The majestic lake lay in front of Julu’s eyes. This was the place where it had all started. The moonlight was shimmering on the peaceful water as if a million stars twinkling. Maybe that’s what the sky is! A lake upside down thought Julu. But, it wasn’t the time for such musings; this night would decide how the rest of his life would be! The disappointment was smeared on his lacertilian face. He could not decide what he wanted as his last wish. He had asked everyone he knew –his family to his farthest friends, but no one could help him.
As he thought of his disappointment, he noticed how pungent the smell of air was. It was somewhat odd –part moisture, part dead leaves and there was something else –part dead animals perhaps. ‘No time for musings’ he said to himself. He clapped a couple of loud claps and then a silent one. The trees trembled, the water rose from the lake, the dark turned into light and a dark sphere appeared.
A voice came from infinity.
“I sense indecision, Aaka” said the Jinni.
“You’re right. It seems I already got what I wanted from the first two wishes. But this third wish! Urghh!!” Julu grunted. “This third wish is killing me. Give me eternal life, Oh Jinni.”
“You know, I can’t” said the Jinni, “And yes, take it from me, eternal life is of no use. Listen to the voice of experience.”
“Oh kid away, you moron!! Empathize a bit.” Pleaded Julu.
“I told you before also. Wish for an orange or something and be done with it”.
“I can’t just spend my last wish on an orange. Do I look that stupid?” Julu’s eyebrows met each other in a look of disgust.
“As you say, Aaka. I’m just waiting for your order” answered the Jinni.
“But where do I go? Whose advise shall I seek? I have asked everyone I know and all that has been of no use. I’m still stuck.” shouted Julu.
“What if I were to tell you that there is one person whose advice you could seek?” whispered the Jinni.
Julu’s eyes shone in hope.
“He is the sanest person on this planet. Even I seek my advice from him.”
“Who is that person?”
“That’s his name?”
“That’s what he is called.”
“Where can I find him? Why would he help me?”
“He helps everyone, don’t worry about that. As for the location, I will give you a map. You can track him down, Aaka.”
“Hmm,” pondered the lacertilian.
“But there is one condition” interjected the Jinni.
“You will only have four days. On the evening of the fourth day, if you don’t turn up here, then all of your wishes will lapse, and I won’t be able to do anything about it.”
“That’s outrageous” cried Julu.
“I’m afraid, that’s what it is” said the Jinni.
“Okay okay. But this Hoodhound person, is he too far away?”
“No, no. He is in this very Jungle. You can get to him very easily. Four days are more than enough” assured the Jinni.
“Great. You are good, Jinni. Now hand me the location. After these four days, I will be done with these adventures and live a royal life” announced Julu in an elated voice.
“So be it, Aaka, so be it. Here is the location.
“By the way, how will I identify him? How does he look?”
“Well, depends upon the angle from which you see him,” a roaring laugh echoed from infinity. “You will know, Aaka, you will know him. Now, farewell.”
And with the gust of wind, the sphere vanished. Julu stood with a map in his hand. He had forgotten about his wish, interestingly. Now all he cared about was to meet this Hoodhound. He stood facing the lake, and the millions of twinkles in its water. He was to set out on a new journey.
The breezy weather made it really easy for Julu to spend the night inside a tent. The forgetfulness of the morning faded away slowly. He remembered the tete-a-tete with the Jinni from yesternight. It all came back to him not as a memory but as some sort of a quick lightening realization of his character. He acknowledged his hardships from the past. And he smiled when he thought of the two wishes that he had made –the thoughts came rushing of the regal life that he would be living soon.
The palace, the pool, the soft bed, the clean blanket, the clear view of the sky from the window, all this and a lot more would be his. He started with detailing everything: how would the window look? He would have patterns on the window frame –those entangling ones with the flowers in between. He would have the silkiest drapes –yes, yes the shiny ones. He would taste the finest of foods and describe it in a way that a gourmet does. How royal the life would be! The clean floors and yes the garden. How could he forget the garden! He would have lilies, a lot many lilies. Lilies gave peace to him or so he believed. He would have artworks in his house, the most meticulous ones. And his wife would be happy at last! Julu took a long breath and murmured “At last”. His children would go to the best school. But what was the need of school now? They wouldn’t have to earn money. This money would last for generations.
