Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Man with the Horns

This is an old story I heard from my roomie. Presenting it to you after making many changes and adding masala:

Lakshmi was busy preparing meals in the kitchen when she heard a scream from her bedroom. She was startled and hurried to the bedroom, wondering what on earth made her husband, Raju, scream so loudly.

Meanwhile, Raju rushed to the kitchen to tell his wife about the disaster. Both of them almost ran into each other at the door.

Lakshmi looked at her husband, and it was her turn to scream. She shrieked like a little girl watching a horror movie.
'What the hell is this? How on earth do you have horns?’, Lakshmi asked him in a shrill voice.
‘I have absolutely no idea how this bizarre thing has landed on my head. After the shower I went to the dressing table to comb my hair, and and …’, Raju gulped to fight back his tears.
‘Hey! You are not fooling me, are you?’, Lakshmi wondered aloud, touching his horns and trying to pull them away. But, they wouldn’t come.
‘Shut up! I am breaking my head wondering what might have caused this, and you think I am fooling you?’, Raju cried out, pushing his wife away. Lakshmi understood that it was something serious.
The couple sat on the bed thinking hard, but nothing would strike them. Lakshmi tried to console him by saying that the horns would disappear the way they had appeared. She said that she would love him the same way she had always loved him. Raju was comforted by her words. He wondered why he had never realized her love towards him. It is only during tough times that you realize who really cares for you, and who tries to wash off their hands.Suddenly Lakshmi straightened and her eyes lit up. ‘What happened?’, asked Raju, genuinely surprised. He always feels there's a child hidden inside Lakshmi. She never loses hope. That’s what he likes about her.
‘Let’s talk to the Pandit. He’s the head of the village. He might come up with a solution’, said Lakshmi, breaking his chain of thoughts.
Raju did not really appreciate the idea. The thought of everybody looking at him weirdly embarrassed him. How was he going to show up in public?
‘I’ll get the Pandit here’, said Lakshmi. Raju wondered if she had a see-through vision with which she could read his mind. He smiled bleakly.

That evening Lakshmi visited the Pandit’s house located close to the temple. It was a small house surrounded by a huge garden and a fencing wall. She, being from a low caste family, was not entitled to enter the Pandit’s house. So she sent a ‘gate call’ to him through the Pandit’s daughter, who was gardening at that moment. The little girl ran into the house calling after her father.
A middle-aged man clad in a saffron-colored dhoti emerged from the main door. He had a clean-shaved head, except for a pig tail in the center of the scalp. His forehead had several layers of sandal wood and kumkum. As he approached the gate, Lakshmi bowed politely, joining her hands. He nodded.
‘Ha, Lakshmi, what’s the matter? What made you come here at this time?’ enquired the Pandit.

Lakshmi was nervous. She did not know how to put it, although she had rehearsed a thousand times in her mind. Finally, she had brought herself to speak up. ‘I have encountered a very weird scene. I am at my wits end. I am in need of help. Only you can save me’, she wailed, with a tensed expression on her face.
'Go ahead, and tell me what your problem is. I’ll see if I can help you’, said the Pandit, somewhat irritated that his time was being wasted.
‘My husband, Raju, has horns on his head. I have no clue why that happened…’

‘What!!!!! Raju has horns???!!!!!!’ exclaimed the Pandit so loudly that a few passersby gathered to follow the conversation. After all, it would be a great news to gossip. This unsettled Lakshmi a little. She wanted them to get away. She tried to ignore them, but she couldn’t. She could hear their whispers.

‘Hey Bhagavan! Why did such a thing happen to Raju?’, the Pandit continued. He was lost in a deep thought for a while, and finally made a very offensive statement. ‘Looks like Raju must have committed a great sin. The Almighty has chosen to punish him this way. We can’t forgive him. I’ll arrange for a panchayat tomorrow. Bring him there, and we’ll decide what needs to be done’, said the Pandit and turned to leave.
Lakshmi couldn’t believe her ears. She clasped her hands to her mouth, awestruck. Tears were rolling out of her eyes. The villagers protested behind her, saying ‘We can’t forgive Raju’, ‘He had to be slaughtered to death’, and so on.
‘Please don’t do this to him. He was always very kind to everyone. He never committed any sins…’ Lakshmi pleaded, but the Pandit had already left.
Lakshmi turned to face the curious audience who were still passing comments and giggling. She hurried home to meet her poor husband.

Raju was watching the Television to kill time or to divert himself from the disaster he had landed up in, but in vain. He avoided the mirror. When he heard Lakshmi approaching the house, he sprang up with an air of hope.

