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Bonzer Words!: Lila

Carla Sari tells a tale about a polite dog called Lila.

Carla writes for Bonzer! magazine. Please visit www.bonzer.org.au

From the front verandah of Sujata's house I see the hut where I spent eight weeks, practising intensive meditation under her instructions. Tonight I'm leaving the island and I've come to say goodbye. I also want to find out what happened to Lila.

"So, you're ready to go," says Sujata. "How did you like Sri Lanka?" While she listens I keep glancing towards the hut. "I suppose you want to know what's happened to the dog,'' she says.

I nod, my face red with guilt and confusion.

"Well . . . she's disappeared. She must have had her puppies but we don't know where. I'd warned you not to befriend her," she adds. "Still, no use worrying. That's a waste of energy".

I gaze at the oleander bush, where Lila used to appear when trotting around the compound looking for food. Even from a distance her ribs showed through her short red coat. Only the stomach bulged, betraying signs of pregnancy.

One day, after lunch, I was brushing my teeth outside and wondering what to do with those leathery chicken thighs. I didn't want to offend Sujata by sending them back. I knew the trouble she went to trying to prepare a balanced meal. The dog could do with the meat, I thought. I'd been following her movements, admiring her persistence and grace, surprised by my interest. I'd always been a cat lover.

Rinsing my mouth, I saw the dog circling closer to the hut. Instinctively, although knowing that it would meet with Sujata's disapproval, I waved a chicken leg in the air. My arm was still raised when she was at my feet. I handed her the meat, which she took delicately before disappearing behind the bush.

The following day she was back. She always kept her distance, approaching only at the given signal. I began noticing tiny scabs all over her body, barely covered by her matted coat. I longed to touch her but what if it hurt and she bit me?

A week later, crouching down beside her, I grazed my fingertips along her back. Our eyes locked, hers were full of awe and wet with tears. I stood up, moved and disturbed.

She became my dog and I called her Lila. Every afternoon she lay outside the hut, rolled on the grass under the frangipani trees and challenged anyone who dared approach while I meditated.

"What do you think you're doing with that stray? What will happen when you leave?" Sujata asked.

I had no answers. I toyed with the idea of having her spayed after delivery if I could find a good vet but I also knew that I had to vacate my hut as soon as the course was over and move on. I continued to feed her. It was too late to do otherwise.

The monsoon started and I was confined. My meals arrived between torrential downpours. For a while there was only me, Lila and the rain. By the time the weather changed she was almost due.

It became very hot; I was feeling nauseous and lethargic. The doctor advised an immediate change of climate. There was a tourist bus leaving within two days and going straight to Nuwara Eliya, a resort area in the mountains.

"A good opportunity," urged Sujata, who knew the driver. "I wouldn't want you to be travelling alone on a train." Although reluctant to leave I realised that Sujata had done all she could to help me. She was eighty; the responsibility of looking after a foreign woman was taking its toll.

I kept glancing at Lila while folding my clothes. She put her muzzle between her front paws and shut her eyes.

"The past is past," Sujata's voice jolts me out of my reverie. "Do you know something? I believe you met that dog in a previous life." I shrug. She speaks about karma while I think about Lila.

"I won't find peace until I know what's happened. Someone in the area must know," I blurt out, taking a handful of rupees from my bag and sliding them inside an envelope. "A reward for the person who can find and care for her. I'll write and keep in touch."

The taxi has arrived. I pick up my luggage. "Don't torture yourself. You were only trying to help," Sujata says, with a wistful smile. "The peace you've been looking for lies in accepting what you can't change," she adds, closing the car door.

Carla Sari


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