Cursed

Raju, Munna & Aslam were together for as long as they remembered. They did not like each other much, but their work required them to be in each other’s regular company. They were scrap pickers. They paid regular visits to the industrial areas spread in Gurgaon, Faridabad, Delhi and Noida, fill their lorries with unattended scrap and deliver it to their boss, who further supplied it to the big shot industrialists to melt the metal and manufacture brand new products.

Diwali was around the corner and Delhi was buzzing with late night movement of life. On Diwali eve, the trio decided to call it off a little bit early and take a metro trip back to their home in Shahadra, where they had rented a shop as it was cheap and there was no time bondage to come and go. They stopped work at 9 and bought some beers just before the closing time of the liquor shop.

At 10, they reached Huda City Center metro station. There was still time, the last metro ran at 10:22. They decided to board the last one. They opened the last cans of beer and started sipping.

“Nice chick that was, the one wearing full black. No?” Munna said.

“Yes, but a waste of time. She would never pay heed to you”, Aslam said.

“Lucky man, the one who will get her!” Munna agreed.

“Last year, I celebrated Diwali with my family, wonder when will that happen again”, Raju stepped in the conversation.

“Don’t remind me last year’s Diwali man! I was with Rajni, all night long! Wonderful night!” Munna spit on his side and shook his head.

“Did you guys have sex?” asked Aslam.

“Thrice”, Munna replied as soon as the question was asked, as if he was expecting to be asked.

“Liar”, said Raju “I remember you were partying with that Raghu guy, in his car, hooting the horn all night long.”

Munna chuckled. It was his habit. He lied frequently and chuckled when caught. It was his way of submitting himself to the truth. When he had nothing to say, he would chuckle and his approval was noted. He threw his can of beer towards a far away street lamp; it missed the lamp and hit something in the mud.

“What’s wrong with you? Throwing beer bought by my hard earned money? Nuts!” Raju got up and ran towards the beer can to save as much as he could. Aslam looked at Munna and they both started laughing.

Raju relaxed on finding out there was still a good amount of beer in the can. He cleaned the dirt on can with his hands and sipped a mouthful. As he turned his head up to gulp the beer down, he lost control because of the excessive booze and began to fall backwards. He quickly took a big step backwards to balance himself and lost control again towards the left. He bent down and put his left hand on the road to ultimately balance him. His hand landed on something very soft, it felt like velvet. He shook his head violently, gained a little consciousness and looked at what it was below his hand. It was a small ladies purse. He picked it up out of curiosity and rubbed the purse with his left cheek. It felt very soft, he liked it. He checked the purse for money by rubbing it between his thumb and forefinger, and to his surprise, there was something inside it. He put the beer can on the road and unzipped the purse to find a one thousand rupee note in it.

“Guys! I found a thousand bucks in this purse here!” he shouted to his friends, who were already wondering what their friend was up to. They came running towards him.

“Lucky bastard you! Check if there’s more”, Aslam said to him. Raju showed the empty purse to him, “There’s no more, it just had a thousand bucks.”

Aslam took the purse from him and checked it, it was empty but the material was very high class. He flipped the purse from front to back and again to front. There was no sign of stitching; it was a one piece manufacture, stitched only at the zip.

“Marvelous design”, Aslam said and zipped the purse up to close it, “I am keeping it, will send it to my mother. This piece must be worth thousands”, and he put the purse in his pocket.

“Check its brand”, Munna said to Aslam “that will tell its real worth.”

“Good idea”, Aslam exclaimed and took the purse out from his pocket. He checked for any kind of maker’s mark on the outside, there was none. He opened it, thinking that there must be a logo or a brand name that he might have missed in the first look, and to his utter surprise and astonishment, there was another one thousand rupee note, neatly folded, inside the purse.

“What the fuck!” Aslam was unable to understand anything.

“What happened? What logo is it?” Munna asked.

“Do hell with the logo man, look at this!” he took out the thousand rupee note and showed it to Munna and Raju.

“Wo ho ho ho!” Raju got excited, “How did I miss it! There was only one note, and I took it out, here it is!” Raju took out the note from his jeans back pocket and showed it to them.

“I checked the purse too, it was empty, then I zipped it up, put it into my pocket, took it out again, opened it and there was this note inside it”, Aslam was clearly surprised at what was happening and so were Raju & Munna.

“Give me both the notes”, Munna said. Both of them handed over the notes to him. He checked the numbers, they were different, and the notes were genuine, without doubt. He looked at the purse in Aslam’s hand and a thought struck him, “Ok, this might sound crazy, but I think it is a magical purse.”

“A magical purse?” Both Raju & Aslam said in unison.

“Yes. I think we should try it once again. Zip it up, put it in your pocket, take it out, open it and see if there appears another note. I bet there would appear another note.”

It had happened twice, it could happen again as well. There was no harm in trying. Aslam zipped the purse, put it in his pocket, took it out, opened it and to add up to the mystery, there was nothing inside the purse.

“Its empty”, Aslam had a disappointed expression.

