Monday, April 20, 2009

An evening boon!


The day was bad. There was no crowd in the beach that day. I sold only for 6 rupees. The big fat glass bottle of lozenges was still full. I did not know how I would pay the day’s rent of Rs. 10. The rent collector would come soon. It was going to be dark. The sky was painted in all colors – red, white, yellow, orange, grey, blue and black! There was a cool breeze coming from the sea. The birds were chirping. The scantly populated beach was getting more secluded as the few visitors present there were leaving too. I was sad and was preparing myself for a nice thrashing from both my Uncle Abdul and the rent collector, Raghu.

“ए छोकरा, इधर आ” (Hey boy, come here.)

I turned back and looked around. There were not many people around. It was getting dark too, and I could not see anyone. I curved back to my position and looked ahead towards the park, near the beach, hoping for someone to come my way and buy some of my lozenges.

“अबे इधर देख, निचे” (Hey look here, downwards.)

I looked down. A middle aged man, clad in torn jeans and a dark jacket over a bright colored polo shirt was lying down. He was certainly enjoying the cool evening breeze at the sea shore. I was happy to hear the call. Probably, he would buy some lozenges from me. I went to him.

Phew! He smelled like rotten egg. There was a mild smell of country liquor too. I know it because my Uncle Abdul always has it. He goes mad when he drinks. This must be tasty, but then, I don’t know. Everyone says that liquor is not good. They must be having their own reasons; but whatever it is, I never ever tasted that awful thing.

“अबे गधे, सुनाई नहीं देता मैं बुला रहा हूँ?” (You moron! Can’t you hear me calling you?) He said furiously.

“जी साब, बोलिए.” (Yes Sir, tell me) I went to him running; almost tumbling on the uneven hot sand.

“क्या बेचता है तू?” (What do you sell?) He commanded.

“निम्बू लागेंस साबजी.” (Lemon Lozenges, Sir.)

“कितने की है?” (For how much do you sell these?)

“एक रुपिअह में चार, साबजी.” (Four for rupee one, Sir.)

“पानी है?” (Do you have water?)

“पानी?” (Water?) I turned around and looked at the dark sea, behind me. I smiled, “नहीं, साबजी.” (No, Sir.)

“ठीक है. दो लोगेंस दे इधर.” (Ok. Give me two lozenges.)

“मेरे पास छुट्टे नहीं है साब.” (I don’t have change, Sir.) I murmured.

“इधर आ, एक राज़ की बात बताता हूँ.” (Come close, I will tell you a secret.)

As I went near to him, he said with a grin, “मेरे पास भी नहीं है.” (Even I do not have any.) Saying this, he burst into a weird and wicked laughter!

I did not like anything about that man. He had patchy stubble on his face which I did not like. He had a smell of rotten eggs that can be smelled from miles away. He had grown his hair and the way he dressed was weird too. I did not like anything of him. However, I was happy that he called me. I was sure he would buy some lozenges; but, now he was asking them for free? I will not give any even if he threatens to kill me.

“क्या हुआ? नहीं देगा?” (What happened? Won’t you give me any?)

I looked at him. His dark face was barely visible; more so, because he was lying down on the hot sand. I did not reply to him. I held the glass bottle closer to my chest, with both my arms around it. Probably, he saw that and he started laughing again. This time, it was even louder.

“इधर आके बेठ. अजा मेरे पास.” (Come here and sit. Come to me.) He said suddenly.

I did not move.

“अब आजा नहीं तो बहोत मरूँगा.” (Now, come here or else you will have it from me.)

I was not particularly scared; but then, I just did not want to offend him too. I went near and sat there, beside him. He was stinking! For the first time I saw his eyes. His eyes were very much different from his outlook. They were dreamy, half opened; probably because he was drunk, or maybe not. There was a soft feeling in his big brown eyes that twinkled in the dark evening at the beach. The first look in his eyes reminded me of Radhika, the daughter of the sweetmeat seller in my colony. I just fell in love with his eyes and there was a sudden feeling of attachment. I wanted to ask him something I do not know; but his smell kept me away.

He has had enough of that creepy laughter and was almost calm now. He did not detect me noticing him. He was looking down and was silent for some time – perhaps he was trying to accumulate himself to talk further. Suddenly, he looked up.

“तो, मैं पैसा नहीं दूंगा तो मुझे तू लोगेंस नहीं देगा?” (So, you will not give me any lozenge if I do not pay you, isn’t it?)

I took a deep breath and gathered some strength in my voice, “नहीं दूंगा!” (I will not!)

