I was sitting in the park a little away from my apartment watching the children play merrily and the cacophonous noise they created. Some youngsters were jogging while some oldies ambled along on what they considered a walk. A candy man was seen making large sugar candies cotton like in red color crowded by eager children. I could see amid the bushes young things in love snuggled close to each other. I enjoy this evening time watching everyone happy. True some urchins or beggars come to me seeking alms but they never return disappointed. I do not like company and prefer solitude. I choose vacant benches.
As I was munching Brittania Good day biscuits enjoying music in my iPhone, a slightly built old man in a white pajama and ochre colored kurta came and sat by my side. There were strings of beads, tulsi, rudhraksha on his neck and sandal was applied on his forehead. I moved slightly to make him sit comfortable. He smiled at me and said to no one in particular that weather is fine. I nodded my head and proffered the biscuit packet.
“Do you live here? I come to the park daily and haven’t seen you so far” I asked
“I am a nomad and never stay in one place. You can say peripatetic: he replied
“What do you do for living?”
“Should anyone do anything for living? Breathing is involuntary till one’s hour comes” he said with an impish smile.
“Very true. Still one gets hungry and need a place to sleep” I said
He looked upward and said “He takes care of everything. Would you like to have some mysterious power?”he asked
“What power? What do I do with it?”
“You see, no one knows when his/her time has come. I hereby vest in you the power to know one day earlier or even lesser time when a person’s end will come. You have just to look at his eyes intently and the answer will come in your mind. Do not divulge to others this power of yours lest it stops working”
“Why should I know? If God has willed that it remains a secret, so be it” I said
“True. But you can help in little ways to reduce the immensity of the blow. You should not however tell the other person what you know. You are desisted from using it for making money. It will not work for you. I have transferred the power already to you” he said and walked away briskly.
Two days my neighbour’s father from adjacent apartment met me and asked for 15G form for IT purposes as I generally have spare copies. Involuntarily I looked at his eyes intently of course and was shocked by the realization that he had only two days to live.
“What are you seeing?” he asked
“I thought your left eye is slightly reddish in color.”
“Could be as it was itching”
“Ok uncle. I will get the form from post office and give you. Please do not stir out” I said. I was feeling uneasy thereafter and could not sleep well. I wished I had not the power given to me or it did not work.
On the second day as I was having my dinner, my wife came running and said in a shocked tone “our neighbour’s dad had a sudden massive attack and expired 30 minutes back even before medical help could reach. He was hale and hearty with no complaints.”
When I looked at her blankly without emotion, she asked “Did you hear what I told you?”
“Yes, it is sad and shocking news” I said. I could see a trace of worry in her face.
I started looking for the man in ochre kurta to take back the power. He was not seen. The burden of power was sitting heavily on me and I was afraid of looking at the eyes of others. My son asked me one day “What is wrong with you? You are not looking at the eyes when talking to us and turn your head sideways. People may mistake you”. I mumbled that it is nothing and may be a new habit to be got rid off.
The next day as I was in the park looking for the man,a young girl of my building complex came running to me and said “Grandpa, where is the biscuit you usually give me?”As I gave her a couple of them, I chanced to see her eyes and was stunned to see that her time was just two hours. I gave her the entire packet and was about to ask where her mom was when she came running looking for the girl.
“Please take the child home immediately” I said with certain urgency in my tone,
“Why uncle? We came only a few minutes back” she replied.
Impatiently I shouted “Don’t argue with me. When I say take her home, please do what I tell you”. She gave me a strange and hurt look as she took the child along with her.
Next day morning as I was having my shave, my wife came silently behind me and said "Sad news again. You know Lalitha, the good looking and curly haired lady on the fifth floor. Her young daughter got electrocuted last evening when she meddled with some electric plug. Lalitha is inconsolable. Shall we go and meet them?”
“No, you please go” I said.My wife looked at me somewhat strangely.
That evening as I was sitting with a heavy heart in the park, the ochre kurta man suddenly appeared before me .I recounted the two sad incidents and pleaded with him to take back the power. He said “No need. It will not bother you anymore, I am sure” he said and left abruptly even as I was thanking him.
Little did I notice that he looked intently with his power at my eyes before he replied as he did.