The Comb

There it lay, on the secluded corner of the table in my house. It has been there like that from about 15 years now. It is a comb; rather a piece of some rare metal, which is very much like a comb but it fails to function. The teeth of the comb are like heartbeats of a healthy human being, in a haphazard and fluctuating manner with which you could never comb your hair. I always pondered why we have keep this useless piece of metal in our house. Whenever I ask my father, he says I will tell you when the time comes. I have been asking its significance in our lives but father always said that you are too young to understand it now and it would not make sense to you. This was the answer every time until now; hence I stopped asking the question and waited for him to say it to me.

One day, my father came running to me and showed me the newspaper. He could barely read as his eyes had become weak and his English was very weak. He showed me a picture of a bald guy with a strange kind of sadness on his face but his eyes were shining bright like the stars. It was as if his happiness was hidden in the mask of a sad expression. I was 18 now and I was the best in English in my class. I read the passage and it seemed like an obituary in a newspaper. I told my father the same and he almost had tears in his eyes. I asked why and he said that it is a long story and you would need to sit with me for some time to understand it properly. I happily agreed.

He said “Around 10 years ago, a terrible storm had come to our village and all the raw and kaccha roads were drown in water. It so happened that Mr. Desai, the man whose photo was in the newspaper was halting at a Dhaba nearby. When he left in his scintillating and shining car, it started raining torrentially and he was stuck in the middle of the road. The road had sunk in and the water level started rising. I was standing at the window and I heard some voices. As I searched, I could see nothing but water and mud. Strangely, there were water bubbles in that huge puddle. I was curious and I called out your uncle. We went ahead and saw that the puddle had some spots of red colour. We immediately called a few more people around. The puddle was neglected and everyone ran to his or her houses because of the weather forecast. We soon discovered that there was a car with two people in it. One was Mr. Desai and another was a young driver. We soon rescued them. The rains were still pouring heavily and the car was stuck. Hence, we asked them to stay in our house and took care of them. They stayed for two days.”

He was a very influential and wealthy person in his town. He told his life story and how he struggled since his birth. He was an orphan and he lived in an orphanage throughout his childhood. As he became an adult, he took up a few jobs and finally started his own business. His business flourished and he had earned a great amount of wealth. He mentioned how lonely he was and he missed his family often. He was very delighted and felt great staying with us. 

He soon left for his town as he had a business to run and several employees were waiting for him. He did not have a family and his work was all he had. While leaving, he gave us this strange comb you always keep asking about and told me certain things. “Do not ever lose this comb. Keep it safely and give it to your child when you feel the time is right. If you ever need anything, I am just a phone call away.” He left with this words and he often called us.

 However, he was ill since the last few years and he stopped calling. I almost forgot him until I saw this paper. I am going to his house for his last rites and prayer meeting. Would you like to come?

I agreed. He also gave me the comb and told me to keep it safely forever. It was the first time I held the comb in my hand and it was quite unusual. I never dared to touch it because of the fear my father created in me. However, I kept it with me and left for the funeral. 

The Desai mansion is the biggest house I have seen in my life. It was filled with people and it was pretty evident that Mr. Desai had influenced several lives. Soon, we were welcomed by a man who was almost the age of my father. It took some time, but my father recognized him. He was the driver, which was with Mr. Desai when the incident happened. He was glad to see us. We expressed our condolences. He was rather at peace with the death. He told that Mr. Desai had been struggling for quite a while now and the death was like a freedom from his lifeless existence on earth. I was startled by the  mind-set of the driver. I had never seen death like that and all my life, I was afraid of it. 

After all the rites and rituals got over and finally people started leaving, the driver came to us and insisted to stay with him in the mansion. It was almost evening and it would take us at least fifteen hours to reach home by road. We agreed. The mansion was no less than a maze to me at the first glance. Out of about ten rooms present in the mansion, we were given the one which Mr. Desai used. We were surprised but the driver said that this is what he would have wanted. He said that everything is at its place and if you need anything, feel free to call me. I am in the third room from here. He left us in a huge yet admirable room where in everything was available. We rested for a while and then I started checking out each part of the room. In the side, there was a huge piano with a book on it. The book had a specific page open and there were music notes written in it. I had music as a subject in my school and I enjoyed it. I started playing the piano. It took me a while to get the notes right, but what happened after I hit the right note made me rethink this.

A sharp and shrill sound came as soon as the music ended. The wall shifted apart and there was a secret door with carvings on it. The carvings read,

You would never be able to open this if you were greedy, you would never be able to access this door if you had the best key with you. The answer lies in using something you never used and proving a point which never has been proved.” 

Father and I never had seen such a mysterious door in my life. We were scared, afraid, frightened and at the same time, surprised to see the existence of such things. I did not know what to do ahead and dad too was clueless. We chose to ignore this and close the door. We slept then or at least tried to.

The next morning, we got ready and freshened ourselves. Everything was the best but we could not find the comb. We asked the driver and he said that Mr. Desai had specifically told not to keep any combs in this room after his death. He soon left and I remembered that I had the comb he gave in my pocket. An idea stuck me like lighting.

I played the music notes again, the wall shifted and the door was right in front of me. It had cravings with the writings but what we did not see was a pattern. A pattern was right there at the place of the door handle. The comb was the missing piece of the pattern and we put it in. The door soon opened and we saw lots of money, gold, and some papers lying in a corner. Greed clouded my mind and I was about to leap on it when my dad said no. I controlled myself and I moved slowly to the papers. The papers were his will. The will mentioned dad and me as the next owners of the property and the business! 

The next month , we were roaming around in cars instead of trains but we wore the same old kurta and dhoti, which we always used to. Our lifestyle had changed, we hadn’t!