As usual his eyes popped open even before the alarm blasted. He laid there waiting for the alarm to go off. A life without the boundaries and timelines he has set is inconceivable for him. As soon as the cacophony of alarm pierced the calm morning, he sat up, opening his eyes to his open palms held close to the face. As any other sight might topple his entire day, he slowly peeked around it to the Ganesh Idol placed on the nearby table. Be it the position of the bed he sleeps in or the painstakingly arranged furniture, everything in his house has a place, a place carefully aligned to please who ever handles the strings of his life.
“Lakshmi, I have to leave for office at 8:23. Please be ready on time”
“Didn’t you tell me your meeting is at 9:00? With all the traffic at this time of the day shouldn’t you start a little early? You worked really hard for this one day.”
“I know, I know, I need everything to be perfect. My promotion and my career growth is dependent on it. It is Rahukaalam before 8: 23, I don’t want to risk anything by starting in bad time”
“Are you sure? Unless you conjure a teleportation device, you cannot reach by 9.”
“Don’t you worry about it. I will take care of it. You just make everything ready on time”
Lakshmi was running all around the kitchen, doing hundred things at a time. It was almost 7 40 and she is yet to complete her kitchen chores. The fading sounds of bell ringing in pooja room urging her to turn on her magic wand and complete the tasks at hand. Who knows, a minute’s delay in his schedule might bring the lords to curse their life for eternity. Just as she was setting the table, Sreeni emerged, dressed for the day, complete with the tilak on his forehead, of perfect proportion I must add. The size and shape of tilak could also displease THEM.
As she was serving the breakfast, Sreeni reminded her about the lemons.
“Keep the lemons I kept in fridge below each tyre of the car and be ready with the pot. I will be out in 15 minutes.”
“Sure” Lakshmi muttered to herself rolling her eyes. “May be I should keep oranges instead of lemons for extra luck. The bigger the better, Right?”
Initially his obsession with customs and omens were quite endearing. There was a certain charm to see a guy so rooted in his beliefs. But now she finds it more exasperating than endearing. Shaking her head at the futility of the task ahead, she places the lemon below each tyre and proceeds to fill the pot with water. Apparently a filled pot pleases the Omen God. I strongly doubt if the celestial city is plagued with drought.
Ten minutes later..
“Sreeni, I am ready, Come out”
“Good time doesn’t start for another 7 minutes. Wait!! “
Exactly at 8:23, not a minute early, not a minute late, Sreeni came out. Quite pleased to see his wife with overflowing pot. He started the car, moving forward slowly, trampling the lemons in his wake. The lemons, obviously was going through tough times. He was humming to himself, happy with the way the day has turned out. No black cats, no brooms, nothing to mar his day. The wolfish grin that cropped up grew wider when he thought about the upcoming promotion. He shoved the accelerator well above the speed limit to make up for the lost time.
All of a sudden a loud crash was heard and before he could react, he was pushed forward from his seat. He could sense a cool wetness seeping in from behind. People were shouting something undecipherable. Somebody was poking and prodding him. He wanted to scream at them to leave him alone. The sleep overcame him soon enough. And all he wanted was to sleep ….
He was having difficulty opening his eyes, like they were glued together. He willed his eyes to open but couldn’t recognize the surroundings. Turning slowly, he saw Lakshmi squeezing the oranges. The strong pungent smell of antiseptic piercing his nostrils gave him enough confirmation that he is in hospital. He quickly tried to move his legs and hands to ensure that it is intact and functional. He was able to move them without pain. Relieved, he slowly released the breath he didn’t know he was holding.
“Nothing to worry, you had a minor accident. Few stitches. Nothing broken. Doctor said after few days of rest, you will be as good as new”
“But how? Everything was going well, there were no bad omens, and I started only after the bad time is over.”
Lakshmi replied sarcastically “Probably the driver of the car that collided with you didn’t start after bad time?”
“Don’t mock me!!”
“What else can I say? On lookers said you were speeding well above the allowed limit. An educated man like you should know better than to follow these illogical customs, if you had started early, you wouldn’t have had to speed to reach on time”
“I strongly suspect that you tinkered with the clock and adjusted the time to make me leave early. This accident wouldn’t have happened if I had started in good time.”
On seeing her grimace, He knew he went a little far with his comment. Before he could reply, doctor came in for his usual rounds and checked his vitals.
“Everything looks good. We will keep you in observation for another day just to be safe. You can leave by tomorrow afternoon.”
