The propitious time to ask my friend, Nitish, for the 100 rupees I squandered, heeding his advice, would be soon after his painting gets auctioned.
I hopefully walked towards the auction centre.
Nitish and I sailed in similar boats, struggling to make ends meet. Though not very competent, he at least had art to his credit and made a living by selling paintings on the roadside.
His risible over-confidence about the astrologer’s prophecy that his painting would fetch him a reasonable price today, bemused me. He had quoted 50 thousand.
My situation was pathetic. Being the son of a drawing and painting artist, I had no inclination towards it. I wasn’t well qualified, either, to find a lucrative job.
My father, a nimble-fingered artist, was a philanthropist. He distributed his art almost free and could not afford to give his only son a good education nor leave back a booty.
At thirty, I earned a paltry sum by selling soaps. If only someone could lend me a decent amount, I could start something of my own!!!
“You look het up?” quipped Nitish.
“That astrologer you sent me to quoted a shopworn phrase and usurped the only 100 rupee note I had.”
Nitish sensed the premonition.
“Be seated in that chair,” he pointed towards a seat. “I will join you soon and believe the astrologer; he is a man of virtue.”
Being in no mood to argue, I reluctantly walked towards the chair and was almost planning to stand in a cosy corner rather than being glued to a seat, when a paper on the seat caught my attention. It said, “DON’T LEAVE.”
Why did the words of the astrologer ring in my ears just then? Why did I sit on the chair without debating?
A few minutes later, an older man sat next to me.
“Son, can you help me fill this form?” The septuagenarian handed the auction sheet.
I obeyed and was taken aback when he quoted the starting price of his painting as 4 Lakhs.
“It is a painting in gold filigree done by my son who passed away in an accident last month.” He explained, wiping his moist eyes.
“Before I breathe my last, I wish to donate the proceeds from the sale of this painting to Sadanand sir, the drawing teacher of Vidya Mandir. It was under his auspices that my son mastered the art of painting and earned fame. But I do not have the whereabouts of that benevolent soul. I don’t know if he is alive. In case he is no more, I will want to give this amount to his nearest kin. Only then will my son’s departed soul rest in peace. Maybe the school can help me in tracing him.”
I was unaware that my father had amassed such well-wishers during his lifetime.
The astrologer was right. ‘Opportunities knock at your door only once and maybe today.’
The thought that kept niggling me was, ‘Who stuck the sheet on the chair?’
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