Hira sat at the end of the pavement, staring at the coin that had been dropped into his bowl. His eyes popped out as his brain slowly deciphered the size of the coin. The huge chunky gold made a shimmering contrast with the corroded, sorry dullness of his begging bowl.

“Had this been a mistake?” He wondered.


But Seth, who had been passing by in his Mercedes had deliberately pulled over had dropped the coin.


Hira licked his lips, still unsure. Looking this way and that, he suddenly decided.  Taking courage in his hands, he allowed his  skinny hands to gingerly feel the stranger. As soon as the warm human touch came in contact with cold metal, a deafening thunderclap sounded, a howling wind sang a strange dirge as he swept through trees and darkness snuffed out all hints of light and life.

Hira stood trembling, watching dumbstruck the trees getting uprooted, buildings collapsing and a storm of mud, dust, and smoke furiously kicking everything out of its way.

He clutched at his ragged clothes and bowl for dear life. 

“Was this the end of time?”

The wind howled again, ruffling Hira’s neglected, unkempt hair. The golden coin now rose up, shining with the brilliance of a thousand suns, with the scene of utter devastation providing an incongruous backdrop.

He felt an invisible hand tugging at him and he knew. But he hesitated, as if he instantly knew there would be consequences.

But the billowing wind slapped across his face, as if deciding for him. Hira sighed in resignation and grabbed the coin in his hands.

The coin rotated and started flipping. The scene changed. There were now verdant forests, filled with fruit-laden trees and sweet-smelling flowers and chirping birds, agile animals, gushing rivers, and that beauty called life.

The coin flipped, and stopped mid-way, waiting. Hira looked at the coin and then at himself in surprise. His rags had disappeared. So, had his freckles and all signs of his beggary except for his bowl. He looked healthier and like a man who had lived his entire life in these forests. They beckoned to him, that invisible tug again, at play. Hira allowed himself to go into them; deep, deep, deep.

The dancing trees offered their shade; the solitary caves, a home; the luscious fruits, food; the birds and animals, company.

He had never experienced anything like this ever in his life.

For the first few days, it felt very strange indeed roaming around with an empty begging bowl, not having to beg; and yet sporting a full stomach. 

Some moons passed by. Life was good. It felt like his past life belonged to another time, another birth. He sometimes wondered if all this was a passing dream. Oftentimes, he worried he would wake up and all this would disappear and he would be back to his old life. Other times, he shivered when he thought he heard the clink of the coin whizzing past his ear.

But when he woke up, he was still in the beloved forests. He could go on living here forever. He hardly missed the cold, calculating world of the humans. He had never been part of their world.

Some more moons passed by. The forests with their trees now felt like a prison. The talks of the birds and the animals now definitely noise; and the food just bland and fit for the cattle.

As these sacrilege thoughts pilfered his mind, his friends; the animals and birds surrounded him. They worshipped him. And he suddenly felt not unlike God.  

His eyes gleamed with this newfound realization. He was God! He owned all of them! 

He fashioned the crudest of weapons out of a rock and with it hacked one of his most beloved friends, an innocent, doting rabbit.

As he cut her up and roasted upon a fire, to satisfy his ungodly hunger, the earth’s womb trembled.    

His worst nightmare came true. The wind howled. A storm raged and the coin reappeared. Flashing angrily, it flipped…..

Hira woke up to the sound of a blaring horn, “Get out of the way, bloody beggars!”

Hira hurriedly moved away to a corner of the pavement. “It had been a dream, right?”

Mumbling to himself, he dragged himself around with his begging bowl.


The benevolent Seth watched from a corner, “I always lose to greed….” he sighed and walked away.
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Aarthi Karanam
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