Two and half months had almost passed, since Vinod left home in search of fortune. He was the only source in the three-member family. Sudha was not prepared to depart her three months old husband, but had to own a heavy heart. Had not his father died early, he could have seen a better fortune. He had been supporting his mother since childhood. Besides, the family was indebting day by day from others. Had he stayed with his family, the essence of life could have been defined with a better meaning, but he had to leave Sudha and his widowed mother at the dawn of the day. Before he set out for the journey, he had arranged foods for the next four months and asked Sudha to take care of his old mother. They couldn’t hold the tears for long. Outburst of cries could be heard in the early morning, but who would wake up in the early morning to see the departure. With a promise to return soon with good fortunes, he set out with heavy feet.
Chitrapur was once a village near the kingdom of Vikram Aditya. It was famous for its intellectuals who were of immense help during the reign of the king. But the sign of its existence had been diminishing with the decreasing number of old village members; and only remained in the minds of few. Chitrapur was not the same any more; lots of changes took place in the cycle of time. More houses were seen; more families sprang up on the village-soil. But, no lights of education were seen in and around the village. Darkness still prevailed in the village. Children grew up to walk on the path paved by their parents. Neither signs of development nor public awareness were nowhere on sight. Superstitions made a firm footage at every nook and corner of the village. Moreover, there were tales of the crypts that existed around. So villagers didn’t take the risk to bask around at night. Sometimes, on a moonlit night, few male folks moved around in groups, but women and children would prefer to stay behind closed doors. Sudha and her mother-in-law were also the victims of the village’s day-today beliefs.
One more nightmare that prevailed since yesteryears in the village was the existence of ghosts. And, it was the most talked-about topic on every lip of the villagers. They worked freely during daytime, went and visited far places, but had to reach home before nightfall else they would be in danger. Parents forbade their children from basking around neglected and unattended places. Even tides were the most dreadful scenes among the daily episodes on the reel of the village. A new stranger visiting after dark would mistake his right destination. Movements in night hours were neglected and not recommended in and around the Village. Sounds of suddenly awaken birds, mewing of cats, barking of dogs were the only sounds to disturb the sea of silence. All the villagers felt safe behind the closed doors. But, the scene would be different in the morning again.
Meanwhile, a decent ghost happened to visit the village for an unusual cause. He was shrewd and young, but neglected by the other ghosts. He wanted to abandon his ghostly character and live the life of a normal being for which he was neglected. He was roaming in the village for the cause. He was worried if his desires would go in vain. One-day morning, the ghost saw Sudha nearby the village pond. She came there to fetch water from the pond. A ghostly work is what a ghost does! In an instant, he read her all. He was happy to see his wishes becoming successful. He decided to impersonate Vinod and own the family. Miseries and sorrows were brothers always! Just after three days, at a late evening, the ghost transformed himself as Vinod reached home and knocked the door. He was carrying the same bag, which Vinod left home with. Had not the women inside heard Vinod’s voice from outside, they would have never opened the door. The door was opened and they saw Vinod standing at the door. Sudha, filled with love and security, hugged him tight and wept keeping her head on his chest. His mother too could not stop her tears. The longtime holdup tears ran down on their checks like the torrential streams of water. With all the righteous ceremonies, Vinod stepped in the house for the first time. He told them that he couldn’t stay for long without seeing them, so he came back. He asked Sudha to serve him food, as he was very tired and hungry. They had dinner together and went to sleep. That night, Sudha made up all her incomplete sleeping hours. They all slept soundly. Did you ever hear a ghost sleep at night? Nights had been full of nightmares since Vinod left home. But that night was different, no more nightmares at all. Flowers of happiness bloomed in and around the house.
Early morning, the chirping of morning birds woke up Sudha and saw the enchanting beauty outside. Colourful flowers were blooming and swinging at the courtyard end. The flowers moved and swayed at the ballets cited by the visiting bees and butterflies. The fragrances distributed by the flowers reached her nose. Newly arrived birds sang songs sitting on the branches of trees in the courtyard. The flowers bloomed and the birds visited everyday but Sudha could see their presence only at that day. Delighted by the scenery, she wished the same morning everyday. Is it a ghostly act or a feel from heart? She could know the essence of her life, and discovered the person within her. Vinod, with ahem, woke up and called out Sudha who ran inside and stood by his side. Vinod stared at her and asked if his mother had wakened up. The loving nature of Vinod was the most irrepressible moment, which she felt ashamed of. She hid herself under the layer of gratitude she felt at heart and walked away. He took a morning bath and was ready to move out. He told them that he would fine some work nearby. Sudha came out and stood at the cottage end staring the dwindling gait of her husband.