“हम्म… अभी भी नहीं?” (Hmm… not even now?) He took out a revolver from his belt and held it in front of my face. I was freaking stunned and scared seeing the gun in his hand. I went pale. I must have been visible even in the dark now. I could feel my hands shivering!

He exploded again! This time he was laughing so aloud that a few passerbies looked at us. No one saw the gun as it was hidden in the dark; but they wondered a lot, about this curious and strange laughter in the middle of the beach. It took me time to stabilize him. Suddenly he looked up at me.

“अगर तू मुझे दो लोगेंस देगा तो मैं तुझे मेरा एक लोगेंस दूंगा.” (If you give me two lozenges of yours, I will give you one of mine.)

I did not like it. First of all, he was going to exchange one of his lozenges for two of mine – a bad business. Secondly, I need to have money in exchange of my lozenges; I can give his lozenge neither to Uncle Abdul nor to Raghu. I did not like this idea.

His eyes must have done some trick on me. I did not think any further and took out two lemon lozenges carefully and handed over to him. I did not want his lozenge. He can keep it. I will handle the situation myself. I was not afraid of his gun! He asked for water, which I could not offer him. That was my duty, but then I had lozenges, which I can give. That’s fine then! I tried to console myself and justify the act.

He took the two lozenges and popped them in his mouth. I could hear him chew them first and then bite and break them into pieces. I felt a jolt in my heart when my lozenges were crushed brutally between his filthy teeth.

It was dark now and I wanted to leave. Raghu was not here as yet and I was happy. I thought to tackle him the next day, somehow.

“मैं चलता हूँ साब.” (I’m leaving Sir.) I said that and I prepared to stand up. He was searching his pockets as he noticed me leaving.

“मुझे आपका लोगेंस नहीं चाहिए.” (I don’t want your lozenge.) I declared.

He looked up at me, still lying on his one arm.

“नाम क्या है रे तेरा?” (What is your name?)

“अहमेद.” (Ahmed.)

“मतलब क्या है?” (What is the meaning?)

“पता नहीं साब.” (I don’t know Sir.) I was almost irate.

He extended his left arm and opened his fist over my palm. There was sparkling white piece of stone.

“क्या है ये?” (What is this?)

“मेरावाला लोगेंस.” (My lozenge.)

“लेकिन मुझे ये चाहिए नहीं…” (But, I don’t want this.) I tried to return him the same. He held my closed fist with both his hands and stood up.

“लेके जा. कभी याद करेगा मुझे.” (Take it. You will remember me sometime.) He said this, turned back and struggled through the sand and went away. He was lost in the dark within moments. I stood there for a few more minutes, holding the stone in my hand with all the strength I had. I did not want to lose it and I did not want to share it with anyone else. I knew what stone it was!

~: Six Years Later :~

Here I am today, writing about the evening that changed my life. The man I met on that evening was no less than an angel to me. He gave me a boon, in exchange of two lemon lozenges. And by virtue of that, I’m sitting in the 80th floor of the tallest building in Mumbai. It’s my own floor! I own a fully fledged business now. I have my own house and my own car. I need not sell lozenges after that evening. My days with Uncle Abdul were over. I never fought with Raghu again – I never had to. The evening brought me a godsend. The only thing that haunts me now, is the identity of the man, the seraph. Probably, I will never get to know who he was.

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Written as prompted on: Tell a Tale (Week # 5: An Evening)

6 comments:

  1. Diamonds are a girls best friend .. this was a good story Tan ...

    The moral is, never fear to give, because in giving one never know the blessing they will receive.

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  2. Tan
    A powerful story. You captured my mind with the first sentence. Well written. thank you for sharing

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  3. A very different take !! liked it for sure :)

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  4. read it now, peacefully, and it was different from what u normally write, but kept me reading. enjoyed the read. there is so much joy in giving, hain na..

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  5. Amias

    I wish I could gift my girl a lot of those... hehehehe... never fear to give... loved your comment :)

    Old Grizz

    Thanks a lot Sir. Those were great words for sure... I'm happy to have written so now...

    Chirag & Pratibha

    Thanks for reading me... I just love your comments... they are always teaching, encouraging and true... thanks

    Anonymous

    Yes.. there is so much joy in giving... giving, but not asking for anything else in return!!

    Wonderful!!

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Thanks for reading me and choosing to comment. Your comment always encourages me to write more and write sense. Keep visiting, whenever you can and comment on the posts. I will be more than eager to receive your comments and suggestions.

Warm Regards,
Tan :)

PS: Please visit my other blog: Thus Spake Tan!