A TRANSCENDENT Excerpt: “The Mantoux Test” by Gargi Mehra

From the stories he had heard, Ravi expected a modern sort of godman, presumably one whose boudoir came alive with the strain of westernised bhajans in the background, while devotees gazed in awe at three-dimensional renderings of their horoscopes. The great man’s appearance, however, held fast to the image of the ideal.

The sadhu’s grey hair lay stacked in a topknot over his head. A saffron dhoti, and a matching stole partially covered his unshaved torso. Ravi envied his physique—though not muscular, the sadhu radiated strength, as if he could lift Ravi on his little finger without much ceremony. The rosary beads hung around his neck, dangling to his bellybutton.

“Tell me, beta. What’s wrong? What is happening in your life?”

The godman sat at the head of the room, on a low diwan with bolsters placed on either side.

A semicircle of similar, low chairs faced him. The sadhu sat bare-bodied in the centre, while his assistants—Ravi was inclined to think of them as his henchmen—flanked him. A young man who resembled a nightclub bouncer had shown him into the room.

Ravi smiled. “Nothing, baba. Life is going on as usual, just some minor problems that I am sure you can help me with.”

“Of course. I am here for you. Show me your left hand.”

Ravi held out an upturned palm. The sadhu clasped it, observing the fine lines etched in its meaty bumps.

“Hmmm, you have a good long lifeline.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that from many astrologers before.” He flinched, worried he’d said the wrong thing and offended this venerable man, but the sadhu didn’t bat an eyelid. He twisted Ravi’s hand this way and that, trying to bring it into sharper focus under the lights. “You are in service, yes?”

“Yes, baba.”

“Not doing business, eh? You could have, though.”

It almost slipped from Ravi that previous astrologers had said this, too, but he wisely let it slide. When the sadhu finished his intense scrutiny of Ravi’s hand, he heaved a great sigh.

“Now tell me, what is troubling your soul?”

Ravi rubbed his palms together, unsure if he had the courage to speak the words that churned in his mind. “It is about my wife, baba.”

“What happened to her?”

Ravi cleared his throat. “I am worried that she is…unfaithful.”

He sucked in his breath and waited for the other man’s reaction. Two of the sadhu’s helpers kneaded his biceps while another served tea in good old-fashioned steel tumblers. Ravi preferred the bitter concoction of coffee to the pungent flavours of cutting chai, but something about the earthy colour of the liquid tempted him. He drained the contents of the steel glass within minutes.

The sadhu set down his cup. “Tell me why you think this is so.”

Ravi was happy to answer this question. His wife Shweta had supplied plenty of reasons, and his imagination filled in the rest. Even the most patient man might suspect his wife of wrongdoings. If only the sadhu knew what he had to suffer.

“So many little things, baba. She stays late in the office even when she has no work. On weekends, she goes shopping with friends, but I don’t know who these people are. Once, she even went dancing with them. She put on makeup and wore a western dress. Luckily, her dress covered her knees, but still. How can I put up with all this, baba?”

The sadhu pursed his lips.

“But tell me, my dear boy, is it not possible that all the reasons you say can be explained away?”

Ravi held the sadhu’s intense gaze. Was he serious? Or did the corner of his lips twitch with the ghost of a smile?




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Gargi Mehra is a software professional by day, a writer by night and a mother of two. She writes fiction and humor in an effort to unite the two sides of the brain in cerebral harmony. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines online and in print.



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Featured Image Credit: Sadhu of India by esam hassanyeh


2 Comments Add yours

  1. I can’t wait to read the entire story on a rather unique premise a man doubting his wife and seeking the Sadhu. The malady plaguing our minds Gargi and so far, love the simple way the story is being weaved.


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