Among Auntie Pushpa’s effects were the many bangles she wore on her arms, and there was one in particular that caught Amaru’s eye. It was of course gold, and thicker than the others, with an irregular piece of turquoise set in it. He decided to give it to Leela.
At first Leela was hesitant: did he really mean for her to have that beautiful bangle? To wear what had once encircled her mistress’s plump arm? But he gently persisted. Leela slowly extended a small, fine hand and took the bracelet in her slim fingers, oh so carefully. She regarded it intently, turning it slowly around, reading it with her fingers. She caressed the blue-green stone. Then, very slowly, she slipped it onto her arm, pushing it high up so it would stay. Then she looked up at Amaru, her shining dark eyes filled with tears. Finally they overflowed, but Leela made no move to brush them away.
She whispered, “Thank you!” She turned away and with swaying hips went into the kitchen, her head held high.
Amaru was puzzled by her response, but decided Leela must have been pleased with his gift, in her way. Of the ways of mysterious womankind, Amaru was hopelessly ignorant.
Although not wealthy, Auntie Pushpa had been a woman of means; and Amaru was her beneficiary. He now found life to be even more comfortable than before, at least financially. And he had Leela to look after him.
So Amaru began to spend more and more time reading religious texts and meditating; and living an even more solitary and contemplative existence than before.
But strange things began to happen. One day while he was reading, the words and characters began to jumble and rearrange themselves. Amaru closed his eyes, opened them, and found that the words had become “Leela,” repeated over and over across the whole page. Amaru wondered at this. What was happening? Then he remembered: “Of course! Leela means Divine play!” He had been reading about the theory that human life is God playing a game. Amaru permitted himself a little chuckle before resuming his reading.
The next day the same thing happened. Amaru was a little annoyed this time, because he had understood the message the day before.
“Leela, little Leela . . .” he thought absently.
Then he flushed. “Little Leela?”
He riveted his eyes firmly to the page and soldiered on.
When he went to the veranda to pick up his book the next day, he was startled and dismayed to find a cobra curled up on it. Now a cobra had been responsible for several of his life experiences, the first of which was the demise of his stepmother. He was about to back away when it lifted itself to its full height and hissed: “O Amaru, in the end, books are but collections of words. Read the book of LIFE!”
The cobra then moved off, through a hole in the wall, and was not seen again.
Amaru was somewhat shaken, but decided to go for a walk instead of reading. It would be monsoon season in a couple of weeks, and then he would not want to go for walks.
And as he walked, he was reminded of Leela--little Leela--at every turn. He saw her face in the foliage of trees, and when the wind stirred the foliage he could see her swaying walk. His thoughts began to dwell on her small, slight form, modestly dressed in a simple blue sari, but always clean and neat, her shining black hair in a braid down her back.
He began to realize that he had been looking for her for a long time. And when you desire something with all your spirit, you don’t always believe it at first when your prayer is answered. From that moment, Amaru’s whole life was changed. He became a man. He was a man in love, had been in love for a long, long time; but now was aware of it for the first time.
But what about Leela?
Amaru was to discover that Leela had loved him ever since the first time she and Auntie Pushpa had descended on him with food and recriminations about his poor housekeeping. For Leela, it was love at a distance, good enough for the likes of her, who had no prospects of marriage.
And so, finally and without fanfare, Amaru and Leela became husband and wife. Neither of them could have believed such an outcome, had a cobra or other such messenger suggested it even a week ago.
When you finally achieve your heart’s desire, heaven opens its doors. Amaru put away his books and devoted himself to Leela and good works in the village.
And what about Leela?
For Leela, Amaru was her lover, her father, her child, her teacher, her treasure, her god . . .