The Fortune Seller
The Fortune Seller11 mins 23K 11 mins 23K
He looked at me with sleepy eyes and said, “Chhutta nahi hain (I don't have change).”
It was 8:30 am, and I was following the routine - catching a metro from Noida City Centre to Janakpuri (East) to reach office. I plead and beg, but he grumpily asks me to go to the next Ticket vending counter. I look at the long queue at the counter, and I wait in the line with them. My turn comes finally and the Guy behind the supposedly stained glass looked at me all pumped up and excited. I hand him over the 500 rupees note and ask him for a token to Janakpuri. He says, “Sir, Card Banwa lo. Bachat karoge,” like I didn't know that. What a day to forget my Metro Card at Home. He gives me the token, and I go ahead running on the stairs, with curious eyes looking at me from the escalators by the side. I get in the metro and find a seat to my relief, I put on my headphones and set an alarm to wake me up after 45 minutes. I doze off as the Delhi Metro chugs along silently on the tracks leaving its passengers to their destinations.
The train screeches to a halt suddenly and I wake up to find a herd of people around me. Their sympathizing eyes look at me, but no smile on their faces. I look up at the destination chart and see that we are still 5 more stops away. People start to panic and begin to discuss why the train had stopped abruptly, all coming up with their own theories. The train starts to move after 10 minutes, the flow of people all around me still blocking my view, though. The train reaches Karol Bagh Metro station and the herd of people begins to push itself out. Within 2 minutes, the compartment I was seated in becomes less crowded and breathable. The alarm in my phone starts playing out loud, (Get in the game by Cody sparks); the rays of the sun make way through the glass covered windows behind me and fall on the person sitting in front of me.
He looks up and removes the cloth covering his head, His eyes as red as the blood in his body, He had a long well-kept beard, was wearing sadhu clothes, and looked at me. I couldn't resist myself from staring at him. He blinked twice and looked down again. I got nudged by a woman sitting next to me bringing me out of my subconscious mind. She started lecturing me about how music shouldn't be played out loud in the Metro. I continued to ignore her lectures as I kept stealing glances at the man sitting in front of me. My stop arrived, and I realize the woman was still complaining about some Sweta. She thanked me for listening, although I had no idea what she talked about or who Sweta was. I get up and walk towards the doors, as I look back one final time to look at that man, I find an empty seat.
Charles Bukowski once quoted, “The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it – basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.” That line kept prompting me to think about that person. Sometimes, you come across people whose character is portrayed by the genuineness in their eyes. He was that kind of guy. The whole day passed by and I kept thinking about Charles Bukowski’s words and the relevance it held in this case. The night engulfs itself on Delhi, and Post 10 pm, the trains are mostly running empty. I get inside the metro once again, Music playing in my ears, the faint voice of the lady announcing on the PA system rings in my ears. I keep walking towards the front of the train, looking for a secluded seat. As I keep moving forward, the train reaches Uttam Nagar station. A hand touches my shoulder, I look back to find the Sadhu guy looking at me, directing me to come sit with him. I nod and come sit beside him. I am still astounded, either I am getting blinded, or the person is an illusionist. He doesn't talk for a while. I think of starting a suitable conversation, but words don't seem to frame in my mind. I silently sit next to him gazing outside the window in front of me.
He looks at me and asks, “How was your day my friend?”
I reply, “How did you vanish from the seat in the morning?”
He wasn't taken aback, nor was he surprised, he blinks twice and then says, “Do you know what deceives us human beings? Our eyes. We see only what we want to see. If our mind frames a bad opinion about the person in front of us, our eyes only portray that. Your eyes deceive you at every point of your life. Trust and belief are something we tend to not notice. Because the same can only be felt. If you see your partner with another guy, your eyes deceive you in believing something that breaks your trust. Why is it that only when you close your eyes, that your world becomes better? Why is it that with so much bloodshed in the world, our eyes still look for revenge more than peace and harmony? Why is it that Brahma the creator of the universe had created Humans from the eyes? Why is it that Lord Shiva’s third eye showed the truth and burnt the person who angered him?”
I look astounded and baffled. I was too tired and sleepy to come back with a reply. I nod and look in front again. After some time, I look at him again and repeat my question. The train stops at Akshardham. He gets up and smiles telling me my eyes deceived me. He then deboards the train.
I am 22 years old, I maintain a healthy lifestyle, I eat at least half a kilo of carrots a week. I am sure my eyesight is really good. I get in my home, the TV is on with some serial. My mother is in the kitchen, complaining about my coming late, my shabby beard, my loss of appetite and simultaneously instructing me to go freshen up, change my clothes, and come for dinner. My dad is in the balcony talking on the phone, I don't speak out a word and get into my room. I look in the mirror and keep thinking about whatever happened. Abstract conversation. Deceiving eyes. Curious onlookers. Mysterious figures. I better not be dreaming.
I crash onto my bed, the screaming voice of a mother-in-law shouting at her daughter-in-law echoes on the TV in living room, the bustling city of Noida becomes silent with passing minutes. I give up and doze off.
