Then the old cobra rearranged himself on the stage, settling in for the telling. The three monkeys in white returned and sat down by his side. Beside us Mandar and Manini also sat down, easing into comfortable lotus. A restful silence now settled on the large hall. Then he began. “Hanuman’s oldest son was blessed with an outstanding memory. This is the story he told, and for which he in turned thanked the blessings of those many memories that had gone before him: “Vishnu was bored. “The sun and moon and stars and their many planets, one rounder than the next, spun their soft silent songs in perfect rhythm, all according to perfect plan and perfect wish. “The light which emanated from the center of Vishnu, who is light and who will always be light, spread throughout the universe until it reached the end, and when it reached the end, by shining it pushed the end out before it, chasing it as it fled into farther and farther away, and into larger and larger, and some say that this light still chases the far end of the universe into the ever larger. “The planets spun like spinning tops that in turn spun around suns like wheels, pacing the years in quick succession, one or ten to a breath. The galaxies rolled and sailed in waves so majestic, only one whose time is endless notices their motion. “This was Vishnu’s playground: vast, organized, brilliant, moving, and ever expanding. “And, yet, for all this beauty, for all this symmetry, for all this wonderful cosmic dance, Vishnu was bored. “Maybe he had seen it all before. Maybe this was not the first universe he had built. Maybe this was the last in an endless line of universes, one more complex, one more dancing than the next, what do we know? But after so many cosmic years of watching and tweaking and watching and adjusting and watching and shifting and watching again he had grown bored. “The tale does not tell whether he only chose this world, or whether this world is one of countless worlds that he chose. It is enough that we should tell ourselves and believe that this is the only world he did choose, for that would make us important. “Vishnu then—out of love say some, but out of boredom says Hanuman’s oldest son and the many memories that went before him—begot the four elements: earth, water, fire, and air. “Earth he made by crumbling with his many tendril fingers the surface of the smooth silver ball that was the world before Vishnu grew bored. “Water he made by scooping large valleys in the newly earthy surface and filling them with his breath. “Fire he made from the drops of stars. “And air he made from the hum of constant motion. “And in the earth he sowed fire, made it root and sprout and rise, and so color was born. Greens and reds and blues and yellows rose up to sing for him. “And in the oceans he sowed fire, where it sprouted fins and gills and swam and soon knew hunger. “And in the air he sowed fire, where it sprouted wings and lungs and flew and soon knew hunger. “And on the surface of the earth, among the growing colors, he spread the fire which grew legs and lungs and heart and walked and soon knew hunger. “Some of the colors of plants and trees loved the ocean more than others and found in it a new home and covered first its shallow waters, then the deeps, with color, mainly green. “Then the hunger worsened and grew so painful that some fishes could not endure it and they wondered whether color was edible, and they found it so, and they ate of the watery plants. Other, less patient fish, wondered whether the smaller plant-eating fish were edible, and they found them so, and so they ate them.