“How happy the life would be: no work and all fun.”
But before that, he needed to make that last wish.If two wishes could give him so much, how much would he have if he made the right use of the last wish too –the last wish. For that, he needed to take the advice of that person. “The sanest person on the planet,”Jinni had said.
Julu opened up the map and laid it out. It was a strange map. He could spot the lake, but other things seemed a little too intricate. He spent some time understanding it, he found that there was this odd looking tree on the map and there was a cross mark near it, that’s where he would find the Hoodhound. He climbed up on a tree, just to get a view of where and how far he was.
It worked. He spotted that tree in the jungle, which looked similar to that strange tree from the map. He found his next destination. And that’s what he cared about. This was the thing about Julu. He didn’t have any vision of his life;the next moment was all that he would always prepare for. As the next move was figured out, he got relaxed like a pig in the mud, and started walking towards that tree.
It was a dense forest, sometimes there was silence, but deafening sound at other times. Sometimes Julu felt movements at his back, but he avoided them as nothing. He wanted to get to that tree and that’s all he knew. He walked and walked and walked a little more, but he couldn’t find the tree. He got restless during the afternoon; he climbed up on a tree again and found that strange looking tree closer. So he walked and walked and then walked a little more. It was evening when he realized that he couldn’t get to the tree yet and it would be so for that day. He was really tired. His tongue was swollen in his mouth; the eyes were heavy as if rocks had been kept on them. He ate some fruits and chose sleeping over worries of tomorrow – the joy of sleeping after working for the whole day.
As he slept like a dog, there was all dark and oblivion in his mind. A figure appeared, he zoomed into it. He was vis-à-vis to the Hood.
Next day, Julu opened his eyes with an inexplicable feeling. It was a bit of nausea, bit unrest, bit assurance too. He had forgotten about the dream, but suddenly there were a gazillion thoughts in his head.
He did his daily choresand started towards the tree. If he could walk continuously for 4 to 5 hours, he would reach there, he thought.
“What do you want?” He asked himself.
He kept on walking with a tempest in his mind.
The strange feeling got stranger. “People want things that they don’t have. I don’t have money, I don’t have a good home to live in, I don’t have servants, though I had been one all my life. It’s my turn now, I want all these things.”
“You already have wished them” as if a voice told him.
“That’s correct.” He affirmed.
“Then, what more do you want?” the voice continued.
“I have no idea. But it seems I want something more. Something more than what I already have wished for.”
“What is it?” the voice whispered.
“I’ve no idea.”
Julu shook his head in defiance. His health had started getting worse. He was dehydrated, he vomited a few times too, his body temperature increased, he needed help.He stopped for a while under a tree, ate some fruits. Since the day he got these wishes, he had been very happy –a little too happy perhaps as his days of toiling were past. But on this day, particularly it seemed, it was of no use. His constant wistful state was making him unhappy, his health worsened as he fainted into a slumber. “What do you want?” asked the voice.
He woke up with a sense of urgency, his health seemed a little better, but he had a feeling that he had lost a considerable amount of time.
“There is no time for sleeping. What have you done?” He climbed onto a tree, just to analyze the distance. It was not that far now. But nonetheless, he had lost a lot of time. He walked and walked and walked a little more. The thoughts kept coming and going. He thought of his smiling wife waiting on the threshold of his gigantic palace. All the people he had known welcoming him on the gate. His kids would become the kind of rich people that he always wanted to be or what he has now become.The person with a supercilious nose, the civilized nape, the movement of hands caressing the air around him, the expression of ‘I don’t care about anything because I have got a lot of money’, the shiny suit, the intellect, the philosophy, the dining, and the chandeliers; Julu would be one of them.
