As Luck Would Have It
As Luck Would Have It4 mins 644 4 mins 644
“When fishes flew and forests walked, And figs grew upon them, Some movement when the Moon was blood, Then surely I was born.” So says the donkey in G.K. Chesterton’s poem, ‘The Donkey’. I do not know whether the forests can walk, but one thing I can say with certainty is that the Moon does not turn blood red when a donkey delivers because I actually witnessed, or rather, tried witnessing the birth of a donkey!
Well, it all started with our dhobi Rajanna telling a story of how one of his uncles became filthy rich when he witnessed the birth of a donkey! I was just twelve years old then but this one was unpalatable. Becoming rich by just watching a donkey’s birth? Any one can do it, I argued. However, only once in a millennium, said Rajanna a lucky person, indeed a very lucky person would witness it.
When I realized that Rajanna had a couple of donkeys and one of them looked like it was carrying, my curiosity became an obsession. He finally acceded to my request and told me that in about two month’s time, the pregnant donkey would be ready for delivery; it would in all probability a full Moon day, said Rajanna. I knew what I had to; buy a lottery ticket! If luck is going to smile on me, should I not be ready? But I was not going to be selfish. I told Rajanna about the lottery ticket and promised him that we would share the prize money, equally!
Rajanna’s eyes glittered at the mention of money; " I will give up this laundry business but open a modern dry-cleaning shop with two assistants", quipped Rajanna literally on cloud nine!
There was an old unused hut in front of Rajanna' s shop and we tied the pregnant donkey inside and decided to keep the vigil. On the D-day, I bunked from school and waited all day staring at the donkey. Nothing much happened during the day; "Remember, donkeys deliver at night particularly when there is a full moon. Let's wait till night time,'' comforted Rajanna. Tension mounted as the night approached. Rajanna and I were huddled together in the small hut; awful smell notwithstanding.
It was indeed a full Moon day as predicted by Rajanna. The Moon was shining like a new penny. All was quiet except for the rumblings in my stomach, as I had skipped my supper to keep the vigil. Rajanna kept telling stories of his village friends who actually missed witnessing the birth by a whisker and in the bargain lost the opportunity of a lifetime to become rich. These stories made me determined and I decided not to budge even an inch!
Around 2.30 a.m. or so, when I noticed donkey making some noises, I woke up Rajanna who was sleeping. But it was one of many such false alarms for the night. Finally, around 5 in the morning, I got up to ease myself. I woke up Rajanna who was dozing off once again, and he promised to keep his eyes open. I completed the nature’s call and was about to turn back to the hut when I heard the cry; it was unmistakably the cry of a newborn donkey!
I just could not conceal my joy; I ran towards the hut and flung the door open to find the newborn baby donkey cuddled along with the mother who was licking it with all the affection in the world; next to the door was Rajanna, his arms lazily falling on his side, legs curled up, blissfully asleep!
Rajanna continues to be a dhobi. However, he does not own any donkeys now but uses an old scooter instead. But he has not given up; he still believes that luck will definitely smile on him one day and believed that his dream of opening a swanky dry clean shop is not very far.
Oh, just for the record, I did win the lottery!
The last two digits of my lottery ticket tallied and the ticket vendor proudly handed a ten-rupee note to me.