Sunday, May 20, 2007

The One Legged Man

Vivek cursed himself for the hundredth time. Why had he decided to take the shortcut. Now he was in big trouble. His car had broken down in the middle of nowhere, it was getting dark and there was not a soul in sight. Adding to his irritability was that he was stuck right next to the graveyard. Though not by nature a superstitious man, he wished his car had chosen a better spot to break down.

"Babuji". The sound, over his left shoulder startled him. He turned around. It was a villager , with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, using a lathi for support. The villager had a lantern with him.Vivek sent a silent prayer of thanks.

"My car broke down. I must get some transportation immediately. Its urgent".

"There is a dhaba two miles from here. I can show you the way. Iam going that way myself".

As they walked, Vivek noticed a hollow sound. He looked closely at his new found companion and found the answer. The man had a wooden leg. Vivek hadnt noticed it before. Perhaps it was because of the darkness. Vivek lost sense of time as they walked. The tip-tap of the wooden leg was dulling his senses.He looked at the man closely. He seemed all at peace with himself, not in the mood for idle chit chat. The silence however, was weighing down on Vivek.

"What were you doing at that lonely spot", Vivek suddenly asked. The man stopped and looked at him. A curious stare.

"I was waiting for my wife. She didnt come. Perhaps tomorrow...".He sighed wistfully. "The doctors say it will be any time now".

A chill slowly crawled up Vivek's spine. It all seemed so unnatural. He was following this stranger, unable to see more than a couple of feet ahead. For the second time that day, he prayed to God.

"Babuji , whats the hurry? Why do you keep looking at your watch?". The sudden shattering of the silence startled him.

"I have a meeting tomorrow. I think I will be late." Vivek dared not look at the stranger as he answered.

The stranger shook his head wistfully."Today's people. Always in a hurry. Babuji, think of time in terms of years, not in days. You will be more at peace with yourself". And the stranger bared his teeth in a smile. To Vivek's heightened senses , there was something distinctly menancing.

Suddenly the stranger stopped. Pointing ahead, he said, "Babuji, there is the dhaba I was telling you about.You will get a bus from there." Vivek looked in the pointed direction . There were lights some twenty meters ahead. He hadnt noticed them before. Too busy worrying about his situation.
He turned to thank the stranger. But the man had vanished. Almost into thin air.

He ran towards the lights, stumbling. He rushed into the dhaba. There were quite a few customers. Two trucks parked nearby. Everyone stared at him as he rushed in.

"Relax saab", said the dhaba owner, "you look like you have seen a ghost".

"I think I did", Vivek stammered." There was this man with a wooden leg, I met at the graveyard".

The dhaba owner laughed uproariously."You must have met Salim langda. Ever since he had his leg amputated he likes to fool people. You are the third this month..."

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