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Saturday, 29 September 2012

THE STARCHED WOMAN (Part 7)

Part 7 of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's short story based in India.

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                                                            THE STARCHED WOMAN (Part 7)
    
On an impulse I went in the opposite direction, towards her house. There I discovered an old beggar sitting on a raised surface at her gate. On inquiry I was told that he was waiting for her. I first gave him a rupee, got his blessings and then sat next to him. 
‘Since when have you been coming to this place?’
‘Since the last ten or twelve years.’
‘To the woman who liv
es here?’
‘Yes, to her.’
‘Do you find her like others? I mean, is she quite normal?’
‘As normal as a woman in her circumstances would be.’
‘What is wrong with her circumstances?’
‘Just about everything!’
‘What is her biggest loss?’
‘The loss of a son!’
‘A son?’
‘Yes. Don’t you know? She had a young and handsome son.’
‘What happened to him?’
‘He was killed in an accident.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I know because I have been passing this way for years and getting alms from the lady of this house. She was shattered by her son’s death and as if that was not enough, the poor thing had to kill her own husband.’
‘Why do you sit here while she is not at home?’
‘I sit here daily at this time. On returning she always gives me something, before entering her house.’
‘Where does she go every day?’
‘She goes to meet her son.’
‘Her son?’
‘Yes, so she says.’
‘But her son is dead, isn’t he?’
‘I believe he is.’
‘Then how does she meet him?’
‘You take me so literally. I mean she goes to meet her son’s soul.’
‘What did you say? You can’t be serious!’
‘I may be wrong. But that is what she once said to me. She normally does not talk to people. She speaks with me because I am a fakir, who has little to do with your world. I too love to communicate with people who have left this world.’
‘What do you mean? Are you making a fool of me?’
‘No. I am serious.’
‘How can I believe all this?’
‘Okay I don’t need to prove myself to you, but since you appear to be a rather genuine human being, I will show you something which will make you see sense in what I say.’
‘What will you show me?’ I asked beginning to feel a little uneasy.
‘This!’ he said, raising his left arm.

I was utterly horrified to see that instead of a human hand he had a snake. Only one of his hands was human, in place of the other there was a snake. I looked at the snake that was a part of the man with feelings that combined revulsion and fear. At first I stood up to go. But then he smiled and said that he was harmless and that his snake had never bitten anyone.

‘But why are you not known all over the world for being so unusual, so extraordinary?’

‘Because I have never been known to show off my hand. I have kept the snake hidden in the sleeve. Those that have seen it accidentally have fallen unconscious or even passed away. I have been extra careful, therefore.’
I began to feel sick with fear and disgust at the hideous looking limb. I made excuse and left. When I looked back, the man was smiling at me. His smile said that he knew I was scared.

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