It was at evening; the sun was subsiding its light, Sudha and her mother were waiting for Vinod eagerly, when he popped up at the courtyard end and came inside the house. He took out some money from his pocket and gave it to Sudha, who had been praying for her husband’s prosperity. She was overjoyed and asked him if he had got a job. Vinod smiled at Sudha, and nodded his head, also promised to bring money everyday. A ghost only knows what he does! By and by, one and half year had passed through; the family was no more a poor one; even people from nearby villages came to ask for financial assistances from him. Vinod held his head high wherever he went. And, soon he became a renowned and well-to-do person in the village. Everyone in the village talked about his ability and riches. But, there was a note of interrogation on every face of the villagers that remained unanswered. Moreover, Sudha was six months pregnant.
Meanwhile, Vinod, the real husband was returning back home from work. He bought many gifts for Sudha and his mother. He sometimes daydreamed on the way. He smiled a bit and got the consciousness again. Meanwhile a chilly gust of wind came along and freshen him thereby signaling the arrival of rain. He was delighted that he would reach home in no time. But, the big and heavy drops of rain accompanied by storms poured down and he had to take shelter in a hut nearby. Being not seen and heard for many days, and the sudden rain raised dubiety in his mind about the condition of his family. He suddenly became worried about his family: he wished the rain stopped and reached home soon. As the rain became lighter, he started again towards home. He would be at home after two years so, he wished, he reached home before dark. Had not it rained on the way, he would have reached before dark, but he reached the village after dusk. He speeded towards his home and knocked at the door; he wished Sudha to open the door and he would shower her with the gifts he bought for her. Surprise amidst confusion, was the moment when Sudha opened the door. She saw a man, look-alike her husband, was standing at the door. She got fainted nearly, when she called out her mother who was talking with Vinod inside. She rushed out towards Sudha who was half conscious. They stared to each other for the next few minutes, and the mother asked whom he was, where he came from. The ghost came out to enquire the matter, there he found the real Vinod standing at the door trying to convince them. Vinod could understand the whole episode when he saw his duplicate inside the house. He was shocked to know that a ghost had been staying in his house impersonating him. He didn’t ask anything more except shelter for the night outside the house and would left at dawn.
No one slept that night; series of unanswered questions came up like building blocks in their minds. Uncertainty was the next moment. They closed their eyes burying the queries in the dept of their thoughts. “Who could he be?” was the question that was feeding their minds for the whole night. What do you think, the ghost will reveal himself and leave the family? No! He was too clever to commit the mistake; he knew he was the king of the family and easily convinced his members with his witty and ghostly means.
There was a vast grazing ground at the back of the village, where shepherds used to bring the cattle. The ground was enriched in grass; all kinds of grass grew there, so the cattle liked to graze there. The shepherds played and enjoyed at their fullest among the cattle. They could feel the opened sky, take life-long breathe there. But, people rarely ventured for any normal cause. A footpath trailed aside the ground, passing amid the land between the village and the grazing ground. An elevated hillock, in the middle of the ground, surrounded by some small trees and shrubs served the shepherd boys a resting place. Only the shepherd boys would sit on the hillock as they could see the cattle standing on it. The shepherd boys who knew less about education and knowledge would sometimes come to know about various secrets and utter like witches whenever they sat on the hillock. They would say truth and only truth about an incident, which they never knew before. The boys played games sometimes sitting on the hillock revealing truth and only truth about something. But, they would never know and aware of the intuitive power they possessed when they sat on the hillock. Thus the phenomenon had been happening since time immemorial.
Stories had been heard about the famous king Vikram Aditya and his magical throne. He was witty and very spontaneous to bring a problem to justice; he judged his subjects irrespective of caste, creed or sex. He ruled his kingdom with dignity, and kept off any confrontations or disputes among his subjects. Had there been no such magical throne to sit upon, he would have never been a famous king. He would know the truth of any incident or happening in an instant when he sat on the throne. Thus he took no time to come at conclusion. The magical throne was immortal, but seeing no susceptible successor in his dynasty, he decided to abduct the throne from them. And, by the time he was to be succeeded, he asked his men to bury the throne at a nearby place. And his men carried out the order at the death of a night. That secret place happened to be the hillock at the back of the Chitrapur Village.