The alarm bell starts to scream again, the faint sound of M.S.Subhalakshmi replaces the shouting mother in law on the TV in the living room. The smell of freshly brewed filtered coffee and Dosas brim up the air. I switch off the alarm and look at the watch – 7:30 am. I have an hour to get ready and reach in time to catch the metro. I get ready and come out to the living room to be greeted good mornings by mom and dad. I eat my breakfast silently and read a little bit of newspaper while sipping coffee. I polish my shoes, tie my laces, give a hug to mom and leave for office.
I am prepared today. I am sure to bombard him with questions. How dare he question me! How dare he thinks that my eyes have deceived me. As the train reaches Akshardham, I look outside the Window onto the platform. I notice him immediately. Out of at least 50 passengers standing on the platform, he was easily recognizable. But, out of the 8 compartments in the Metro, he looks in my direction and smiles. I feel awkward and turn away. He enters the train and sits next to me. He smelt of Incense sticks and flowers. We exchanged greetings and he had an incomparably big smile on his face. I dare not ask him anything, he would maybe lecture me about how his smile is delusional.
I ask him, “What do you do?”
He replies, “I am a Fortune Seller.”
I ask him again with a confused expression on my face, “You mean a Fortune teller?”
“No, a Fortune Seller, I sell people their fortune.”
“So, What? Are you like an astrologer? or do you have a lottery business?”
“None of that. I am just a Fortune Seller. I sell people their fortune.”
I begin to get irritated now, I look at him angrily and think why on earth am I talking to him. I can't understand a word he says, all his comments are abstract. But, the bug of curiosity is still biting me.
I look at him and say, “I want you to sell me my fortune.”
He looks at me sheepishly and rejects. I get more irritated. He calmly responds, “No. You are already well-deserved. Your eyes tell me that. But, how about a cup of tea today evening? Come over to my place. Here’s my number.”
I accept out of sheer irritation and plug in my earphones to listen to the music.
I call him around 5 pm and ask him where I could meet him. He gave me directions to come to Uttam Nagar, inside the main market. I follow his instructions and reach a tall building. The name shines on the building, “The Art of Living.”
Everything starts to make sense to me. I continued to walk inside when the guard stopped me and asked what business I had there. I called up the sadhu guy and informed him. The intercom in the Guard’s cabin rang, and he looked at me, bowed and said, “This way Sir, the evening aarti is about to start. Guruji has told me to leave you here. After the aarti, he will personally meet you.” I thank him and proceed towards the seating area and sit down for the evening aarti.
The aarti gets over and then another attendant comes towards me and asks me to follow him to the Guruji’s Chambers. I follow him and walk inside a small cabin upstairs, there were 3 french guys sitting there; all dressed in white. They look at me and nod. They start conversing immediately and tell that they had heard about me. I was intrigued and nervous now. I could feel the sweat trickling down the back of my neck. I look around the room, it smells of incense stick and had a White poster behind. There were no images, but a clean nice big white poster. I wait for almost 10-15 minutes; there’s an awkward silence as the french devotees had left.
I felt a hand touch my shoulder again as he comes and sits on the floor in front of me. I notice, there were no tables but 4 chairs. He looks at me with those red eyes, “Welcome my friend. I am happy that you accepted my invitation. Let’s have a cup of tea. Shall we?”
I nod and get up to sit on the floor with him. He silently shifts as I begin to sit next to him. We have our cup of tea silently after which I get up and take his permission to leave. He says he will join me in the metro. On the way to the metro people salute him, touch his feet, praise him, greet him. In the metro, he is just another soul lost among stranded passengers with unknown destinations.
The question is itching in my head continuously. Before I could ask him anything, He starts talking, “Rohit, The World in the ashram sees me as a Guru. The people in the street respect me as a saint. But, what people don’t understand is that the respect should be for their own soul, for their freedom. They are trapped in a parallel world. Remember when I told you, I was a Fortune seller. It was because, those foreigners who stay in my ashram, donate their hard-earned money to my trust. I don’t ask them for money, but they still pay. I don’t tell them their fortunes, I just tell them what I see in their eyes, that's Honey for them. When I called you for a cup of tea, I purposefully put the chair there. I knew you would sit next to me. I can understand a human’s perception by his ways.”
I was bounded by his words, Charles Bukowski’s quote kept repeating in my head. “Free soul” is the destination for every human being. When your soul is at freedom and not bound by thoughts and works, that’s when you achieve nirvana, that’s when you become close to perfection. His interpretations made me ponder about a lot of things. The remaining journey went about with a lot of discussions about India’s future. For someone who was spiritual he did possess a lot of knowledge. For the first time since I met him, I gained more respect for him. The train reaches Akshardham, He gets up and looks at me; Blinks twice and leaves the train.
For the next 3 weeks I never saw him, I went to his Ashram twice but, no one knew him. I was dazzled and confused. The guard was not there, the attendants, the evening aarti, no one knew him, and the cabin upstairs wasn’t even there. One fine day, I walk across Connaught place; I was there for a business meeting with a client. We walk towards Janpath when I see a man walking in my direction. His face was covered by a piece of cloth, but I could notice the outline of his face. I stopped and then ran to him, I began panting by the time I reached him.
“Sir, Where were you? I was searching for you all over the place. Where did you vanish off?”
“I am sorry! Do I know you?”
I got taken aback and reminded him of the metro journeys and the ashram. He didn’t say anything.
He continued walking forward, turning back with a glance and shouting, “Son! Your eyes deceived you.”