it just right. I could substitute a better word here. Delete a phrase there. I would paint just the right setting with words. I could freely write the undiluted truth under cover of a children’s story. I had nothing to worry about. Only 3 people would ever know that all the events really happened. Me, Ezra and later when she was born, Lian. Your mom wouldn’t even know for sure how much of it was true. If anyone ever asked me, if these things really happened, I always planned on saying, “It’s a true story about Truth and The Snow Tiger.” Since no one believes in Snow Tigers, then they would conclude that it was all fiction. Secretly, us 3 would only know just how true it all was.
These letters that I’m publicizing on this blog are the slow and systematic destruction of that book. All my best stories were supposed to be hidden inside The Snow Tiger In The Jungle. Now, here they are out in the open. It genuinely makes me sad. I loved that book. I wrote it so many times in my head. I could make myself cry re-reading those chapters in my imagination.
When I became a single parent when you two were 9 and 2 years old, I knew I would never find the time to finish the novel before both of you became teenagers. I had to tell you these stories while you could still use them. As adults, it’s probably way too late.
Also, I was forgetting too many details of what Ezra was like from 2-5 years old. I think Ezra was around 8 when he said something like, “I remember when I had a lot more autism.” So do I, little buddy, but I’m forgetting so quickly. You have become soooo different. I don’t just mean you’re growing up into a young man before my eyes. Your autism world was so frustrating, scary and out of control for you. It was also so wonderfully different. It was another world; like Alice’s Wonderland. I wanted to write it all down before both Ezra and I forgot what it was like.
That story would have been so much better than these letters. Since it would have been fiction, I could have changed things to make it a happier story. I’m sorry that this is what you get to read. I know a lot of adults would be a lot happier if I wrote The Snow Tiger In The Jungle. So would I, but circumstances have changed things.
At the end of The Snow Tiger In The Jungle, the Snow Tiger gets captured and tied up. The very creature who protects all the hilly people was going to be killed by them. They stopped believing that he looked after them because of the rat plague and the famine that it was causing. My character convinced them to let me take the Snow Tiger to a tiger reserve out of the state. We load him on top of our jeep and start driving. As we get close to the reserve, Ezra being Ezra, he undoes his seat belt and climbs on top of the jeep to be with his friend. Somehow he loosens the ropes. The Snow Tiger doesn’t jump off the roof. He sits up, with Ezra between his two front paws and lets out the greatest roar he has ever given.
With that roar, birds of prey begin flying overhead. Then behind the jeep another tiger appears running after the vehicle. Soon all the rarest of animals of North East India are there running or flying behind. Elephants, monkeys, rhinoceros, civet cats, Asian bears and more tigers are running. The Snow Tiger and Ezra have the wind blowing through fur and hair as The Snow Tiger roars again and again. More and more animals come out. We turn the jeep around and head back to Mizoram.
This huge wave of animals and cloud of birds stream back into the farm fields and jungle forests. They begin to destroy the rats by the tens of thousands. They are ruined. There is no place to hide. The king of the rats flees and the plague is over. There is much rejoicing in the land. Hope is restored. The Snow Tiger is hailed as the true ruler of the mountains. They all lived happily ever after.
www.dearezraandlian.com isn’t that at all. It’s a poor substitute, but it’s all I have.