And yes that’s what he wanted to be. So why was he walking now? There was no point, why to drudge now? What more did he want? He could easily become what he always wanted to become. His trudge became slow. He stopped and looked around. There was no palace around him, neither were the chandeliers. It was a dense forest. The birds cuckooing on a distance, the mushy grass and the smell of all kind of turfs mellowed in soil. He had no one around, no one to greet him. What was he looking for? The third wish. What would he get from it? “What more do you want in your life?”
“For the millionth time, listen” a voice said in his head “you have already wished for what you could possibly wanted from life, so don’t travail now, go back. Ask for an orange, and be done with it.”
He stared silently in the blank and started walking again, his gait got slower and slower and suddenly he stopped. He was standing in front of the tree, the strangest of all.
It was already dark when he reached the tree. He was happy because he had achieved his goal for the day. The Hoodhound was not far away now. He set up his tent, and slept.
“What do you want?” asked a voice from beyond. His eyes trembled as he slept on.
At the cross mark on the map, he saw a hut. It had to belong to the Hoodhound. He couldn’t wait to get into it. He walked as fast as he could, before a man stopped him:
Julu turned and found a man standing close to him –a lanky fella, with dense eyebrows and bright eyes. He had wrapped one brown sheet of cloth on his body. It seemed he was some sort of sage.
“Who are you? What is your business here?” enquired the man.
“My name is Julu. I want to meet the hound,” Julu replied. He was out of breath.
“The Hoodhound,” Julu replied.
“The Hoodhound is not here,” came the reply.
“Where is he?” Julu asked.
“Can’t you see, I’m working here,” the man was filtering the grains.
“Please help me, I need the Hoodhound’s help.”
The man looked at him; his look was sober and sincere. He could see the genuinity on Julu’s face.
“He is dead,” said the man softly.
“What are you saying? When?” Julu exclaimed.
“A long time back, it is his temple that you were entering. You are not allowed to go inside, though.”
“B..but” Julu stuttered. “Somebody asked me to talk to him. Oh my God! It’s very urgent” Julu was frustrated, he was about to break into tears. The man walked to Julu, he kept his hand on Julu’s shoulder.
“You seem unnerved. What’s troubling you?”
“I can’t tell you” Julu replied.
“I may be of help.”
“Alright, alright. Have some water and food then. You look famished. You won’t be able to go on like this.”
Julu was at a loss of words. He had walked for three days to find this. He had taken all sorts of trouble to find this, to find a rut standing, a man filtering, and everything but without any answer, without the answer. He decided to tell his story to the man. He spoke with a determined voice.
“Stop” Julu called the man “I think, there is no loss in telling you,” the man came and stood near Julu.
“I met this Jinni by the lake.” Julu started. The man listened intently. “He told me that he would fulfill my three wishes. In my first two wishes, I asked for everything, the palace, the money, the fame, everything. But I don’t know what to ask for my third wish. This THIRD WISH” cried Julu “This third wish had taken the nerves out of me and squeezed them right in front of my eyes. I can’t track my thoughts, my mind is numb, my body is dead, my eyes are rotten, my teeth are about to fall, I am in a bad situation, O good man! This third wish!!” He paused for a moment. “I thought if two wishes could give me so much happiness, what if the Jinni fulfills my third wish too.And I want something more, I desire for more. So, I asked everyone from my family to my farthest friends, everyone I knew. They all said that ‘you already have asked for everything.’ Nobody was of any help. Then, I went to the Jinni again, with my strange trouble. The generous Jinni gave me three more days and suggested me to come here and meet the Hoodhound. He said he is the sanest man on earth and the only one who could help me. But it seems, it was a prank, a terrible prank. I want to kill that playful, sardonic Jinni, right now, with my own hands. I have walked for two and a half days. I have barely slept, I had fainted. I am famished right now. And now, now even the Hoodhound is dead. It was all in vain. I have no idea, what to do now. You said you could be of help. Now, tell me, O sage! What do I do?”
The man stood there listening keenly. He kept on looking at Julu for a while, and then went inside the hut and brought some fruits, and a jug of clean water.
