The Fortune Teller
I hold her hand firmly. Its’ calloused. I use my thumb to rub the palm as if I am creasing out the lines, so as to read them better. I am waiting for the epiphany to hit me. In the meanwhile I look a little closer. I discreetly push back the long sleeve of her kaftan a little. I see a red tell-tale mark on her wrist. Caused by a slash of a sharp object, maybe a knife at the vein! And then it comes to me. Everything, in a flash!
In the vision she looks fresh-faced and young. I see her as she sneaks out of her home. I even hear the howl of one of the street dogs that doze in the lane where she lives, as she closes the noisy Iron gate behind her. She stops at the end of the street and looks back at her home of 17 years, and hesitates, almost turning back. The man holding her hand whispers lovingly in her ears. He puts his finger under her chin and tilts her face up, so it’s lit by the glow of the street lamp. I see her eyes. They are filled with tears. But there is also hope and trust in them.
I see her eyes again. This time, they are in a dark, dingy room. The hope and trust are gone. They have been replaced by fear and pain, as he tears into her violently. I hear the abuses he flings at her. Feel the slaps he rains on her.
Another flash. I see her eyes once again. They look vacant now, devoid of any feelings. I hear their laughter and the smirks as he calls her a whore and throws her at them. I feel the hands as they maul her pouncing on her like a pack of dogs on a piece of flesh. I shudder!
Like the trailer of a movie the story of this girl’s life plays in front of my eyes. It still startles me, this “Gift”. The gift, that reveals to me, the lives of complete strangers. From The PA system a measured voice announces the arrival of the train to Somalpur. The chaos around us increases. The girl gets restless. She looks apprehensively at every face on the platform. I know she is worried he may be there. I let go of her hand. I already know everything I need to. She is waiting for my prediction. I look into her eyes and say “Daughter you are doing the right thing. Don’t give up. God will take care of you”
It’s the kind of gibberish fortune tellers and horoscope readers tell people all the time. But I hope it gives her courage. She nods at me, in a gesture of thanks. Thrusts a crumpled five rupee note in my hand and hurries off towards the train.
Two Days Later
I am sitting at my usual corner by the staircase, watching people as they come into the station. A man wearing a Blue striped shirt and jeans walks in. I recognize the face instantly. He is carrying a small red bag in his hand. He looks severe. His phone rings. “No you don’t do anything. I will deal with that bitch myself. I will show her what it means to run away from me”.
When the train to Somalpur is announced, a crowd gathers at platform no. 8. The mournful sound of the train horn is heard much before the train itself becomes visible. Men and women stand at the edge of the platform craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the train as it rolls into the station. As the engine makes its appearance all hell breaks loose. Coolies push at trolleys, men drag bags, women straddle babies. They all mill together in hectic activity.
Later no one is able to tell how exactly the man lost his balance and fell in front of the train. Many of them claim to hear his scream over the din of the train engine. Some think he purposefully threw himself under the train. A few wonder if he had been pushed. Most people just wish the mauled body of the man wearing the Blue striped shirt is removed from the tracks quickly so they can be on their way.
I sit in my usual corner, my eyes closed. I know the stretcher will arrive soon. The body will be carried away. The train will leave after the “unavoidable delay”. Tomorrow’s newspaper may carry a small news item about the accident. If it does I will cut a clipping and keep it. I open the dirty sack I use as a pillow at night and take out a stash of yellowed newspaper clippings. I like to pore over them sometimes.