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Photo taken at Plitvice National Park, Croatia by Vibhor Dhote Oh! What are these days I have found myself in! The bagpacks I carry n...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Maledictions of the mendicant




It was a busy day; busy roads, crowded buses, noisy markets and traffic jams. 


As usual, I was returning home after delivering a two-hour long and mundane lecture about bonsais at my College. Since two years I have been teaching the same content to the students of the same College. Three seasons have passed since I first decided to change my workplace, to teach in a better school, or the University; but all my attempts of commuting the job have been futile. I was winnowed out from both the Colleges I had applied in the past few months. 


The day after was a big day: after flunking in the first entrance test and after arduous striving, I finally qualified for an interview at the State University, and it was due the next day. The University was offering a handsome salary to lectors and I did not, at any cost, want to lose this opportunity. Consequently I had been preparing for the next day’s interview for the last few days. Even on my way home, I was reading a Botany Journal while the old lady sitting next to me, in the bus, caught some Z’s as she kept her head comfortably on my shoulder. 


As I turned a leaf of the journal, I could hear the bus driver yelling. I looked outside the window, only to find that the bus, along with a number of other vehicles, was stuck in a snarl-up. As I tried to read the highway-signboard in order to realize where the bus had reached, I could see a beggar, on the road, approaching the window next to my seat.


He was a short guy in his mid-20s, wearing tattered clothes. He was appallingly plump and fine physically brushing aside a few minor cuts on his arms. When he reached my window, he stretched out his hand to beg for alms. Since my childhood days, I have always been scared of begging paupers and although I have donated to orphanages and camps, I have never given a single penny to a beggar. Consequently I pulled the windowpane in an attempt to shut the window, snubbing his mendicancy. 


The beggar, in a flash, began to imprecate me. I was horrified as he continued with his curses, pointing his finger at me. All the passengers of the bus, stared with looks of disgust; some at me, and some at the beggar. Terrified by his curses, and embarrassed by the scene created, I immediately pulled the chain of my purse to hand him some coins. The bus had just started its engine as the jam had cleared by then and before I could open the window, the bus ,fortunately, left that location and the beggar.


I heaved a sigh of relief as the bus left and his gabbling face became smaller and soon out-of-sight. The rest of the journey was untroubled but as soon as I entered my house thoughts of the beggar and his curses began haunting me. That evening all I could think of, were his curses; curses about my life becoming a hell, curses about my loved ones dying, curses about a cloud of  ill luck befalling on me and what not. 
I spent the night trembling out of fear of the future. I spent the night regretting my behavior. I spent the night praying that the beggar takes his maledictions back.  I spent the night wishing that I meet that beggar before tomorrow’s interview and give him as much money as he asks for. 


The next morning I was awakened by a black cat’s mew, another bad omen. On my way to the interview hall, I accidentally broke my wrist watch. This ascertained me that the effects of the curses had begun. I grew more panicky as I recalled the conditions of the cursed woman in the movie “Drag me to Hell”.   At that very instant I heard a thud. It was my carry bag that thumped on the road as the strips of the bag snapped. I was consternated and there was no reason why I wouldn’t believe that curses are for real.


I took a bus to the University and hoped on the way that I meet that beggar again and this time I give him some money. My hopes drowned as I reached the University and there was no sign of that beggar, or any other beggar. I fixed the torn strips of my bag and tried to put the thoughts of that beggar away as I waited for my turn outside the interview hall. The fear of the beggar’s curses just refused to leave my mind. 

But to my astonishment, once I entered the room, the fear of the interview, the present, drove away all the fears of the imprecations, the past. 




Four years have passed now and till this day, I can’t tell whether to believe in destiny or whether curses work contrarily. All I know is that I qualified for the job that day and I am married to a professor whom I met on that very day, at that very University. I can’t say that life was a piece of cake ever since; of course, it had its ups and downs. But also, contrary to my fears, life never became a living hell. It just remained like it always was, a roller-coaster ride, where the downs may be too low, but there are ups for sure.