Amaru and Leela had a relatively short time together, since neither of them was very young when they married. As often happens in such cases, they were childless. But they were content with each other, and it was good. Then Leela sickened and died. Amaru almost followed her, but something held him back. He was alone again, but this time he had the memory of his little Leela, and that was a great comfort to him. He reverted to his old habits of sitting and contemplating, playing his flute, and sometimes going for walks.
People in the village began to notice that Amaru now had a lot of spare time. One dark night someone left a book near his door and the next day he was seen to be reading it. It caught his interest. There were careful instructions for fixing watches, clocks, tractors, bicycles and all sorts of other things.
Naturally he needed to practise, so various small broken items began to arrive on his doorstep, and in time he was finding less and less spare time for sitting in the scented shade, talking to spiders and watching the world go by.
Then, the mothers of the village got together and decided that it would be a good idea to have Amaru look after their children for a period of time each day while they did their chores.
So now Amaru was very busy indeed. He rather enjoyed it. He even started teaching a few of the older children how to fix things.
But one day, Death arrived for Amaru. Amaru had always known he would recognize Death when he arrived, and so it came to pass. Death came in the guise of a tall, splendid Sikh, with huge black mustachios and a white turban and beautiful light blue robes; and Amaru recognized him right away.
“Amaru,” said Death in a deep voice, “it is time for you to come with me!”
Amaru was at that moment balancing a child on each knee, stirring a pot of curried lentils on the fire, and instructing a third child in the art of gluing the legs back on a stool. Other children were scattered about, playing.
“As you can see,” said Amaru apologetically, “I am really too busy just now.”
Death looked stern. “Amaru, have you never learned to say ‘no’ when people ask favours of you?”
But Death was not after all an unreasonable being. “See here, Amaru. I will extend your time for a bit. You must find someone to take your place here. I will come back in a year or two.”
Amaru sighed. He was almost tempted to drop everything and go now, but he knew how badly he was needed. Death turned to go, but then he stopped and said, “By the way, Amaru, in my profession it is of the utmost importance that I have an accurate timepiece. Do you think you could fix this one for me?” And he handed Amaru an enormous gold watch.
And before Amaru could refuse, Death disappeared.