‘It’s That He Needed the Lamps…’

Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

In life there are no accidents, only incidents – Pujya Swami Chinmayananda

This happened a few years ago.

It was on a Saturday. I was following my usual routine of morning walk, consultations at Clinique Ferriere, back home for lunch, rest awhile then set off for some shopping and look-around. I had parked at Monoprix, and after completing my round inside the supermarket, I went at a leisurely pace to the Curepipe market.

About fifteen minutes later I was walking back to my car, carrying my two plastic bags of fruits and vegetables, intending to put them inside and drive home.

Imagine my surprise when I reached the car and could not find the key! My car key is in a ring, along with a couple of other house keys, and it is my habit after I have locked the car to put my finger through the ring so as to hold the bunch more securely. Or so I had thought until then!

Not being able to think clearly at that very moment about what could have happened, I reflexly put my hand in one trouser pocket then the other, and then my shirt pocket: no key ring was to be found. Gathering my senses, I told myself that somehow on my way to the market, I may have loosened the grip on the key ring inadvertently and it would have fallen, and what with the surrounding noise in the streets I would not have heard the tinkling as it hit the ground. So I did what I thought was the right thing: retracing my steps back to the market, past the line of parked cars, the taxi stand, through the lane to Chasteauneuf Street, along the pavements, across the road towards Seetulsingh Pharmacy, go across the junction and head first for the fruit-seller at the corner stall. All the way I looked down periodically at the ground to try and spot my bunch of keys.

After what seemed like a much longer time than I had taken just some minutes ago, I reached the fruit-seller’s stall, and looked about on the ground, with no success, and of course the man asked me what was the matter. I told him, and as there was no customer right then, he joined me to search, again to no avail. I thanked him and entered the market building to repeat the act at the vegetable stall, again with help from the seller and again unsuccessfully.

Both the sellers commiserated with me, and said they would still try again and get back to me if ever they found the key. I thanked them, but clearly I did not hold out much hope of finding it there. So I left my bags at the vegetable-seller’s and said I would be back soon to collect them. In a final bid, before I would take the road home to get my spare key, I decided to once again retrace my steps, this time to the car, and scrutinize the ground a bit more closely. By then I was a little tired, and somewhat stressed mentally, but of course I had no choice but to return home.

It was mid-afternoon, and Curepipe was flaunting its sunnier side a little fiercely that afternoon, so I sweated it out for the next ten minutes. When my maid saw me as I entered the house with empty hands, she enquired where were the bags. I quickly told her what had happened, went to pick up my spare key, and out I was in a jiffy to tread back to the parking lot. I had just passed by the exit of Loreto Clinic when I saw a taxi slowing down by my side. Stopping his car, the taxi-driver lowered the glass window on the co-driver’s side and called out, ‘Doctor, may I give you a lift, where are you going?’ I only recognized him as one of the taxi-drivers at the Curepipe taxi-stand, but he obviously knew me, and as he told me subsequently I had treated a relative of his whom he had himself accompanied to my surgery some years back.

I immediately welcomed his offer as a Godsend, and naturally we got into a conversation. How come you are walking, he asked, and I told him the story. It was my turn to ask him what he had come to the clinic for. Oh, he replied, I have just dropped an old man whose wife is probably dying, and he’s come all the way from the north of the island, alone. And you know, Doctor, this poor chap asked me if I could help him get some earthenware lamps because he wants to do a little prayer. I don’t quite know where to find them because they are generally available only around Divali time.

I concurred with him, but I added that look, I know that one normally buys new lamps for any prayer but given the circumstances, perhaps the person would not mind used ones. I have plenty of those at home, I told him, and many are in fact as good as new, and I would gladly let the man have ten of them. That relieved the taxi-driver, and both of us thought that this was the solution, as really it would be practically impossible to find new lamps in any shop at this time of the year. So he accepted the proposal, and we agreed that he would follow me when I drove back, and would collect the diyas.

I immediately phoned my maid, and told her to get ten diyas, clean them up and keep them ready.

As I reached home, with the taxi-driver behind me, my maid came out and took hold of the plastic bags that I passed on to her. I asked her to bring the diyas, which she had put in a bag that I handed over to the taxi driver.

I went inside, and as I stepped into my kitchen, my maid triumphantly shouted, ‘Missie, ou la cle l’auto!’ holding the bunch of keys up, ‘Li ti dans sac legumes!

But the taxi-driver had the last wise words that afternoon. As he prepared to drive off, he remarked softly, ‘You know, Doctor, it’s not that you had lost your car keys – it’s that he needed the lamps.’

* Published in print edition on 23 November 2012

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