“Assholes!” Munna howled, “there must be two notes in it, this fucker missed it” he glared towards Raju and scolded himself in his mind for being so foolish.

“Eh? Fuck you bastard. The purse was empty, there was nothing in it when he took it from me”, Raju said.

“Yes it was empty when I zipped it and put it in my pocket. There is something wrong”, Aslam said in a fearful tone.

“The fuck of your mother is wrong”, Munna was clearly irritated, “give that piece of shit to me.”

Aslam handed him over the purse, it was still open.

“Take this”, he handed over the money to Raju and showed them the empty purse, “look fuckers, is this empty now?”

“Yes”

“Good, now pay attention”, he said.

Munna zipped the purse, put it in his pocket, showed his empty hands to his friends, snatched the can Raju picked and took a mouthful of beer, handed the can back to Raju, took the purse out from his pocket, opened it and went speechless. There lied, yet another, neatly folded, one thousand rupee note in it.

“Fuck!” Munna uttered.

“Wow”, Raju said, “a fucking magical purse!”

“Three different hands, three different notes”, Aslam added.

“I don’t understand how this is possible?” Munna was unable to hide his surprise.

“Unbelievable”, said Raju, “What luck! Can you imagine what we have found here? This could make us millionaires, billionaires, trillionaires, gazillionaires! We don’t need to work anymore! Goddess Lakshmi has showered her blessings on us”, he paused a little and said, “her blessings on me.”

“Wait, don’t run onto conclusions. We don’t know how it happened”, Munna tried to calm them down but Raju was over excited. He tried to snatch the purse from Munna.

“Give it back to me, I found it”, Raju jumped towards Munna.

“Raju, stop it, what are you doing”, Munna tried to stop Raju from reaching his pocket, but he himself wasn’t taking the purse out. He wanted it for himself.

“A new one thousand rupee note every time you open the purse, this is awesome!” Aslam said excitedly and walked towards Munna, a certain evil lurking in his eyes.

“Aslam, stop Raju, we need to find out what is the logic behind it”, Munna said on seeing Aslam approaching.

Aslam walked towards the opposite side of Raju and grabbed Munna, “Take the purse out from his pocket Raju!”

A few late comers to the metro station saw them from a distance and ignored them, thinking of them as drunk friends fighting over the shining can of beer in Raju’s hand.

Munna lost his calm and began pushing Raju & Aslam away from him. The fight over the purse took serious turn when Aslam hit a punch on Munna’s head and kicked him with his shoe base on his knee. Munna kept one hand at his Jeans’ back pocket and continuously tried pushing his friends away from him who were jumping and charging on him as a cheetah charges on his prey. Munna ignored Raju for a moment and charged on Aslam with all the strength. He pushed Aslam away and started running towards the metro station, which was about 100 meters away. He had ran only four five steps when a brick hit him on the face, that made him lose control and he fell on the ground, with his head hitting the road. Raju ran towards Munna and took the purse out of his pocket. He opened the purse, hoping to find another neatly folded one thousand rupee note in it, but the purse was empty.

By this time, Aslam had also reached; he snatched the purse from Raju and found it empty.

“You found another note?” Aslam asked Raju.

“No shit, it was empty when I opened it.”

“Liar, you found a note and you took it. Anyway, I am keeping the purse now. Get up Munna, let’s go”, he extended a hand towards Munna but he did not move. Aslam bent down and turned Munna over. Munna was badly injured, his skull was split open and he was losing consciousness. Aslam freaked out looking at Munna and took a few steps back. At the very same moment, something hard hit on the back of his head. Once, twice, thrice and before he could realize what was happening, darkness engulfed him.

Raju threw the brick aside and took the purse out of Aslam’s pocket, “I found it, only I will keep it.”

He opened the purse again, but it was empty. All sorts of thoughts crossed his mind. He decided to solve the mystery of the appearing notes later on and began walking towards the metro station.

“Fuckers, I found it, I have the only right to own it”, he was talking to himself, feeding his ego and his devil.

His concentration was diverted on hearing a police jeep siren. He began to run towards the metro station, but not before the constable driving the jeep saw him running. Raju was not far from them. Two constables stepped down and ran after him. He was caught at the check point as the constables entered the metro station shouting and humping to stop the boy.

Munna died while being taken to the hospital. Aslam was seriously injured and succumbed to his injuries few days later. Raju was charged with the murder of his friends in a brawl over the possession of a purse they found on the roadside on eve of Diwali. With both his friends dead, only Raju knew the truth. The purse was indeed magical. He had seen the magic happening, not once, but thrice. He decided to stay quiet in the court and solve the riddle of the appearance of a new one thousand rupee note himself. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his friends and was transferred to Tihar Jail.

At the time of his arrival, he deposited all his possessions with the Tihar Jail management, only to be returned to him at the time of his release. He, anyhow, tried to convince the Jailor, Sanjeev Khatri,  for a favor.

“Sir, I want to keep my purse with me”, Raju said to the Sanjeev.

