Monday, 1 October 2012


Part 8 of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's new short story set in India.
Blog on, Dudes!


                                                      THE STARCHED WOMAN (Part 8)

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.

t 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.

Now my journalistic story on Neela Ghosh was getting rather complicated. First, she herself seemed to be so other-worldly and now, in addition, she was even associated with a fakir who was far from ordinary. I was not sure how I would present the story in the newspaper and prevent it from appearing like a fairy tale. Of course it would take weeks, or months, before I could get to the truth of the tale. I would adorn the role of a researcher till I got to know more about the woman. I decided to write on her under the caption of “The Starched Woman” because she always looked stiff and straight and she was all skin and bones. She never looked this side or that and went straight ahead, untouched by what was going on around her. Her looks focused on something in front of her, beyond the here and now. She was unaffected by the cows, the dogs, the goats or the speeding vehicles on the road. It was a miracle that she never had an accident. Or, if she did that it remained unnoticed by others. People seemed as indifferent to her as she was towards them. She seemed to have reached a state in which nothing mattered. She had no desire to do anything else apart from going on her mysterious evening walk and her morning drive to the children’s school. Even in her car she looked straight ahead in her typically starched manner.

I was getting frustrated at not being able to follow her unnoticed to the place where, according to the fakir, she would go to meet her dead son. I was then struck by an idea. Instead of following her, I should reach that place ahead of her and wait for her to turn up there. I could then see what she did every day in the mysterious wooded patch. This was probably a better plan of action for me. Of course whether this could succeed still remained a mystery.

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