“Thanks doctor, I will let you know when I will be ready to be discharged”
Mildly puzzled that a patient would want to decide the time to be discharged, doctor went to next patient.
“Can you bring me the calendar?” he requested to Lakshmi. Shaking her head, she brought the calendar to him.
“Can you inform doc that I want to get discharged by 7?
Lakshmi came back from reception and informed him that bill desk closes at 5 and there were other patients waiting. They will have to vacate by 5 30 at least. Sreeni grew pensive as it was a very bad time to start from hospital. No amount of arguments with the hospital staff were yielding any positive result
Around 5 00 PM
“Please be reasonable, we can’t stay here. There are people waiting for our room”
“I am not budging from here until after 7. The other patients will have to wait”
“Look what your good time yesterday brought to you. You are lying in this hospital!! Let’s just go. Please “
Later at 6 PM.
“Shall we leave? This hospital smell is really getting to me”
A bewildered Lakshmi replied “You said that you will not come before 7?? What happened?“
“Nothing, Let’s finish the final formalities and go home”
Perplexed, Lakshmi followed him to an auto that would take them home. Half way through the journey, he happened to glance at his watch. Seeing that time was not good for a travel home, he grew worried. He became very fidgety and jumpy, yelling at the driver whenever he saw potential dangers on the way.
“Why did we start early from hospital? I told you I wanted to start only by 7!! “
“It was you decision to start home. Moreover, if anything untoward had happened, it would have been only because you kept startling the driver at every turn. We reached home safely. So what is the big deal anyway?”
Sreeni was rendered speechless by his wife’s outburst. As he couldn’t come up with any comeback for that, he went out, pondering on his decision to leave during a bad time. It was very unlike him.
Next day – 5 55 PM
Lakshmi was outside tending to her flowers when Sreeni saw a black kitten jump into their compound. A black cat at his house, that too at that time, was like inviting the demon himself. Who would want to invite bad luck upon themselves? He rushed out, like a man possessed, to throw the cat out, lest the cat might turn into devil incarnate. Lakshmi was already shooing the cat, prompting it to go away, aware of Sreeni’s aversion to black cats.
She cringed as he came out, dreading that assault that he is going to dish out. But instead of throwing the cat out, he began stroking the cat’s velvety fur. He smiled when the docile cat purred at him. Lakshmi was standing there, staring at me as if she saw a ghost.
“What?? “ I ask her
She shakes her head at me. “Can you bring a glass of milk for this cat?” The uncharacteristic request from him threw Lakshmi out of balance, making her stumble awkwardly on her way inside.
Half hour later.
Lakshmi came running out hearing the snarls of the cat and saw it flying in the air. Sreeni couldn’t believe that he let a cat in his house, let alone feed it.
“What’s happening? First you ask me to bring milk for the cat and you are petting like it is your own. Next moment you are physically shoving it out of the wall?”
“I asked for the milk? Why would I do that?” I enquired doubting myself. She went inside in a huff assuming that he was teasing her.
A week later – 4 PM
Sreeni was impatiently waiting for his token number to be called. He was in the waiting room of a psychiatrist, determined to figure out what was happening to him. He can’t comprehend what is making him do things that was completely against his character. His meticulously arranged life is crumbling down and he feels powerless to stop. He felt like he was losing his mind. Several times, he sensed Lakshmi watching him silently, waiting for him to snap.
He came out of the consulting room even more agitated. The doctor hypothesized that his stress could be the reason for his delusions. And his solution, a long list of anti-depressants. Still pondering over his mental health on his drive back, he saw a greying old man asking for a lift. On enquiry Sreeni came to know that his wife was experiencing chest pain and the old man was requesting Sreeni’s help in taking her to hospital. Unable to refuse, he lets them in.
Driving like a maniac, Sreeni tried to get to the hospital on time. Cries of pain echoing from the back seat were urging him on. Abruptly, the cries stop. Even without looking over, it dawned on him that it was over and that he was unable to save her. He looks back and see a pair of desolate eyes looking at her, willing her to open her eyes. Deep sorrow mirrored in the old man’s eyes made him take a decision. A decision to help him however way he could. This old guy shouldn’t have to deal with all the legalities of death at a time like this. Our hero takes over and complete all formalities and take the dead body to his home. Once in his home, he takes Sreeni’s hand in his and looks at his eyes, his gratitude was evident there. He hasn’t spoken anything to Sreeni until then.
“What is your name boy?”
