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The invisible spirits who had rushed past me and flung themselves into the Shusta River did not retrace their steps; they were blown away just as the breeze carries away any scent.

I was deeply worried that my loneliness had probably caused me to wander into the fantasy lands of poets. I am a humble tax collector; this sudden whim for poetry was out to destroy my peace. I must have a good meal, I said to myself. An empty stomach is the repository of all kinds of illnesses. I called my cook and asked him to prepare a Mughlai dish rich in spices.

Waking up the next day the whole incident appeared to be ludicrous. In a happy frame of mind, I put on my sola hat and driving the carriage on my own, I proceeded to my work-place. I had to file my quarterly report on that day and, therefore, was likely to be delayed. But even before the evening set in, I felt a strong desire to return to the house. It was such a strong urge that I felt I could not dally. Leaving my report uncompleted, I returned to the house.

The hall opposite the landing was very large. The silence in this hall, which was supported by three rows of huge pillars, was always resounding owing to its largeness. On that evening, the lamps had still not been lighted. When I pushed the door open and entered, I sensed a great commotion; it was as if a meeting had suddenly been disrupted, and the people were rushing out of doors and windows and all other possible exits to make their escape. I could see nothing and, so, the feeling caused me to remain transfixed where I was. While standing in the middle of that large, uninhabited room I could hear the sound of water from a fountain spattering against white marbles, someone was playing the sitar, there was the clanging sound of large bells, I could hear caged birds singing and the call of storks from the garden; all these created a symphony of the spirit world.

I was so enchanted that I felt that this untouchable unreality was the only truth in this world, and everything else was an illusion. The fact that I was myself - that is, I was Mr so and so, that I was the eldest son of Mr so and so, that I was tax collector earning 450 rupees, and that I went to office in a carriage wearing a sola hat - all these seemed ridiculous illusion to me, and I stood in the middle of the large room laughing my head off.

Just then, my servant entered the room with a lighted lamp. I do not know whether he took me for a mad man but instantly everything came back to me - my name, my father's name, and I also remembered that I was tax collector earning 450 rupees as salary by collecting cotton duties from the markets in Barich. I picked up the newspaper and, sitting by the lamp, laughed recalling my weird illusion of a few moments ago.

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  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu