Deleted Scenes

Here you’ll find a few scenes that ended up being cut from the book. Enjoy!

This takes place in the family’s hut when Hastin’s sister Chanda is sick. I love this GaneshGanesh_wooden story he tells her, but I found out later that this is a tale from South India, not one that Hastin’s family would know, living in the northern part of the country. I was sad to see it go!

“If you drink your tea I will tell you a story.” Chanda always likes my stories.
“In my playhouse.”
“All right, I will set up your playhouse, then tell you a story. But you have to drink the whole cup of tea!”
I drag two wooden trunks across the floor, then set one near Chanda’s head and the other near her feet. From Amma’s trunk I grab her blue sari.
“The purple one,” Chanda says.
I drape the purple sari across the trunks to make a ceiling, then sit next to Chanda and light the lamp. The light that shines through the fabric makes a sunset on the wall.
“What kind of story would you like?” I ask.
Without lifting her arm, she points to the figure of the elephant-headed god that sits against the wall. Of all the carvings our father made, this is the one we have left. One by one we have sold the others, when Amma has shaken the last grains of rice from the bag and we have no money for more. But we hold on to Ganesh. He is the remover of obstacles, and we need him.
“How about the one where Ganesh races his brother around the world?” I ask. “That is one of your favorites.”
“Around the whole world?” Chanda is good at pretending to be surprised, as if she’s never heard the story before.
“That’s right. The gods gave Ganesh and his brother Skanda some fruit. The two brothers fought over who should get the gift. Their parents told them to race around the world. Whichever brother won the race would get the fruit.”
I wait for her to speak.
“Remember Chanda? This is the part where you say, ‘but Ganesh has that big round belly. I bet he couldn’t run very fast.’ And then I say, ‘Yes, he has that big round belly because he likes sweets so much.’”
Chanda smiles when I touch her stomach but she does not giggle like she usually does.
“And of course Ganesh has that big elephant head, too,” I say.
“And a mouse,” she says, almost too quietly for me to hear.
I laugh. “You are right, he rides a mouse, and Skanda flies on the back of a peacock. So Skanda raced away on his peacock, and Ganesh stood there and watched him fly away!”
I wait.
“I bet you’re wondering, ‘But Hastin, didn’t he even try to race him?’”
She opens her eyes for a moment. I think she nods her head a little.
“Yes, Chanda, he did. Remember, Ganesh is kind and helpful, but he is also tricky. As soon as his brother was out of sight, Ganesh walked a circle around his parents, like this—”
Chanda peeks under the sari as I stand and walk a slow circle around her. I sit down when I get back to my starting place.
“Then he held out his hands like this.” I show her my palms.
“But he has four hands and you have two.”
“Yes, I think he held out all four of his hands, and he asked his parents for his prize.”
“No fair,” she says.
“I know, it doesn’t seem fair, does it? Ganesh just walked around his parents, while his brother raced around the world. And that’s just what his parents said, too. ‘My son, how can you say you have won, when all you did was walk around us, your parents?’  And Ganesh said, ‘Yes, you are my parents, and you are the world to me. I need to go no farther to circle the world.’”
Chanda looks up at me now. “So did they let him have the prize?”
“They did, and imagine how angry and tired Skanda was when he returned from circling the entire earth!”

So, I looked for a different story, and found one from Rajasthan, where Hastin lives. I revised the same scene and had Hastin tell his sister this folk tale, “The Marble Elephant.”

“What kind of story would you like?” I ask.
Chanda doesnt answer.
“How about one about a princess and a flying elephant?”
She opens her eyes a little. “It could fly?” Chanda is good at pretending to be surprised, as if she’s never heard the story before.
“Yes, even though it was a statue!”
Baba used to tell us stories he knew, but I can’t tell them like he did, so I make up the parts I don’t remember. Chanda likes it when I make the stories about us.
“Once there was a princess named Chanda who lived happily in a palace with her brother the prince and her parents, the king and queen. But then the prince moved away when he married a princess in another kingdom. The prince loved his new wife, but missed his home and family very much, especially because his new palace was ruled by an evil queen.
“He had a room overlooking the palace gardens, where there stood a giant marble statue of an elephant.”
I wait. This is the part where Chanda always says, “Is that the elephant that flies?” but this time she’s quiet. I put my hand behind her head and give her a sip of tea.
“Late one night the prince looked out the window, and saw the evil queen flying away on the back of the marble elephant! He sat by the window all night, not believing what he saw. Just before sunrise the elephant flew back to its place in the garden, and the queen climbed off its back and tiptoed into the palace. The next night, the prince looked at the statue all over, and found a trap door in its stomach. He crawled inside to wait. Later, the queen climbed onto the elephant. After she tapped the statue twice, it flew into the sky.
“They flew around throughout the night. When they landed at their palace again, the prince jumped out and returned to his room. But the queen saw him, and was afraid he would tell her secret. While he was asleep, she tied a magic thread around his neck and turned him into a deer. He ran out of the palace and into the woods.”
“Wasn’t he scared?” asks Chanda.
I give her another sip of tea and some juice. “Yes, he was afraid of animals in the woods who might hurt him, but he tried to be brave. A few days later, the princess, who was sad about her missing prince, was out for a walk when she stopped to admire the beautiful deer near the palace. The deer ran to his princess, and the magic thread around his neck snapped on a twig. The deer turned back into the prince, who told his wife what the evil queen had done.
“‘She is a witch!’ said the princess. “’I wish we could move far away from here.’”
“’I have an idea,’ said the prince. ‘Let’s go live with my family at my old palace.’ He took the princess by the hand and ran to the marble elephant. After they climbed atop the statue, the prince tapped it twice, just as the queen had, and flew with his princess across seven hills to his family’s palace.”
“What happened to the evil queen?” asks Chanda.
“They never saw her again. The prince, his wife the princess, the good king and queen, and Princess Chanda all lived happily together in the palace forever.”
Later, Hastin worries about what to tell Chanda about why he’s leaving home, since it’s because of her illness that he’s going to work as an elephant keeper. He says to his mother, “Tell her I’ve flown away on the back of an elephant, and I will come back soon and tell her all about the palace I lived in.”
When Hastin is riding on Nandita’s back at the circus grounds, he taps her back and pretends they’ll both fly far away from there like she’s the marble elephant.
Another lovely story, but it was making the first chapter too long, so it had to go too!
Here’s a chase scene that takes place right after Hastin and the other workers load Nandita tess_coloronto the truck. Pretty exciting, but my editor thought it seemed unrealistic and asked me to cut it:

Nandita’s ears flap as she stares into the jungle. I do not need to follow her gaze to know what has caught her attention. I hear the trumpet blasts even before I see the elephant herd stampeding toward the truck.
The men leap into the cab of the truck and slam the doors. Trees in the distance shudder and tremble as the wild herd races toward us.
Nandita flaps her ears and trumpets to her family. She pushes on the tailgate of the truck with her head.
I cannot take my eyes off the approaching herd, until Sharad yells from the driver’s seat.
“Give me the keys!”
“I thought you had them!” a workmen answers.
“No, you were driving!”
Ganesh, remover of obstacles, we could really use your help now.
Three pairs of wide eyes appear in the cab’s window when the men turn toward the back of the truck. I look too. I cling to Nandita as the stampede grows louder, larger, closer.
“There—on the floor!” says a voice from the front seat.
The sputtering of the engine a moment later is the most welcome sound I have ever heard.
It quickly becomes the most dreaded sound, when sputtering is all the engine will do.
“Come on, get us out of here!” yells a workman.
If the elephants catch up to us, they will flatten the truck and everything in it. In my head I scream at myself to jump out of the truck and run away, but I cannot move.
Maybe the herd will stop chasing us if I let Nandita go. I’ll be in trouble later but at least we will be alive.
With a trembling hand I reach for the latch on one side of the tailgate. I grasp the latch and try to push it open, but my hand slips away. Quickly I rub my palms on the legs of my pants to wipe away the sweat. I release the latch, then scramble to the other side of the truck.
Sharad tries again to start the truck. A cough, then nothing.
I reach for the other latch.
This time, after the sputter of the engine comes a grinding sound. The floor of the truck trembles when the engine starts. With a jolt, the truck speeds away. Nandita and I watch the wall of grey close in on us. Treetops shake as the elephants crash through the forest.
A rusty edge of the tailgate snags my sleeve when I reach for the second latch. I fall over when Sharad swerves the truck around a tree.
We race and bounce through the forest that passes by in a blur of green. The storm of elephants keeps up its chase, but falls behind as the truck weaves through the trees.
I breathe a sigh of relief. We might make it now.
But I hold Nandita, who calls out to her family still.
At the front of the herd I spot Sanjana, and remember last night’s screaming trumpet that told me she was Nandita’s mother. She and the other elephants keep chasing the truck, and I think of Amma standing in the road as Timir drove away with me. I picture myself as Timir, and my body shivers. If I don’t give Nandita back to her family, I’m no better than he is.
With one hand I hold the tailgate, while with the other I pull the latch. Right away I realize my mistake. If I hang on to the tailgate as it falls, I will fall too—and roll into the path of the rumbling herd. Just in time, I let go of the tailgate and grab Nandita’s chain.
The dropped tailgate is now a ramp that bounces along the swerves, dips, and bumps on the ground. Nandita turns and runs to the front of the truck, dragging me with her until I think to let go of the chain.
When I hear a shout from the front seat, I sit up and peek through the cab’s window. The truck is headed straight for two trees. They are too close together. Why isn’t Sharad driving around them? I hold tightly onto Nandita and close my eyes as I brace myself for the crash.
I hear the snap of metal and a crunching sound as the trees scrape the sides of the truck. One of the men in front speaks rapidly in a language do not understand, but it sounds like praying. Nandita breaks away from me and runs around the bed of the truck. I look behind us at the trees we barely squeezed through, and see the truck’s side mirrors lying on the ground.
We drive into a dip and onto a hillside, and I bounce high and crash onto the floor. The truck flies down a hill, then groans as it struggles to climb another. But the hilly terrain holds back the elephants even more. Nandita watches the herd fall farther and farther behind. Even when I can’t see them anymore, she keeps watching, as if she’s hoping they will reappear.