Sarah paced restlessly  in her garden. She lived in picturesque countryside on the outskirts of London. The beautiful landscape usually soothed  her, but today she was tired of waiting. Patience had never been her virtue… She just wanted the parcel to come soon.

Sarah’s grandfather had lived for the most part of his life in India. He was one of the generals in the British Government. Her father was born during that time. When India became independent in 1947, they came back but love for Indian art remained as a legacy in their family. They had brought with them numerous statues and paintings. They had made a fortune by selling them in various countries in Europe.

Her grandfather had kept contact with their loyal Indian servant, Bhima’s family. He continued supporting  their family financially. Sarah’s father started smuggling ancient statues and works of art from India. Bhima did all the arrangements for the statues to be transferred to England legally or illegally as per the situation. Sarah’s family had made a big fortune by selling them in the grey market.

Sarah reminisced about how fascinated she used to be when a new artifact arrived. She had learnt the trade with her father and succeeded in her father’s business. She dealt with Bhima’s son, Shanker, who was proficient at tracing the artifacts and  procuring them by hook or crook. Sarah chose  the statues on the internet and Shanker did the dirty work.

This time, she had set sight on a beautiful Lord Krishna idol in some remote village. There was a legend around it. 400 years ago, a king saw a dream in which Lord Krishna directed him to dig a particular spot under a Peepal tree where he  would find a statue. The statue had a divine mani (jewel) on the forehead, which would bless the devotees. The king had discovered the statue, constructed a beautiful temple, and placed the statue there. It was a much revered and frequented temple in this village of Haripur.

Sarah called Shanker and instructed him to acquire this idol. Shanker carried out the theft with the help of his men. He informed Sarah when the deed was done. Sarah found it really amusing when the thefts were reported in the news. The press always  had numerous theories and Sarah enjoyed reading them.

But this time it was different. There was no news. Sarah was suspicious, and she called Shanker to confirm. “Madam, I have the idol. Don’t worry. The authorities must have hidden the news due to fear of public outrage. It will be with you soon. Just call me when you receive it,” he assured her.

The bell rang. Sarah rushed to the door. It was the courier. Sarah couldn’t wait to open it.

Her phone buzzed. “Who’s calling me,” she muttered. It was Shanker’s number. “I’ve got it, Shanker,” she said impatiently, “Let me open the parcel. I’ll call you.”

The voice on the other side spoke, “Madam, this is Shanker’s son, Ramu. Don’t open the parcel. The idol is cursed! After he couriered it, my dad was very  restless. He insisted that he wanted to go back to Haripur. I took him there. It bewildered us to see that the temple was open and aarti was being performed as usual. Father climbed the stairs as if in a trance. As soon as his eyes met the idol’s he complained of severe pain in his eyes. He  has lost his sight. He keeps saying that the divine light from the “mani” blinded him!” 

Sarah was outraged to hear all this. “I think you are making this up. Maybe you didn’t steal the statue and are now covering up. He must have suffered from some ailment,” she said. She could hear him denying her allegations but she kept the phone angrily.

She began unwrapping the wooden box. This confusion was driving her crazy. She yanked open the lid. A very bright beam of light fell on her eyes. Blinded by it, she staggered and fell on the floor. She felt a dark cloud enveloping her and everything went black.

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Vandana Sarawagi

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