“First, have something. You told you barely slept and are famished. We will talk in one hour. You go and sleep after eating” The man said.
“But? I won’t be able to…”
“You will be able to. I will be back in an hour,” the man said calmly.
Julu ate the fruits. He felt happy. He thought about the man.’ He seemed intelligent. He would help me’ Julu thought and went into deep sleep.
He woke up in the night. There was no one around. Julu got scared. He didn’t know for how many hours he had slept for!
“Where is that man?” suddenly, he remembered.
He went around and searched, but the man was nowhere to be found. Only the hut was left. The fearful hut, the golden color of the dried grass shining in the moonlight like a star rejuvenated. The man had said that it was the temple of the Hoodhound and that Julu shouldn’t enter in it. But it wasn’t the time to be thinking about rules, Julu gathered the courage and went inside. It was dark; the smell of gloominess covered the small room. Before entering into the hut, he was angry at the man, the Jinni, and everything and everyone, but as he entered, every bit of other emotions were replaced by fear. His senses were at halt, he could have opened the door behind him but he did not. He tried to look closely, with his perspired eyes. He found the Jinni before his eyes. He stepped back, faltered, and fell down.
He looked at it again. It was the circle, there was light on the circumference of it. But no, it was not the Jinni. It was just a circle carved out on the wall and superposing the moon behind, at that very moment. ‘Ingenious,’ Julu wondered. It took a moment for him to recover from the shock. He gathered his senses and figured that he could open the door to bring in the light in the hut. So he did. As the light entered, Julu saw the fearful hut turning into an empty space of nothing. There was absolutely nothing inside. Except, there was a book kept on an unadorned wooden block. Julu picked it up. Julu could not believe his eyes as he saw the picture on the first page, it was a visual from his dreams that he had been getting for the last two nights. “What is all this?” he asked himself. “Was that the Hoodhound coming in his dreams every day?” As he turned pages, there was nothing different. Each page had a hood printed on it and there were hundreds of such pages. Julu kept the book where it was and came outside the hut, amazed at what he experienced in there. There was nothing unnatural there, but somehow it gave the unnatural feeling to Julu, an inexplicable feeling. With that feeling, though, he realized that the man was gone, and if Julu waited for him then he wouldn’t be able to reach the lake in time. So he walked.
He walked and walked and walked a little more.
“Why did I even go there? Why am I looking for advice? I wasted my three days. I already have everything.”
“Precisely” the voice popped up in his head.
“Yes. Who is this Hoodhound to advise me? And that Jinni, I will kill him so that he can meet the Hoodhound, and ask for advice.”
“He is already dead” the voice replied.
“Yes, yes. The Jinni is dead, the Hoodhound is dead, I think that man is dead too. Everyone is dead except for me,” Julu shouted. “What the.. What if they all are dead? And they are toying with me. Are they all just toying with me? Am I dead too? Is this all an illusion? What the hell is happening with me? What the hell is happening to me? I can’t take it.”
“So you will waste the third wish on an orange” the voice said.
“Peace. Please, just shut up. I will waste the third wish on an orange?” Julu shouted.
“But I can’t. I can’t. I can’t waste it. I think of the palace, of servants, of fine dining, of books, of libraries, of all the luxuries, they are all too good but they won’t suffice,” he shouted “I want something more.”
“What more do you want?”
“Maybe I want to understand everything. What is happening here? I want wisdom to see things clearly. I am so stupid; I am going here and there to find advice. I want to be wise so that I don’t turn towards others for advice. I want courage so that I don’t cry if I don’t get what I want. I want patience so as to realize that everything takes time; every wish takes time to get fulfilled. Can you give me that? Can you give me that?” he shouted with all his might.
“But you didn’t ask for it, you asked for money” the voice said.
Julu was silent.
“But money is necessary too. All my life, I didn’t have it and look where I got to? I am a servant, a farmer, who toils for all his life and dies.”
“So money could save you from all that?”
“Then ask for an orange and be done with it” the voice replied.
He walked on.
