The Astrologer’s Day (The Other Side)

A Better Decision

Guru Nayak took out the knife again from his rag-bag and examined its sharpness. He had kept in sharp all these years. Its colour had changed from shiny steel to stained brown. But its sharpness remained the same, just like the strong determination in his heart.

He got down where the bus stopped. He looked around. It was a market. The bus would stay there till the next morning and then return to the city. He would be on it then. Or, would he?

He was only a few hundred kilometers from his own town. But he had traveled far and wide in search of a man.

His search would end here, tonight. It began on the day when he was discharged from the local hospital eight years ago. He had fallen into a well. It was not an accident. His own friend and neighbour Vasan had stabbed him and pushed him into a well. Had it not been for a passer-by, he wouldn’t have been alive today.

He tried to picture how Vasan would look like now. He was always quarrelsome. He might be a butcher or running a toddy shop now. He might be stronger than him now. A shudder passed through Guru Nanak’s body. He should not give the other man a chance to retaliate. He should identify him, tell him who he was and then stab him right under the ribs and move the knife upward.

He wouldn’t wait to see him dying. He hated to see people dying. Even if he didn’t die, it was all right. A stab is good enough for his revenge. He would run away, hide somewhere, change his clothes and take the morning bus back to the city. No one would suspect anything.

He searched in his bag to see if he had remembered to bring his change of clothes. He hadn’t. But such small mistake in the plan wouldn’t be a problem. He reassured himself.

“Bhai, do you know a man named Vasan?” he asked a shop keeper.

“Vasan? No. I never heard that name before. But if you are looking for a friend of yours, you will find one sitting under the tamarind tree there.” He pointed to a dark corner of the market.

“How do you know it is my friend?”

The man started laughing. Guru Nayak was irritated.

“Because he speaks exactly like you,” said the man.

Guru Nayak headed for the dark corner under the tamarind tree.

He saw a man packing up his things. It looked like he was an astrologer. There were some cowrie shells and the large picture of a palm with thick lines marked in red spread in front of him. There was only a faint light from the nearby shop. The man didn’t have his own lamp. Guru Nayak found it very difficult to identify him from far. If he had a long scar on his forehead he was the man.

Guru Nayak decided to risk being revealed. But there was no need. The man beckoned him.

“Come here, fellow, your face shows you are in big trouble. Sit here and let me see your hand. Your face tells me a woman in involved…..”

Guru Nayak moved forward with out taking his eyes off the astrologer’s face. He saw the dark scar. He felt another shudder pass through his body. He held his bag closer to his chest with his left hand and showed him his right hand.

The astrologer held his hand and looked at his face. Guru Nayak saw fear creeping into the man’s eyes and his hand getting ice-cold and limp.

Guru Nayak felt like being in a fight already. He didn’t clearly hear what the man said. He was deep in thought. The astrologer found it very hard to speak.

“……a knife had been passed through you……..”

He knew it was Vasan. There was no doubt about it.

“….were left for dead……”

But this was not the man he expected. He felt pity for this man.

“You shouldn’t have come here. There is great danger again in your life.” How can I take a knife and stab him, he thought. But he had to steel his mind and finish his job.

“You should go back to your village and stay there. Never venture towards the north.”

Suddenly, Guru Nayak’s eyes caught something colourful sticking out of the man’s bag. It was a toy. There were some jasmine flowers also. In his mind he saw a mother and a child courtyard awaiting the astrologer.

Guru Nayak shook himself up. He put his hands inside his rag-bag and groped for a few coins, avoiding the knife’s sharp blade. They were not stained brown in colour like his knife. Even in the faint light, the coins shone in bright silver colour. He dropped then into the man’s hand and turned back.

“He thinks he fooled me”, the man said to himself. “May be I am a fool, But not foolish enough to kill him. What do I gain by killing this poor man? I saw regret in his eyes. That is revenge enough for me.”

On his way back home Guru Nayak bought a colourful toy for his own son and some jasmine flowers for his wife.

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