“It is Sreenivasan sir”
Later ad mist the proceedings, Sreeni found himself quite out of place. He blinks trying to understand what made him come to a funeral home. He wouldn’t have stepped inside a funeral home if his life depended on it. What if the death took the wrong guyhe was? He avoids it like plague, to the point where he didn’t attend his own grandmother’s funeral. Dead bodies are not a good omen. Period. Not in any sense. The fact that he hates funeral and that he willfully came in to one such place shocked him.
He rushes out, heading home. His head is spinning with a myriad of questions. The fact that he is behaving totally out of character for the last few days has really thrown him. His actions doesn’t make any sense. Why doesn’t he have any control over his actions? It’s like they have their own will.
At home, Lakshmi was hurrying to hide her broom. Due to Sreeni’s recent volatile nature, she was taking extra care not to tip him over the edge. On spotting her, he breaks down. Running to her, hugging her tightly. His whole body racked with violent shakes. She holds him, allowing him to calm down at his own pace. He shares his fears and what he has been going through for the past week with her. Everything. She listens silently to everything.
“You said you came out of consulting room today at around 6?”
“Yeah, what does it have to do with my problems?”
“No, I was just thinking. All the weird instances that you mentioned happens around 6. “
“What are you saying? That 6 is a bad time. That some combination of stars at 6 is making me do all these things?”
She sighs, “No. I don’t mean that the time is bad. I mean it is a pattern, a very important clue that can help us solve this mystery. Let’s go see the doctor again”
At the hospital, doctor does some basic checks after listening to them and schedules an appointment for the next day 5 30.
Two days later, At office..
Sreeni seems calm today. They had gone in for checkup the day before. Certain tests were done monitoring his brain activity, heart rate and hormone levels both before and after 6 PM. Doctor seemed confident that he can nail down the problem.
When his manager called him, he approached his cabin, unsure of what he wants. He said that a huge deal has come through and the MD of the client specifically asked for me to be the project head.
“Does this mean I am being promoted?”
“Of course. It means you are our new project head. You really earned it.”
“May I ask who the client is?”
Later, when he googled the client company, its MD photo popped up on his screen. He couldn’t believe that it’s the same guy whose wife passed away a week ago. Can this be a coincidence?
He left home, eager to share his news with Lakshmi,
“I can’t believe it. Luck came knocking from a funeral home”
Lakshmi doesn’t miss a chance to point out the foolishness of his customs. “Now do you realize your stars and omens don’t control your life, You do. With your actions?”
Sreeni was speechless. Now that He thinks about it, Good things have happened to him in spite of everything. The phone rang disturbing his reverie. It was from the doctor’s office, informing that his reports are ready.
“Can I come today for another consultation?” An anxious Sreeni proposes, for once not caring about the auspiciousness of the time.
Evening at doctor’s office
“Your’s is a very peculiar case. I am encountering such a case for the first time in my career”
“What is it doctor? Anything serious?”
“No, No, nothing to worry about. Did you have an accident or illness recently where you had to take blood transfusion?”
“I had an accident last week but as I was unconscious, I am not aware of any blood transfusion, I will check my medical records and let you know”
Lakshmi piped in between, “Yes doctor, he needed a bottle of A+ blood and I got it from the blood bank”
Sreeni grew tensed, “What is happening doctor?”
“I don’t know if you will believe me if I tell. Come, I will show your result first”
“The blood that you got injected is slightly different from your blood type even though your blood group is same. Medically, we have seen cases where the receiver of blood transfusion has been affected with certain allergies that the donor suffered from. It is termed as passive transfer. But this is the first such instance where the thoughts and values are transferred. That blood is influencing your decisions. When that blood passes through your brain, it stimulates the logical thinking part of your brain more than your own blood does. Hence influencing your decisions. Apparently, that blood completes its one round of circulation and reenters your brain at 6 PM every day. You might have noticed you take decisions logically than guided by your faith during those time frame.”
“What are you saying doctor? I am not getting you”
“It means that your customs, beliefs and superstitions are so strong that it is infused in your blood. My best guess is that you got the blood of a free thinker, free from all meaningless chains of this society.
Racism, religious fanaticism and other customs are so ingrained to one’s blood and soul that they stop being humans. They behave irrationally hurting people with their actions. Now as a doctor, I can suggest you ways to treat this. We can filter the foreign blood from your body and clean it. ”
“No doctor, Leave it, I am rather liking the logical thinking my brain does recently”