Two months had passed, Vinod was wandering all the ways along in search of justice. Who would believe his proof-less words? Rather he was neglected and thrown outside of sight. All the money he earned had been spent seeking for justice. He was not better than a beggar, except the clothes he wore. He roamed about hither and thither with his hairs and whiskers. He would sit beneath a tree, murmur or ask the passers-by for food. He had lost his existence somewhere in the everyday chapters of life; he was better known as the roadside beggar. His sincerity and ignorance had been tested for many a times, but God was not ready enough to shower upon him justice. One day, an afternoon, he happened to pass by the grazing ground walking on the footpath. There he heard someone saying something taking his name. He looked around and saw a shepherd boy was saying truth and only truth about him. He was surprised to hear his name from the boy whom he didn’t know or see ever before. The boy said, “Oh! What a dejected man he is. His family members have betrayed him. A ghost has been staying in his house impersonating him. He has lost his everything and he is helpless. I feel pity for him.” Vinod heard every single word the boy said, which was true. He came up and asked the boy how he came to know all that. The boy said that he knew everything about him and could help him to get justice.
Vinod, who had lost his essence of life, felt delighted to hear from the boy who promised him help. He heard the whole story from the boy who convinced him that he would help him get justice. He reached at the Village-Chief’s house and asked for justice, who once had ignored him before. Vinod narrated the story told by the boy to him. Formerly, though he was not moved by the story but later, he had to give ears to Vinod and promised he would try to give him justice. He warned Vinod that he should leave the village if he would have been proved wrong. He readily agreed the Chief’s decision. The next day, the Chief made an announcement in the village that there would be a public gathering on the coming Sunday afternoon at the village ground and every villager should be present. The announcement reached every single ear of the villagers in no time, and they were prepared for the suddenly fixed social gathering.
The boy was a resident of the Village too. He took Vinod home and asked him to stay with him till the Judgment Day. Vinod felt happy at heart which he could not keep within inside. He assumed the boy an angel sent by God for his help. He thanked God at heart and asked for more help for the Day. Two days to go, and Vinod became more and more excited by each passing moment. The meager amount of calculations, which he learnt in his working days, was of much help when he tried to calculate the two days in hours. It took a decade to pass an hour. The heavy burdens he had been carrying always on his head seemed to lessen when he stretched on the wooden cot provided by the boy. In no time, he came one with the cot that he started to snore. It was a loud and screaming sound louder than a normal voice that reached the ears of the boy who came running towards him. The boy woke him up and asked what the matter was. Vinod stared at the boy for a while and told what the dream was. An elephant was running after him in a jungle for he stole some bananas. The boy laughed heartily which was continued by a new sound of laughter, which no one had heard for years. The boy served him food and asked to rest.
By and by, the Judgment Day came: the Sun shined bright in the far east; the chirping and singing birds sang Thy Glory; the efflorescent and blooming flowers distributed fragrance everywhere, thereby promoting the beauty of the scene. Vinod was no more the same; he was cleaned shaven and dressed up like a happy man. He kept on asking the boy how he would reveal the truth in front of many. The boy disagreed to disclose his secret plans but asked to do what he would be asked to do. As the Sun moved on and on, people in and around the village gathered at the village ground. The ever increasing crowd became noisy with many and different conclusions. The verdict would be heard shortly, but people discussed the topic openly in a loud and independent manner amongst groups. The most interesting part of the event would be the role of the boy. What would the villagers expect from the shepherd boy and how will he reveal the truth in front of many? But the boy knew every spelling of what had happened and he would be there on the spot with a tight-up plan.
The village ground was packed with peoples from near and far places. The crowd grew bigger and became very noisy but was eagerly waiting for the event to start. Suddenly, a wind of silence swept over the crowd when the Village Chief along with Vinod, the boy, the accused and the family members arrived on the spot. Vinod and the boy came up and sat on a pavement opposite the accused and the family members. The Chief sat on a chair lying in the middle of mainland of the ground. The crowd got amazed when they saw two same persons, each of whom declared himself as the real Vinod, in their front. Some thought they might be twin brothers; some thought there could be the work of the evil. Some villagers who had been good friends of the ghost said, "We know him well, he is the real person. The other person should be punished." Some read them intuitively and made their decisions. The Chief was hearing the perplexity with opened ears. He knew that it was the shepherd boy who would clear the perplexity otherwise he knew his job.
