|Creative Writing Competition 2012 India|
|THEME||A Strange Day/Night|
Unusual Short Story – Bumper Prize
Luck has always been a mysterious phenomenon to many. When some believe that lady luck makes her presence verifying one’s natal chart, some others believe it happens just by chance. Still there are some who think luck is the result of our own efforts, as in, “shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances; real men believe in cause and effect”. Anyway the debate on the criteria for a person’s luck never bothered Dayal, though he has been dealing with it on a daily basis for several years.
Dayal has been a lottery seller. He was a breezy person who was always happy though he didn’t have that much to be that happy. He has a small house, whose roof gets leaked in every rain. He didn’t starve because of his hardworking wife, who worked as a house-maid in a big house providing to the basic needs of the family. He also has a daughter, who got married at an early age to a mill worker and was leading a happy life with her husband and kid.
Great worries never found place in his heart. And so his face was always cheerful, though the daily travel on his bicycle selling lotteries made him darker each day. The only luxury he possessed was his cell phone, which he always carried in his trouser pocket. It was provided by the government to the BPL families. You can own a cell phone if you fall in BPL category, even if you don’t have a square meal; sarcastic enough!
That day too was not different. He was riding his two-wheeler through a new route. Unexpectedly the sale of lotteries was more that day, which made him gladder.
The mid-day sun was strong. Even the lush green plants on the roadside were seen wilted. Dayal desperately wanted to rest. He thought he would faint if he didn’t. He looked around. No shade, no trees. The stumps of cut-down shade trees on the road side made him sad. Where is mankind heading to?
He looked past the dry fields and saw a big mango tree at a distance. The need to take rest was so strong that he rode across the barren fields and reached near the tree. No huts, no other trees and no one else in the vicinity. But he didn’t bother, he wanted to rest.
Dayal kept the cycle nearby, rushed to the shade and sat beneath the big tree. The coolness dragged him into a nap within no time. Minutes later his sleep was interrupted by a creepy sound. Threatened and shocked Dayal jolted from his sleep. But the sound was heard no more. That’s when he took a careful look at his surroundings. It was a barren land, with some mounds here and there, which looked odd and inauspicious. The sense of his location sent chills up his spine.
He was sitting under the only tree in the public graveyard!
There were no sign boards, no boundaries, but the graveyard lay just as an extension of the vast dry fields. Any dead body which doesn’t have any one to take care of will be cremated there, no matter what’s the religion, caste, gender or location. A black mound of ash at a distance indicated a recent cremation. No garlands, not even dry flowers, were seen around which are usually seen in a graveyard.
While inspecting the mounds, sitting in the same place, he heard that nasty sound again. He jerked and got up. He couldn’t see any one. Then he realised the source; it was from the cell phone which he had kept in his trouser pocket. He was surprised because that was the first call to his cell phone, other than the trial calls which he himself had made. He knew how to make and receive a call, but he didn’t have any one to call, except his son-in-law. Dayal being damn sure that it was his son-in-law, attended the call. But the call hung up.
After a minute it rang again. He then looked at the blue screen of the cell phone but his poor vision coupled with the glare of light made checking the number impossible.
A bit hesitantly he attended the call.
“Hello….hello…who is this?”
No answer, but only some feeble voices.
“Hello, is there any one? Hello?”
“Hello Dayal…” A teenage boy’s sharp sound.
“Who are you?”
“That is not important!”
“Who are you? Why are you calling me? Aey ladka, from where you got my number?” Dayal was very eager to know the boy was, for he has made the first call to his mobile.
“Hope your business is going well. I just want an answer from you Dayal…..or an assurance!”
“You know my name and number, and business too…Now I got you; you are from insurance company, right? I don’t want to hear any such thing!” Dayal bombarded.
An amused reply from the other side.
“No…no! I am not from any company. But I just want your answer…your word!”
None use to contact him other than the usual people who would come to know the details lottery winners. Besides, he met all his friends on a daily basis too.
“What answer?” Out of confusion, Dayal was not mild.
“Tell me Dayal, what will you do if you win a lottery?”
“Are you mad? I am a lottery seller, I don’t buy lotteries!”
“Okay, you may not be buying lotteries, but you tell me what you will do if you win?”
“I will do like any other man would do. ..Spend for my family! What else?!”
“But even after spending, you may have a good portion left….then?”
“Hey look, it is my fault that I spoke to some crazy person like you over phone! Why should I answer to the dumb questions you are asking?”
“Dayal, this is not joke! I am damn serious. I want to tell certain things straight and clear!” The sudden change to the harsh tone shocked Dayal a bit.
“Now, when you win a lottery, you can definitely spend for your family and your personal needs. But still there would be a big part left. You must spend some money to help a handicapped lottery seller near the Hanuman temple. You can easily find him, for he is the only lottery seller around that temple!”
