“Do you believe in the supernatural?” I asked my audience of three.

“Well, I did speak to a fortune teller while I was in Agra and he asked me to stop travelling and go back home to Germany,” Atul replied smilingly.

“What about you Kroot, what do you think?”

Typical of her to say that it was up to oneself to control his or her destiny.  If one went by outer appearance, Kroot was as petite and feminine and cheerful as they made them, but inside that twenty two year old’s heart there was a woman who could handle every situation. She looked into my eyes as she spoke, and I smiled at the absolute confidence in them.  She was Estonian, a country that had more Orkut users than even India, at a time when facebook had not taken over the world.

A man always asks a question when he wants his audience to ask him that.  And when they did,  I looked away towards a set of men at the table next to us, as they stared at ‘our women’.  Beyond them, the waiters were hurrying past tables, their feet slowly flicking up the sand on the earth.  Each one of them wore a tshirt that said ‘Curlies Crew’.

“I know of a man and he made me change my belief in it all being hogwash”, I said, scratching at the table. I don’t like things that do not make logical sense. But it made Oksana, who had been typing into her mobile phone, raise an eye and give me a sideways glance.  We all like to hear stories that don’t conform to logic.

At best, Belgaum is a tier three town, best known for it being a territory of dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka, its medical college, and lovely weather all throughout the year.  I don’t know now, but till about seven years back there lived a man on the ground floor of a tiffin service building.  He used to drive an auto, but a number of people went to him for he could tell them things from the future. A few boys from my college went to him too, childishly, to know what marks they would score. I think they were all either stupid, or humouring themselves or him.”

The tide was coming in high now, and soon the waves would come up all the way to Curlies. I liked sitting in this shack at Goa’s Anjuna beach and looking at the waves come close, as they did every night. But tonight my back was to the ocean. Back to the story.

A month after we all finished college and left Belgaum, a friend called me up.  As it goes, his younger brother had come down to Delhi a couple of days back for a college entrance exam but had seemingly disappeared. His phone was switched off, and the family couldn’t find any way to contact him. Out of desperation, my friend had called up everyone he knew in Delhi to ask them if they could help in any way.

We did not know how to.  It bothered me, to hear my friend sound like that. The next day he called me again and told me he was going to Belgaum to talk to the auto driver. I thought it was crazy to think that the man could tell him where his brother was, but my friend would not listen to reason. He left the same night.”

I paused, to light a cigarette. They kept looking at me, so I decided to prolong the silence, taking a drag and watching the smoke as it flitted through the air. Every story needs a showman to tell it.

In my head, I would like to think what happened next cannot be true at all, for it sounds ridiculously unbelievable.  My friend met up with the auto driver.

“What did he say?”

To not worry. That the boy had been drugged and kidnapped from Delhi and was in a train at the moment. He  would be in Mumbai next, but would return home safe in three days time.”

I could feel the hair on my arms rise just like the tide behind me.  Also, I don’t know why I screw up my eyes every time I put a cigarette in my mouth. It was almost finished by now, anyway.

It is incredible but it happened exactly like that. The boy actually ended up in Mumbai. A couple of days after the auto driver predicted what he did, the grief stricken family got a telephone call. It was the boy, crying hysterically. He had woken up an hour back and found himself on a beach all alone. Maybe they had drugged him and not expected he would wake up so quick, but anyway the kidnappers were not there.  Panic stricken, the boy ran to the first PCO he saw and called up his family. His family told him not to leave the PCO and took the first flight to the city to get him back. I don’t know man, I know my friend well, he wouldn’t lie to me, not about his brother.”

We drank a couple more beers that night. The dance area had been moved to the first floor and one could barely hear the music down below.  “If we are going to dance, lets go back to Baga” one of the girls said.  So, we trooped out, weaving our way past the tables, flicking up the sand on the earth.

“Want a cigarette?” Atul asked in that nice, soft spoken manner that he always did. I still do not know why I screw up my eyes when I put a cigarette in my mouth.

Neeraj Narayanan

At WeAreHolidays, Neeraj Narayanan is Head of the Content and Digital Media Team. He has a Masters in Advertising & Media Communication, has had experience as a Communication Consultant to the Government of Gujarat, and as a Brand man in the IT giant firm - Cognizant.

On weekends, he conducts Heritage Walks in Delhi.

Neeraj Narayanan – who has written posts on WAH Blog.