“Shut up! Not a word! Everything gets deposited here”, Sanjeev shouted back at him.

“Sir please, it is very important for me to keep this purse with me, it is the last thing I have of my mother’s possession”, he lied confidently.

“This purse?” Sanjeev showed the shining, silver colored purse to Raju.

“Yes, this one”, Raju replied, extending a hand towards him.

“Keep away! This purse looks very costly, how did your mother afford to buy it? I won’t be least surprised if you say she was a famous whore.”

“Sir, I request you, please, give this purse to me.”

“Take this bastard away from my sight or I will shoot him right here”, Sanjeev shouted.

Raju was helpless; obviously he could not fight with Sanjeev. He could just see his prized possession go into the hands of the Jailor. He hoped Jailor wouldn’t find out about the magical power of the purse.

——–

Sanjeev looked at the purse for a long time before he opened it. There was a one thousand rupee note lying inside it, neatly folded. He took out the note, put it into his wallet and kept the purse in his pant pocket. He was getting late for somewhere he had to reach half an hour ago.

He drove out from the Tihar Jail, towards the New Delhi railway station. He was late already and he feared he would be insulted in public, something that men really hate. He saw his wife, Pooja  & his daughter Shefali waiting for him outside the main entrance. He walked rapidly towards them, flashing a smile on his face. Pooja, clearly, was very angry on him for being late.

“It’s been twenty minutes”, she said plainly.

He picked up his daughter in his arms and replied, “Too much traffic today, plus I had to buy something for you. Your home coming present!”, he looked into her eyes and winked.

A smile appeared on her face, “What did you buy?”

“Have some patience darling!”

He handed over the purse to her once they were seated inside the car. She looked at it and her eyes sparkled. He knew she loved it. He also knew that his reaching late at the station was forgiven. He sped the car through the busy roads of Old Delhi towards ring road. His wife, meanwhile, opened the purse and was surprised to see a one thousand rupee note neatly folded inside it.

“Are you trying to buy me officer?” she smiled at him.

“What do you mean?” he asked surprisingly.

“What is the purpose of this one thousand rupee note in the purse?”

“A what?” an amused look crossed his face as he looked towards her.

“This”, she took out the note and showed it to him.

“How is it possible? The purse was empty when I put it in my pocket.”

“You didn’t put this note in the purse?”

“No”

“Then who put it?”

“Ok, listen, give this purse back to me. I will have to ask about it from the person I bought it from.”

“How much did you pay for it?”

“Nothing actually”

“Is it for free?” the reality began to dawn on her.

He did not reply, and started shuffling his pocket for change to pay at the Gurgaon toll plaza. She remained silent as he drove towards Chandrika Complex, near Huda City Center Metro Station, where they shifted a few months ago.

“Does it belong to a criminal?”, her questions started again.

“I will return it to him, give it back to me.”

“Are you not ashamed of yourself? How many times will I have to ignore your habit of bringing cursed stuff to our home?”, she had finally managed to say the truth on his face. She was irritated of his behavior of claiming the criminals possession from them and using them for his personal use without any self guilt.

“Pooja, calm down. I will return it to him, give it to me.”

She went towards the balcony and threw the purse down, “That’s the place of such things, they should rot in dust, no matter how costly they are.”

“All right, happy now? Calm down. I promise I won’t bring anything that belongs to any criminal to our home in future. I promise that to you.”

——–

A beggar begging in the colony found the shining silver purse lying on the road. He looked around, the road was empty. He picked it up and opened it. He was delighted to see a one thousand rupee note in it, he took out the note and checked it for authenticity. It was authentic. He put the purse in his sack and walked towards the food cart outside the Huda City Center Metro Station. He ate to his satisfaction and paid for the food. He counted the balance, there was still enough money left. He stood there for a moment, looking at the rush of people walking in and out of the metro station. He had been in the city for many years and had never traveled in the metro. He decided to travel across the length and breadth of Delhi Metro. He bought more food for the night, put it in his sack and walked into the metro station. He bought a ticket to the last station and went for check in.

“You can’t go in”, said the guard.

“Why not? I have ticket! See!” the beggar showed him the token.

“Your bag, it is very dirty and it is stinking as well. You better leave your bag somewhere and then travel”, the guard changed his reason for stopping the beggar from traveling the metro full of educated people.

“Ah, this bag has no importance for me or anyone. I will leave it anywhere and will pick it up on my way back. Hold on, I will be back in a minute”, the beggar said and walked out of the metro station.

Excited, he walked towards the street lamp far away and put his sack below it. To further prevent his stuff from being littered by the street dogs, he covered the sack with bricks that were lying near the street lamp. After covering the sack to his satisfaction, he looked up and said, “Curse those who try to take it away”.

As he checked in to the Metro Station, two passing by dogs smelled of food in the sack and tore it apart. They ate the still hot chapattis and sniffed the bag for more food. They found nothing. Embarrassed, they further tore the sack, letting everything fall out of it, including a zipped, shining silver colored purse.

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