Dayal confirmed that the caller was purely insane. But he couldn’t prevent himself from asking,
“Are wah!!! If I win a lottery, you say, I should give it to some other handicapped lottery seller whom I even don’t know, huh?”
“YES!! You got it right Dayal!”
“Why should I?”
“Because that is my father!”
“If that is your father…” Dayal could hear the line getting disconnected. But still he held the cell phone to his ear and spoke.
“….it is your duty to help him, not mine! Useless son!” Dayal was a bit angry.
“How arrogant are the people these days!!”
The stranger and his call made him a little alarmed, as the tone was demanding rather than requesting.
“Who could be that?” thought Dayal. But again, nothing made any sense. “May be some nuts!!” He sighed.
He put the cell phone back in his pocket, left the graveyard and continued his riding.
The next day he had a lot of visitors who wanted to know the results of the festival bumper which was due that particular day. Every heart which came with hope, returned with despair as none was favoured by the lady luck. When the crowd has dispersed, Dayal went to the nearby tea shop. After the tea, he needed a one rupee coin which he couldn’t find in his shirt pocket. He inserted the hands into his trouser pocket and got a one rupee coin. But along with that came another thing, a lottery ticket of the festival bumper draw, the only ticket which had remained unsold.
He returned from the tea shop and out of curiosity checked it with the results. He checked from the bottom. “No…Nothing!! Not even the smallest prize!” He muttered and was about to tear it.
But simply without any reason he checked the first prize winner’s number.
He couldn’t believe his eyes, when the ticket number of the bumper winner of three crore rupees, tallied with his own lottery number. He checked again and again and remained mute for several minutes. Then he ran to the tea shop and asked for water to drink. He drank, poured the water on his face and head several times and rechecked the number, and finally confirmed.
He has become crorepathi!
He suddenly remembered the previous day’s conversation over his cell phone.
“Who might be that strange caller, whom I thought to be some mad person?”
Dayal took his cell phone and checked for the number from which he received the call the previous day. But he couldn’t find it. He ran to the vegetable seller who was younger to him and who was an accepted expert of the place in electronic matters . But he too couldn’t see any number in the received call section.
“Did you delete it?” Asked the vegetable seller.
“No! I don’t know how to delete and you know that, don’t you? I only know to make and receive calls. And wasn’t it you who taught me that?”
“Ha! But if you are so sure about the call and you want that number very urgent, I can do only one thing…..”
“Do whatever and please give me that number. I want to make a call to it!” Dayal cut in.
The vegetable seller contacted the customer care. After making enough communication, it was revealed that no one had called to Dayal’s number the previous day. Dumbstruck Dayal didn’t know what to do. He was more bothered about the strange call than the big fortune.
He soon mounted on his bicycle and rode to the Hanuman temple, in the fastest pace he could. Reaching the temple premises he looked around.
A disabled lottery seller sitting under a banyan tree, sleeping with lottery tickets before him, caught his attention.
“Why this guy is sleeping? Anyone could steal lotteries from him and he will have to watch it helplessly”, thought Dayal.
Dayal went near the man. “Bhaiya!” He called patting the man’s shoulder.
The man suddenly woke up and asked pointing to the lotteries before him. “Which one you want?”
“Bhaiya, I just want to know about your sons!How many sons you have?”
“What?! ….From where the hell you come? You came here to ask about my son?”
“Ha bhaiya, I think I know one of your sons! I want to meet him urgently!” Told Dayal.
The man’s eyes became teary.
“I HAD! I had a son!”
“What you mean?”
“I had a son, and no one else. But I lost him!” The man cried like a child.
Dayal felt so sorry for the man. “How did you lose him?”
“He was seventeen years old when I lost him. My son has taken care of me from his childhood. He used to work in construction sites and hotels and that’s how we lived. One day I was lying here with fever. That day he went to buy some medicine with the money he had. I saw him come back with a small packet in his hand, he was standing there…….” The man pointed to the road. “….then….a speedy truck from the right ran over him …….and everything ended…. he was no more…I lost my only son forever!” The man continued crying.
Dayal was too shocked to hear that.
After some moments he asked. “Then what happened?”
“Are you not sane? What do we do when someone dies? That has been done. As we don’t have anyone or anything he was cremated in the public graveyard a few kilometres away…I wanted to go with him, but god is not calling….I can’t even go to his grave…..” the lamentations of the man continued.
For Dayal, the strange happenings of the previous day started making some sense; then every piece fell in place, the strange place and the strange caller.
It was evident that his mind was disconcerted.
“Bhaiya, I think I can help you!”
Telling that Dayal hurried off the place.
The old man with tears on his face, sat there stupefied.