Twist of Fate
Raja could clearly hear his old man’s chant. It was uttered daily during his formative years.
“Jab jab jo jo hona hota hai, tab tab so hokar hi rehta hai”
(Those events that are meant to occur will occur happen what may)
Then one day Raja found a crowd gathered outside their one room shanty. Corruption and disease had taken their toll and the courageous hearts of Raja’s parents finally gave out. They scotched their lives with rat poison. Raja was orphaned at the tender age of seven…
Hooded thoughtful eyes, wiry frame and nimble footed was Raja. To survive he resorted to petty thefts. Not a single person had held out a helping hand nor given him a job to make ends meet. This was the beginning of the end of Raja’s innocence. He was a quick study. Life was a hard task master.
Homeless, sheltering in temples and churches Raja passed his time reading old discarded textbooks. They gave Raja a measure of relief out of his bleak loveless existence. Those words that he could not follow, he referred to his prized possession, a tattered Oxford dictionary that belonged to his father. His self education thus continued.
Today was Raja’s 25th birthday. He quickly bathed and headed for the temple. There was the usual early morning throng plus a rush of college kids. Admissions were open and there were long lines already outside the colleges. After getting the priest’s blessings, he sat down against a wall and watched the crowd marking his next victim.
Prayers over, the pious were now decanting swiftly. Soon only Raja and the deity were left. As Raja looked defiantly at the image of god, he noticed a backpack near the south pillar. In one fell swoop he picked it up and fled. Seated in a secluded corner he opened the backpack and found textbooks and thirty thousand cash. He whistled involuntarily. His eyes popped out and he felt a rush of joy. He planned a dozen things at once. Tucked in the books of the backpack was a letter from the college giving last date of fees submission. It was due the next day. Raja felt a twinge of conscience. He valued education and wondered if he should return this money. His dormant conscience pricked hard. He quashed it.
The lord had given him this windfall and he was grateful. He turned over a new leaf. Raja rented a handcart and became a street vendor of hot snacks that he bought from quality stores. Soon his business grew and he opened a snack store. In a few years’ time he owned a chain of stores and became very wealthy. He opened his own manufacturing facilities and exported packaged snack food. He became a respected businessman.
Monica cut short her music lesson and sent the kids home. Her throat was painful. She rushed upstairs where her father lay weakened with cancer and chemo therapy. He was a fine musician and had opened a music school. The running of which now fell on Monica’s slender shoulders. Music coursed in the family veins. After a disastrous marriage and divorce Monica had never married. The only blessing from that alliance was her five year old son Manu (Mohan). She loved him dearly. Her mom took good care of him while Monica ran the business. They lived above the music school. Monica was petite with large almond shaped eyes and full lips. Her hair was light brown and lustrous and her figure was perfect. She was beautiful. Her fragility belied inner grit. No one messed with her.
Today was Manu’s sixth birthday and she decided to visit the temple. Raja was also there per his usual practice. He came to the temple every day to thank the lord.
Manu was restless as the prayers were boringly long. He simply wished to eat the sweets him mom was carrying. Suddenly his elbow knocked the offering of sweets and fruits from his mother’s hands. The apples rolled everywhere. Raja bent down to help and his head collided with Monica. Apologizing profusely he helped her gather the offering and then left. He sat in his car and wondered about this beautiful woman and her son. He was drawn to them. So, he followed them on foot as they made their way home which was nearby.
Outside the building was a nameplate – It read:
Pundit Sham Prasad Rastogi. That name rang a bell at once. It was etched in his brain!
The bag of money belonged to a person with the same name. He decided to investigate further. A detective confirmed that indeed this was the owner of the lost money laden backpack. He also found out that Monica was divorced and ran the music school. Financially they were just able to keep their heads above water. Ever since Pundit SPR had stopped giving concerts, the big money checks had dried up and now they survived on the music school fees alone. Luckily the school had a decent number of students. He also came to know about the illness of Monica’s dad. He decided to pay back his debt and woo Monica. He had been greatly drawn to her after colliding with her in the temple. The mischievous little boy would be an added bonus. His family would be complete.
Word count 891