The Chief rose from the seat, asking the audience to pay their attentions, so that he would preside the whole eventful show. He once again narrated the Court-story in detail. The people in the audience were amazed to hear the story from the village Chief. He made a public introduction of the boy and informed that the boy would guide the prosecution. The boy got thrilled seeing the huge crowd, but breathed out all the instant frights he possessed at the moment. He had never seen such a big crowd in his life. He looked around and tried to collect some known faces. He felt happy and got inspired when he saw some of his friends whom he basked around with always, at a corner of the gathering. He passed some superlative smiles on them and made up his mind for the experiment.
The Chief asked the boy to start his proceedings. The boy stood up and walked straight towards the mainland. Seeing the two identical persons closely, he even went blanked for a while. He offered prayers at heart for guidance and knowledge. He was at his best on that day; he wore a blue cotton shirt stitched at two places at the back and a dhoti of not much length, which his mother extracted from his father’s old dhoti. He had worn the shirt for only five times: his father bought him the shirt on a festive occasion the previous year only. The cockroaches in the house were responsible for the unwanted spots on the shirt. That was the shirt he would boast off always among his mates. He was bare-footed. A hand-made bag prepared from jute fibres was also hanging across his shoulder. It was the bag his mother had handcrafted for him, which he used while grazing the cattle. Still he was at his best. With permission from the Chief, he made an announcement that he wanted ten-ten persons from the audience who knew the two identical persons. The Chief helped him find the persons he asked for. Within few minutes, ten persons who acclaimed to know the duplicate came up and sat with him. None but the boy was seen with Vinod. He felt pity to see his relatives supporting the duplicate. But the boy was consoling and inspiring not to loose heart for he would clear the darkness. The Chief, though moved by the real story, had to sit and see all that would happen.
They waited for some more minutes expecting some supporters of Vinod from the crowd. The Chief made a final announcement for the supporters but no one turned up. But, the boy knew who the real person was. He began to ask the ten persons one by one in public how and what they knew about the duplicate. With sincerity and truthfulness they all said that they know him for many years. Among the ten, they were friends and relatives of Vinod. They loved Vinod, but they were not aware of the person who they were considering and showing their affections. The duplicate felt glad seeing his supporters opening their mouths shouting in his support. He returned gestures of thankfulness to them. The ten testimonials firmly proved the duplicate as the real one. Then the boy came up on the scene. He asked both to come forward and stand near him. The two did as instructed. Even the ghost couldn’t know what the boy would do next. The boy took out an arm-length bamboo pipe that had a lid from the bag and asked that the one who would be able to get inside the bamboo pipe would be the real husband of the woman. The crowd burst in a laughter hearing the proceedings of the boy. Some from the crowd shouted at the top why he was wasting their time. Vinod, who at a time, believed that the boy would see him justice began loosing his faith. He asked the boy why he created such jokes at such a time. He begged the boy for justice. But, the boy without even loosing concentration kept on saying looking at the eyes of the duplicate opening the lid of the pipe. After a few minutes, he could gain the attention of the ghost. The act of the boy hypnotized the duplicate that he decided to follow the instructions. In a blink of an eye, he transformed himself into smoke and get inside the bamboo pipe. Without loosing a second, the boy shut the mouth of the pipe with the lid. The ghost tried to come out but he couldn’t. The ghost could only repent for his great mistake inside the hollow. The Chief made the first clap followed by the tides of clap from the crowd. The Chief rose from the seat and congratulated him for his witty act with a gold chain. The crowd got amazed again seeing the witty procedure of the boy. The boy handed over the bamboo pipe to the family and asked Vinod to bury underneath his bed.
The family members shared some moments of togetherness shading some mixed tears of joy and happiness. Seeing the scene in their eyes, the crowd threw wishes filled with blessings at the couple. The huge crowd dispersed like warriors of ants into different directions talking about the public prosecution. Some stayed behind to meet the boy and the family. But all the villagers had to reach home before dark. Then evening birds began to sing songs warning the villagers to stay behind closed doors. The noise that curled inside the village was swept away by the evening breeze. Villagers once again had their dinner and went to subside the whole day story under the warmth of the pillows.