Guru felt the pungent smell of chloroform that is associated with hospital.He always detested it and avoided visiting hospitals. He opened his eyes to find himself in a special ward with a few others. Judging from the medical equipments, the monitors, the tubes and the hushed tones of nurses, he could surmise he was in an ICU ward. There were none around him. He didn’t like his face covered with the sheet and decided to admonish the nurse. It was suffocating. He found none around his bed. He wondered how he came there. He remembered he was returning from Pondy and thereafter his memory went blank.
It was then he noticed a dark shadow moving. He looked closer. It was scary though not ugly. The eyes were bloodshot with a long nose and a moustache that looked unduly long and bushy covering part of the dark face. The tall and big figure was hazy but inspired only fear and awe. It had a rope like thing in its hand somewhat like the cowboys in ranches held.
It stared at him intently before it said in a voice that seemed weird but clear “Your time is up. I have come to take you to another world.”
“What crap are you talking? Who are you anyway? How did they allow you in the first instance to enter this well guarded room? Guru asked in raspy tone.
The creepy figure said “I don’t need anybody’s permission. I am a messenger of Death and can enter even the tiniest hole. Don’t waste my time. Follow me.”
“Oh my God” he was surprised at his own exclamation for he was a pronounced athiest and proud to announce it in every rostrum he took by deriding all Gods. “How can I come with you? I have lots of unfinished things to square up. Otherwise there will be heavy loss to my two wives and their families. Give me a fortnight minimum. It is difficult to recover the huge money I have left in trust ( benami) with others.” he pleaded.
“I don’t understand you. What is benami? I am not authorised to give you extended life. I can wait for a few minutes but that too will go against me” said the messenger of Death.
“You don’t seem to be wordly-wise. I see no harm in telling you. I became from a poster-pasting boy to a senior leader and minister in the largest party. I have amassed crores of rupees in my journey from hatchetman, contract killer, mafia leader, real estate business and settlement of disputes out of messy court procedures, and then to a minisiter in a position to award contracts. You may not know that I cannot keep all the money earned in my name. I had to entrust it with known friends and relatives to be recovered later. If they know I am dead, they would not part even with one rupee. I need a fortnight to threaten them or even kill them if need be to get my money back. I can give you any amount that you may ask. But I am not sure whether you would be interested. Please show mercy. I have been very kind and compassionate man all through my life though the rascals allege that I take care of only my family. They don’t know that I help extended families too.”
The messenger of death was unmoved. “Don’ talk. Come now” and nudged him forward. Guru felt he fell into a deep tunnel of darkness but not before seeing a host of his friends, relatives and benami holders waiting outside in the hall anxiously. His two wives and children were in tears when some doctor announced that the leader had breathed his last despite the best care.
There was a murmur from among the benami holders and the departed leader heard one of his benamis whisper to his friend “I was worried whether he would survive the dastardly attack on his life. Must have been some old enmity on real estate disputes. I am now relieved and happy. I don’t have to part with anything. There is no record.”
“Me too. I had to return large areas of land and buildings he kept in my name. God has been kind to me”
The entire crowd mostly those who owed the slain man walked out with tears on their eyes and towels on their mouths but with suppressed glee in their hearts at their unexpected windfall.