Lakshmi cried like a baby and hugged him. She narrated the whole story, and spread the tension to him. Raju loathed the Pandit and the villagers. ‘What’s the use of education when you can’t apply logic? What’s the use of chanting mantras or listening to the Gita all the day when it doesn’t snap some sense into your being?’, he wondered.
Panic is the worst disease, and it’s contagious too. After a couple of hours, the couple composed themselves. It dawned upon them that they had to get away from that hellhole. The couple made a living in the village with a small pawn shop in the market. They were left with little money. They wouldn’t survive if they ran away. But do they have an option? Yes! The best way to solve a problem is to face it.
So they planned to attend the Panchayat the next day. The news had spread like wild fire and everybody opined with the Pandit that Raju had to be severely punished. A huge crowd gathered at the mentioned place when the couple entered. There were exclamations, giggles, gossips, murmurs, and what not. But Raju was not intimidated. He was determined to fight.
The Pandit observed Raju from head to toes, and fixed his gaze on the horns. After a few seconds, the Pandit looked at the crowd and spoke, ‘Dear villagers, you have been asked to assemble here to witness how the Almighty punishes the sinful’. There was a pin-drop silence. The Pandit looked at Raju and asked, ‘Tell me, what have you done that you have landed up in this situation? If you accept your mistakes, the severity of the punishment can be reduced. I will give you 5 minutes, and if you fail to answer by that time, you will be hanged’.
Lakshmi shrieked in horror. She clung to her husband and cried out aloud. She was so shocked at the hostility of the villagers, and the so-called Pandit, that she couldn’t utter a word. Raju comforted her, and turned to the Pandit. ‘As per my knowledge, I have never done anything sinful. If the Almighty thinks I need to be punished, he will punish me. If he thinks I deserve a beautiful life like the rest of you, he will save me’, said Raju in a saintly voice.
At the end of the 5 minutes, the Pandit declared, ‘Raju will be hanged. This should be a lesson for all of us to be free of all sins, and devote one’s life to the Almighty’. He turned to Raju and asked, ‘Do you have a last wish?’ Raju shook his head. The Pandit signaled to a few of the villagers to make arrangements for hanging the culprit.
Raju turned to Lakshmi who looked half-dead. She was weaning and held him tight. He lifted her face with his fingers, and whispered, ‘I love you, dear. You were such an asset to me. I could never imagine a life without you. Be the same cheery-looking girl even after my death. Be bold, and stay away from these morons’.
‘How… how can I.. be… be the same… wi… without you?’ was all Lakshmi could say.Meanwhile, arrangements were made for the heinous act and Raju was summoned on to the stage. Lakshmi collapsed on the ground, half dead. The Pandit’s crew covered Raju’s face with a black cloth and…. FLICKKKKK…. To everyone’s astonishment, Raju’s horns vanished!!!
If you think that was a miracle, it was nothing compared to what happened after that. All the villagers who gathered there, including the Pandit, developed horns!!!! Only Lakshmi did not. There were a lot of cries, shrieks, and protests. At this point, Lakshmi got up and was back to life. She couldn’t believe her eyes. She looked at Raju with a broad smile.
Raju uncovered his face and witnessed the miracle. He knew that the Almighty would rescue him. He touched his scalp to check that his horns had vanished, and ran to his wife in excitement. Both of them tried to escape before anybody noticed them.
The Pandit had to save his face before the villagers. It was only a few minutes before that he had declared that developing horns is a reflection of one’s sins. And now, he himself has developed horns. What would he answer now? He thought for a while, and finally announced, ‘Dear villagers, it’s not our fault that we have horns. Since all of us have them, it is not possible that all of us have committed sins. I am the noblest person in this village, as all of you know. I have devoted my entire life to the Almighty. Hence, developing horns is the Almighty’s way of rewarding noble people like me. I see that all of you fall into the same category. The only ones who don’t have horns are Raju and Lakshmi. So, we have to hang both of them. Are you with me?’

The villagers liked the Pandit’s decision, partly because that gave them protection, and partly because they were afraid of him. They unanimously agreed to his decision.
The Pandit ordered his crew to catch Raju and Lakshmi and summon them. Little did they know that the couple was already on their way to leave the hellhole. They ran for hours together to catch a bus to a city far away from this place. They knew that the Pandit would make a decision in his favor, and convince the stupid villagers into believing it. They started a new life in the new place and worked hard to make a living. All is well that ends well.
Moral of the story:

People always try to save their skin, and blame others.

The society always blames the odd-man-out, even if whatever he does is correct. If everybody does a wrong thing, it becomes acceptable. One beautiful example for this is asking for dowry. Everybody does it, and so everybody thinks it is correct.

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