Hari Prasad was the most sought-after man in the marketplace. A palmist rumoured to be the best in the area, he lived-off people’s hands as he was believed to possess superior qualities of prediction.
All he had to do was stare at the faint little criss-crossing lines on someone’s palm for a little while and bingo, the client would listen astounded, as the palmist laid his life history bare before him.
The client would return home somewhat dazed by what he thought were the amazing powers of the astrologer. Few realised that Hari Prasad had actually said very little that was not a generalisation. Later it might strike some that they had been taken for a ride. But by then it was too late, they had already paid him his fees.
It was hard to believe Hari Prasad could lie. He had the look of someone very grave and authoritative. So people still queued up to have their palms examined and hear a few surprisingly accurate observations about their life – to be followed by a whole lot of nonsense. This was courtesy a few discreet enquiries made during the palm-reading session.
One day, in the middle of one such session, the neighbour’s boy came running to Hari Prasad’s shop: “Chacha (uncle), come home immediately. Someone broke into your house and stole all the valuables,” he said.
At this, Hari Prasad leapt to his feet and began to run very fast. As he ran home, everyone in the vicinity watched him with surprise.
“Hey, he should not be running so fast,” said someone, “surely he knew this was going to happen.”
“How on earth could he have known that?” asked another person. “Do you think the thief served him a special notice that he was going to be robbed?”
“No,” said the first man. “But how could Hari Prasad, the man who foretells everyone else’s fortune, not have foreseen his own? And that too, a theft in his own house?”