The Legend of the Leaf Fairy
Shhhh! Quiet! There’s someone at the door.”
“No there isn’t. It’s your imagination at play.”
“But why would I imagine knocks? I say there’s someone at the door.”
“But why would anyone knock at our door so late into the night?”
“Maybe it’s a child that is lost; or maybe it is the man without legs, who begs the whole day in front of our school. Maybe the person is hungry. Can’t you hear the knocks? They are getting louder now, I think.”
“Ah yes! I can hear it now! It was so faint before. It’s louder now!”
“Let’s open the door.”
“No. Mother said never to open the door when she is not around. Especially at night when she goes off to work. And we must listen to mother!”
The railway tracks were close to where the twins Amu and Amal lived with their mother Maya. It was a low end neighborhood, a place for the poor, the excluded. The hut where they lived shook every time a train passed by making gigantic noises. Being alone with themselves almost every night, these noises turned into monstrous nightmares in the land of their dreams. Maya’s husband died last year, leaving her to fend for herself and the twins all alone.
Soon Maya began going out at nights, leaving the children alone at home. She worked as the ayah in the neighboring old age home, and other people’s places who needed a help at night for their elderly family members. Some nights she would sit beside the cheerful old men and women in a ward, holding their wrinkly hand and comforting them. Some nights she would quietly sit and look at the peaceful faces of the aged, sleeping soundly in the dormitory. Maya felt protected. The warmth of all the services she provided lovingly to the aged came back to her life as blessings, she thought.
Amu and Amal, now frightened with the steady knocks, tiptoed at the door. Craning their necks, they looked through the crack of the window. It was dark outside. A streetlamp faintly glowed with its last strength to spread light into the lonely night. They listened again.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Meanwhile, the kitchen at the backside of their hut glowed a bright yellow orange. Amu felt warm, almost hot and sweaty, in the cold chilly night. The glow from the kitchen lit up Amu’s face and with bright eyed curiosity, she looked on at the door with a strange anticipation. Amal turned around to see the smoke coming out of the bright kitchen glow, but didn’t much care about it. His focus returned to the urgent knocks now. The knocks kept repeating at their thin rickety door.
Amu, the elder of the two by a few minutes, gathered enough courage to ask “Who’s there? What do you want so late at night?”
“Open! Open! It’s me!” whispered a faint voice.
“The leaf fairy from the nearby mango tree!”
“Leaf fairy? How are you here? Mother said, you always stay with the trees shading us and protecting us children from the burning heat of the sun when we play outside.”
“Yes. I do I stay in the trees, but today I want to take you in my lap and protect you in this cold strange night! Tomorrow when you wake up in my lap, I will play with you, make leaves fall on you like angels from the huge mango tree, and shade you from the burning sun!”
“Oh leaf fairy. You sound so much fun! But mother asked us never to open the door to a stranger at night,” whispered Amu, “can’t you come in the daytime to play with us when mother is home?”
Amu was the cautious one amongst the two. While she stood thinking what can be done, Amal, the smaller one, dragged a chair to the window, jumped on it and burst open the window panes to look more closely at her, while behind the safety of the window bars. “Leaf fairy! Mother told us not to open the door at night when she is not around, and we are good children. We listen to mother! So we open just the window to talk to you.”
A big noise, a bright light, windy swoosh swoosh, Amu and Amal swaying in the wind, sucked out of their tiny hut. They were in a few seconds in the arms of the leaf fairy. She floated up taking the two children with her. Riding in the leaf fairy’s lap, the children looked down wide eyed and bewildered, towards their hut. In the darkness around, the hut had a faint glow of yellow in the kitchen, as if something was brightly burning there. And then swoosh swoosh, they were higher up again, in the arms of the leaf fairy, higher still, from where they could see the whole neighborhood below them, bathed in the silvery moonlight.
They floated over the neighborhood for some time, with great delight! Soon, they could see their school building from high above and their favorite mango tree just beside it. The leaf fairy soon began descending towards the mango tree. Once she touched ground, set softly set the twins under their favorite tree.
Delightedly stunned by now, the children looked at the leaf fairy glowing like a firefly in the dark, with layered leafy dress and a leafy crown on her beautiful round head. Her hair fell all around her, in bright green, yellow, and brown tresses! Her face was a glowing moon, like the doll’s face Amu played with, and her clothes done with all the beautiful leaves that Amal collected from the mango tree, dried in between books, and gifted to Amu from time to time. The leaf fairy looked beautiful, peaceful, and serene. And then she slowly glided up and soon vanished somewhere high among the leaves of the mango tree.
The whole neighborhood was up. It was the darkest hour before the dawn.
“Buckets of water! Fast!”
“Let’s make a human chain! Pass the bucket! Pass it fast!”
“Someone call the fire fighters! Where’s Maya? Let’s try breaking open the door. Her two children are inside. Maybe the kitchen stove caught fire while she was gone!”
“Amu! Amal! Amu! Amal! Can you hear us? Don’t be scared. Hold on tight!”
“I hear no response. Maybe the smoke caught them off guard. Maybe the smoke caused a blackout in their sleep! Poor tiny children, they must be so scared!”
“Quick! Let the fire fighters in. Let them in. Let us all make way! Amu! Amal! Someone quick call Maya!”
“She went out in the evening, I saw her leave. Oh where is she? Where is Maya?”
The night in the shanty beside the railway tracks dragged on, firefighting. Soon the night broke into a faint dawn. The early morning sky, the light of the day peeped, showing the crowd around that the hut was by now consumed totally by the fire!
“There is no sign of the twins in the hut. There is no one in the burning hut,” the firefighters announced.
“The door was locked from within. The children could not have gotten out through a locked door. So where are they?” the police wondered.
The usual time now came for Maya to return to her hut. Stunned to see so many people around her hut, she pushed through the crowd, saw the empty charred remains of what she used to call ‘home’, and wailed out loud. “What has happened to my hut?” She panicked “Amu Amal! Where are my children? Bring my children to me! I want to see them now.”
“The children were not in the hut Maya. This may be good news. Maybe they somehow escaped. Maybe they are not hurt.”
“What do you mean not in the hut? Where are they? Are they hurt? Are they lost? Are they in the hospital?” wailed Maya.
“We don’t know Maya where they are. We will begin a search for them” consoled the neighbors.
At that moment, the guard from the school rushed in.
“Maya! Maya! Amu and Amal were found soundly sleeping under the school’s mango tree! When I opened the school gates in the morning today, I was surprised to see them huddled there, sleeping tight under a quilt of leaves. It seemed as if the children used the leaves to sleep in. I woke them up. They are safe in the school. They say that the leaf fairy brought them to the tree at night. They have no idea that their hut is burnt down. They are now playing happily with other children under the mango tree. Today classes have been called off and children are all given free time to play with Amu and Amal!
A cheer broke out from the crowd and Maya cried and cried with relief, slumping in front of the doorstep of her now charred hut.
From that day on the legend of the leaf fairy was born. Children who listen to their parents, who do not open doors to strangers, and who love trees and play around them, the leaf fairy comes and protects them at all cost. Each tree has a many leaf fairies living in its high branches, looking after all children in the neighborhood. In exchange, the leaf fairy wants us all to create more and more leaf fairies by planting more trees. The more the trees the more the leaf fairies living in them. And at times when you tell the elders around you that the leaf fairies live in trees and protect you, they may not believe you. You must still insist and teach the elders to plant more trees and create more leaf fairies. What do the elders know, after all?