“Anand, you need to be careful. Your life is in danger,” said the astrologer in a grave voice.
“Danger? What harm can befall a 25 year old strong and healthy man,” said Anand in an amused tone.
“I warn you,” the astrologer shot back, his powerful eyes affixed on Anand’s palm as he examined it. “You need to watch out for a woman.”
“A woman?” a frown appeared in Anand’s puzzled face. “I must emphasize that I stay miles away from girls. I don’t even have a girlfriend. And I have no immediate plans for plunging into matrimony.”
“Yes, but the woman I am talking of is no ordinary woman,” said the astrologer. “I, hereby, speak of the DEAD.”
“You mean to say that a dead woman is after me,” said Anand, his tone sarcastic.
“Don’t take my warning lightly. Wear this sacred thread,” the astrologer replied tying a black thread around his neck. “Now go home. And remember- do not turn to look back if you hear someone calling you.”
Anand touched the astrologer’s feet in reverence and went home, slightly perturbed. He was not a superstitious person but, nevertheless, the astrologer’s warning had left him slightly shaken.
Two days passed without any incident. Anand had begun to think of the astrologer as an old fraud. Then on the third day, it happened. He was walking down the street heading to his friend’s place. It was twilight and the street was shrouded in semi-darkness. As he walked past the peepal tree, he heard a voice. It was a cold, faint whisper. It seemed as if someone was calling him.
‘Anand….’ The voice called again. It was the voice of a woman! Anand was about to look back but then he remembered the astrologer’s warning- ‘Do not turn to look back if you hear a voice.’
‘ANAND….ANAND…Come here, Anand,” the voice called again. Anand stood rooted to his spot. His heart was drumming madly inside his chest. He looked ahead. The entire stretch of road seemed deserted. It was quite dark. The voice from the tree came again. This time it was louder and more seductive. ‘Anand…won’t you look back. I have come back only for you. Look at me. Turn around, Anand. Come to me.’
Anand’s heart seemed to come out of his mouth. His face was covered in sweat. He seemed to decide that he would have to run for it. His mind was becoming blank and he was conscious of the fact that he was alone in this deserted lane. The voice came again, ‘ANAND’….. But hey, it was his mother’s voice this time. Relieved and glad that his mother had come, he turned to look back, his face breaking into a smile. ‘Oh mom-‘ But he broke off and looked straight into a face so beautiful that he was hypnotized. He stood there transfixed for several minutes gazing raptly at a face with dazzling eyes and a bewitching smile.
Hypnotized, he stood his ground as the smiling maiden walked towards him…she came closer and closer….till only a breath separated them….her lips moved closer…. And then they kissed.
Today, Anand lies sick in a mental asylum muttering only a few words, “I love you Payal, I want you Payal.”