The last day
It was dawn now. The sunlight pierced through the leaves and reached him. He had not slept for a moment at night. He was getting tired, he was about to fall. But if he didn’t get to the lake in time, his two wishes would be lost and his chance of getting rid from his previous life would be done.
As the destination drew nearer, he started thinking about his life.
He was born in a family of traditional farmers. Naturally, farming was the only education that he got.Like his siblings, he got married at an early age. He had good relations with them, with everyone. It was a normal life, and he was content in it. He worked in some rich families for a while to make the ends meet; there he got the taste of money for the first time. He saw how lavishly they lived. He started wishing for money.
“I wished for money for the first time, then,” Julu made a mental note.
He started working in the farms and also took permanent menial jobs in these rich families. He wished and wished and wished some more. He had two kids then. He started teaching them farming. He used to be angry at himself all the time. It seemed he was to give similar lives to his children.
“I started getting angry. I started beating them.”
He was a bit too unsatisfied. His life was in distress, nobody could help him. He got distant from everyone.He knew he could not have any more money; because, he didn’t know how to. Nevertheless, he wanted to be rich.
“I wish, I could realize it when I was a child” Julu longed.
But he was happy as a child; he worked and played in soil. His father taught him about the farm, the wind and which weather meant what. He loved it all. He loved the bovines he had at his farms. He used to walk with them to make them graze. He used to play with their horns and what joy the newborn bovines would bring. He remembered the first time they would learn to run. He used to catch them on the streets of the town and as they grew, they used to turn into silent animals –not the dreadful silent, but the peaceful one. But they remained to be fun; all they wanted was to be itched more and more. He loved animals. Why, then, was he unhappy now? Why then, did he need money, the palace, servants etc. to be happy now? Why, then, he wished for more?
It was evening when he reached the lake. He stood facing it, panting.
The sound of two loud claps and a silent one came from Julu’s hands.
The twilight turned into complete dark, as the sphere appeared. There was some light on the circumference of it.
“Aaka!” the voice came echoing from beyond “You are just in time.”
“Why did you lie to me?” Julu asked straightaway. He was calm.
“There was no one there, no one named Hoodhound. He is already dead. And I think you knew it.”
“No I didn’t.”
Julu looked at the sphere in search of answers, but all he got was a mischievous blank.
“Okay. It doesn’t matter, anyway.”
“I see, you have decided your third wish.”
“Yes I did.”
“I am all ears.”
“Take away my first two wishes.”
“Hah –Why?”the Jinni exclaimed.
“Take away my first two wishes. These wishes make me unhappy, have always saddened me. I want them to go away from my life.”
“How do you know that, Aaka?”
“I have thought a lot in these last days. It is not your Hoodhound’s advice. I did not find him, he was dead. But it doesn’t matter, I have made my decision.”
“So you introspected!”
“It seems a thought through decision. I take back your wishes, O Aaka! Thank You” announced the Jinni.
“Why are you thanking me?” Julu asked.
“I could not fulfill your wishes, but you, on the other hand, have fulfilled mine.”
“I don’t owe you any answer now, Julu. But I will tell you, since you have been through so much. It takes a life out of mefor each of your wishes to realize. For us Jinnis, the lives are like money for you humans. We want to save it, or spend on ourselves.”
“Really? I can’t believe that” Julu exclaimed “But why give wishes at the first place?”
“It’s trade, Julu. You make people desire for more, they transact and when they pay the cost but take nothing that’s when one party is in absolute profit.”
“What cost did I pay?”
“Introspect, Julu. And as for the hoodhound, you’ve met him.”
“No, I haven’t. He is dead.”
“You have, Julu, you have. Whatever you have gone through in last three days is what life is. The realizations your introspection brought you, are like death –death of your previous self. After death, one reincarnates or transcends, some of us, though,remain here doing neither, they become ghosts or Jinni.”
A face appeared on the sphere. It snickered, snickered, and snickered a little more.
Julu was not fooled, he did not notice the snicker, but he noticed the light around the sphere, for the first time.
“You had yours, and I had mine” he mumbled to himself, not a strange voice anymore.