The astrologer – A short story
Every night Parshuram Pandey had the same routine, he used to get out of the mill and enter the beer bar to drink the regrets in his life. He used to drink to forget, to drown the past into the bottles of alcohols.
He was a mill worker and earned a modest salary to feed his family, but his drinking habit took over the human in him and turned him into a monster his wife and kids had to face every night.
Every night he used to take the same dark road back home and at the corner of the street saw the astrologer. The astrologer had long brown hair and overgrown facial hair. Unlike other astrologers, he carried no stuff, no stones, no parrots. The astrologer just sat there on a quietly, doing nothing, saying nothing. He just had one board in his front which read ‘All your problems solved. Astrological consulting just Rs 5’
‘He is a obviously fake,’ Parshuram used to think, but something in that astrologer made him glance at that corner regularly. One day totally drunk, he glanced at the fat lady sitting in front of the astrologer. Out of curiosity, he stepped closer to listen to them,
“You obviously are going to get freed of all your worries,” said the astrologer gazing at the palm of the fat lady.
“But my love life is a mess,” she replied, “My husband doesn’t love me anymore.”
‘Try reducing your weight a bit,’ thought Parshuram.
“Do one thing, know the Shiv temple on the top of the hill? Every Monday go there and while enchanting the Shiv Mantra, circle around the temple for 15 times,” the astrologer said, “You will find your love life returning in a month.”
“Thank you baba,” she touched his feet.
“Remember, if you begin this vrat (the task to please God) you should not stop in between for anything or God will curse you.”
‘Obviously a fake,’ said Parshuram and gazed at the astrologer.
“Yes, my son,” said the Astrologer, “Do you want to consult?”
“You are a fake,” said Parshuram, “You do not know anything. If you are really so great can you tell my past?”
The astrologer gazed at him for a moment.
“See,” Parshuram exclaimed, “Not upto the task are you?”
“I will,” said the astrologer, “I will definitely. But I will tell you the day you come to me sober.”
“Yeah right,” laughed Parshuram sarcastically and left.
Then he walked the same road stumbling on the poles and reached his house. His wife was dutifully waiting for him with hot food plate, she was rubbing the bruise from the last night while heating the food.
But today her husband was quiet, she did not understand. He did not pull her hair, he did not beat her. He quietly sat down in the kitchen waiting for food. She was surprised to see the change, as she never had a peaceful night in last three years.
The next day Parshuram did his work regularly, but his attention was somewhere else… he was thinking about the astrologer.
That night, he did not visit the bar. The path suddenly seemed bright, the roads all lit. The astrologer sat there, as quiet as always.
“I was waiting for you,” the astrologer said.
“If you tell me my past correctly, I will give you 100 Rs, right now” said Parshuram.
“I know you earn modest wages, son, I will not take a single penny from you,” the astrologer smiled and gazed at the palm.
“You came to the big city three years ago,” began the astrologer, “You come from a small village in konkan region of Maharashtra. Your family is your mother whom you cannot face, as you are ashamed of going there because of the deed you did three years back.”
The old thoughts came back to Parshuram, the friendship, the plot and the run.
“You have been betrayed in your life by someone, someone very close to you. You had to run away from yourself, but now it is time to stop. Don’t run anymore for your betrayer is dead.”
Parshuram was impressed but he did not wish to accept defeat yet, “This is all very general, tell me something specific.”
“Fine. You have robbed, robbed God himself.”
The words hit hard, Parshuram pulled back his hand.
“You and your friend robbed the golden crown in the temple of your village, but your robbery was foiled by the priest who rang the alarm. You had to flee the village, in the darkness you fell into the well and your friend ran away with the loot. You have not seen your village and your friend since.”
Parshuram sat stunned, all the past events came back to him. His jobless life, his plan to rob the temple, to rob the Brahmans for not letting him into the temple. He came from a lower caste and was not allowed to enter the temple, tired of this, he and his friend, Raghunath, decided to punish the Priest by robbing the crown and then frame him for the robbery, but then nothing happened as it seemed. The alarm was raised, he and Raghunath were chased by the villagers, while running he accidently feel into a dry well and then he waited in dark from three days, Raghunath did not return for him.
Then after three days he ran, ran forever leaving his life behind. He was haunted by the villagers cries for three years, he was haunted by the sense of loneliness for three years. Every night he tried to drown the voices into the bottles of alcohol.
“Do you believe in me now? Son, so I may give you a closure in your regret?” the astrologer asked.
“Yes, baba,” cried Parshuram.
“Your friend was caught immediately when you fell into the well. He was taken to the village and the crown was reinstalled on the temple. The villagers condemned him to leave the village immediately. Your friend has received his calling, he is beyond our reach. Your mother is waiting for you son, no one knows of your involvement in the robbery. The damage is done, you have a life ahead of you son, bury the ghost of the past, go back to your village. Lead a peaceful life.”
That night, Parshuram did not stumble on the way home. He suddenly realized how beautiful his wife looked. He ate the hot food with pleasure, his life would stay beautiful for days to come.
That night, the astrologer went to his house in the slums of Dharavi and started packing his stuff.
“Are you leaving again?” asked his neighbor.
“Yes Chacha, I have to make a final pilgrimage to Ambarnath.”
“Son, you have been to many pilgrims to Dehu Road, to Alandi, to Kashi to find the peace, yet you did not get in any of those places. Now, your life is settled in the city, you can go and pray in any temple here, why are you wasting your youth in chasing the thin air?”
“Chacha, I have taken many pilgrims, but today, I am truly at peace. This is my last journey towards moksha (Nirvana).”
“Well, what can I say then, all the best, Raghunath.”