THE ONE HUNDRED RUPEE NOTE
She was about to have a sip of her morning coffee when the bell rang. Had it been a few months ago, the doorbell would have been welcomed but these days, its more of a scary event. Not allowing the kids to open the gate, as if hiding them from an unknown fear, she went herself. Maintaining safe distance, Sonali opened the huge black gate and welcomed two young boys. Smiles, rare to be seen these days, still floated on her charming face.
After the boys introduced themselves, she went in and brought back with her a one hundred rupee note. Handing it over to them, she smilingly pushed the gate but was soon handed back the note, folded in six folds by the boy. ‘Take this. feed the cow with gur and chana with this money.’
The voice of the younger boy caught her attention. ‘When do you get up in the morning?’ Startled by the straightforward, somewhat personal question, she seemed disturbed. ‘Why?’ was her curt reply.
‘You should get up earlier than you usually do.’ She would have liked to close the gate but she froze in between the half open, half shut gate. ‘Never discuss your life and your dreams with anyone else. Never praise your son in front of others,’ he continued unperturbed. ‘Avoid giving anything white to eat to your son when he’s eating outside.’
Confused Sonali turned into a quiet listener, statued. On a small paper that he had in his hand, he wrote a date- 27th October, 2020. ‘Remember this date, sister. A very happy time is approaching in your life. The past few years have been very troublesome in terms of monetary and emotional stress for you and your family, haven’t they?’ Unknowingly Sonali nodded.
‘You are very pure at heart. But people have betrayed you and taken advantage of you. You still forgive them, don’t you?’ She stood still, this time not even nodding. She knew it to be true. But that’s a universal fact- good people always suffer betrayal. So that’s no news!
‘You are short tempered, but the anger vanishes in a few moments. How many children do you have?’ And, to her own surprise, she gave him the answer this time, whereas she would normally never reveal any such information to strangers. But then today she did.
‘Think of a number between 103 and 107. There is no knowledge without a guru.’ He kept on speaking all the time as he wrote the number.
‘Name of a flower you like.’
And he added it on the paper. In between the catchy conversation, he handed over a slip of paper to Sonali.
‘Now open it. What is written on it?
‘105; Rose; 1100.’
When was the paper given to her? She remembered nothing.
‘See, I gave you this slip even before asking you about the number and the flower. There is no knowledge without a guru.’
She wasn’t completely convinced.
‘Now go inside. Place eleven hundred rupees on the photo of the guru and bring it to me.’
‘Bring what- the money or the photo?’
‘I am not giving you eleven hundred rupees,’ she suddenly found herself strongly refusing.
‘Go inside. Place eleven hundred rupees on the photo of the guru and bring it to me,’ he repeated, ignoring Sonali’s reply.
‘I don’t have time for all this,’ retorted Sonali.
‘Okay. Place five hundred rupees on the photo of the guru and bring it to me,’ he said, lowering the price in a moment.
‘I have better things to do. Please leave.’ Sonali was now finally out of the trance.
‘Give me the hundred rupee note then.’
By now she had got back to her senses, and sternly refused, ‘I will keep this to myself.’
Closing the gate, she turned back, hurriedly reached the lobby door, shutting out the loud voices of the strangers.
The door bell rang twice…then it fell silent.
Till late evening, she experienced heaviness in her head, irritation, confused state of mind, lethargy and a strange never-before feeling.
She never understood what had actually happened but after the incident, she remembered how one of her colleagues had been, a few years ago, hypnotized by some strangers after she opened the gate for them, and she had herself handed over her jewellery and the money kept in the house to those strangers. Whatever it was, she thanked the Almighty for saving her from the strange situation she had experienced that day.
Quietly she sat down to sip her reheated coffee, still holding the one hundred rupee note folded into six folds to the size of a chocolate square!