The Quest of the Sparrows: Part 3
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Book 3: Partibhan's Story
Chapter 28: An offer I could not refuse
Just six months ago …
The harsh ring of my cell phone woke me up. My immediate reaction was confusion. I stared sleepily at the watch. 6 a.m., it blinked. Who needed to talk to me at this unearthly hour?
The ring tone died as suddenly as it had sounded. I turned and pulled the sheet over my head. Just then, the cell phone intruded on my privacy again.
The same number.
I bolted upright. Had the loan sharks traced my number? I grabbed the mobile before it played hide and seek with me again. ‘Hello?’
‘Is that Partibhan?’ The faintly familiar female voice at the other end stopped me from packing my stuff to flee.
‘Guru Parmanand wants to see you.’
If I had been expecting a bolt from the dark, then this would be it. I recoiled at the mention of the name as though I was holding a snake in my hand.
I was familiar with the voice at the other end, but couldn’t recall who it belonged to. ‘Why? And after all this time?’
‘He’s going to depart from the world in a short while.’
‘That’s a roundabout way to say he’s dying. Pity the great, all- knowing, all-powerful Swami Parmanand can’t tame something as simple as death!’
‘He isn’t dying. Your father’s taking samadhi, a voluntary renunciation of the body. But I don’t think you’ll understand. Are you coming to see him?’
‘Is that a threat or a request?’
‘A request; why should I threaten you?’ The woman sounded calm. My verbal assault failed to irritate her.
‘No, I don’t wish to see him. His physical death has arrived twenty years too late for me.’
‘Harsh words for your father. I called not only about performing the last rites, which is your moral duty, but for a more practical and pressing material side.’
‘My father can’t have a material side to him. He’s so spiritual, so holy.’ The sarcastic edge in my tone surprised me.
‘If you take no interest in him at all, then we’ll have no choice but to donate his fortune and close the ashram.’
‘You can all go to hell, or paradise — whichever way you please. I have nothing to do with his ashrams and followers.’
‘Partibhan, don’t pass judgement so casually on us. You’re unaware of the eternal spirit within you.’
‘It’s because we can’t see it on an X-ray, can we, Sneha?’ I finally recognised the voice of the woman speaking to me. She was my father’s first disciple. Fair, tall and almost thirty-five — her picture came into sharp focus in my memory. She had been with my father from the time he was a non-entity to his present status as a world-renowned, miracle-performing saint.
‘Are you coming?’
‘Don’t you understand simple replies anymore?’
‘I’m talking about the trust your father owns. About three billion dollars, and all legal. You wish to say goodbye to all that? This, when you’re on the run from loan sharks? You’ve lost a finger already; you want to lose your life?’
I gulped. Now I was awake. I mean really, really awake. They were thorough with their homework. Three billion dollars. Dollars! Mine! I looked at the suitcase I had hurriedly picked up in my anxiety to leave the hotel. It reminded me of my constant state of panic. I was a desperate man on the run.
‘Are you still there?’
‘Just to inform you, both wills are ready. One of them donates all the fortune owned by your father to hospitals and NGOs, and the other is in your name. If you see him and accept the plan he has for your future, the fortune could be yours. If not –’
‘I don’t care …’ My lips were dry. I was afraid she might believe me.
‘We’ll wait for you till this weekend. You decide. Goodbye!’ The phone went dead.
I stared at my cell. From being a poisonous snake, it had transformed into a magic wand which could change my financial health! Three billion dollars! And she said it could belong to me. The only question haunting me was how I would contain my hatred towards my father without jeopardising the inheritance.
I decided that I couldn’t postpone the trip. I was tired of living in dingy rat-holes. The opportunity was irresistible.
In less than five minutes, I was heading towards the railway station to catch a train to Manmad.
From my first novel published in 2011. You can buy the book here in paperback or kindle edition.