Death, where is thy sting! It was well past midnight when I finished some mailing work that had remained unattended for a long time. The whole house was asleep and the last noises of the tear jerker on the TV had just been swept away by the silence of the night. It was time for a last visit to the bath room and I was soon headed towards that direction. Remembering the severe adverse criticism I had received more than once about the racket I create during my nocturnal visits to the bathroom, I opened the door gingerly and entered. Suddenly I felt something fall on my head and bounce off. Panicking I switched on the light and there, to my horror, found on the floor before me a fully grown lizard lying motionless with unseeing eyes. The lizards, as you may have noticed, take an eternity before they decide on their next move. From spot A to spot B, they travel in less than 5 seconds moving at an incredible speed but they take almost 30 minutes to decide which way to move. The one that had just used my head as a landing pad was also handicapped by the fact that the floor of the bathroom was still wet on account of the unscrupulous use of water by the previous visitor. And when it comes to moving on wet surfaces, lizards can be as immobile as tunicates. I had, therefore, no alternative but to stay rooted at my spot waiting for the slimy lizard to make its next move. I would not hazard a guess if the lizard had a similar plan of action running in its tiny head which made it even more immobile and it seemed like eternity as we stood there eyeing each other with amazing intensity. I had adopted the famous Lucknowy attitude of ‘Pahle aap’ and was determined not to come in the way of the route the lizard was planning to take. It was an intense war of wits which the lizard finally ended by moving away into a crevice behind the sink where generations of them lived. I heaved a sigh of relief and went ahead with my routine. Next morning, I made a beeline to the bookshelf to pick up the almanac. As you may be aware, Hindu families use an almanac to keep track of festivals, auspicious days et al. They are fascinating books which give you a wealth of information ranging from eclipses during the ensuing year to a general forecast of the year to be. Among other things, there is a page devoted to lizards too. I must tell you that the traditional Hindus always believe that lizards can forecast future events by signs and sounds! Thus the clicking noise that they make predicts a certain event in the family depending upon from which direction they make the noise. Similarly, a lizards falling on different parts of our body also portend certain events. These are listed in every almanac in vogue. I rushed to the lizard’s page in the almanac to see what a lizard falling on head implied and what I saw sent a shudder through my frame. It portended death! My spirits sank and I put the almanac back in its place. I could not help feeling that this would be the last almanac I would lay my hands on as I would not be alive to see the next year’s. I slowly made my way to the drawing room where my Leo Coffee was waiting along with the Hindu. I picked up the paper and ran my eyes through the obituary column to see how many of my own age group had kicked the bucket. There were quite a few there and one bearing even my name. I looked up the ceiling wondering how many of them would have had a lizard falling on their heads as a forewarning and there I saw a fat lizard eyeing me sorrowfully. I felt a slight pain in my chest and I sweated in panic. I knew what it was but I had no heart to tell my family about it. There was no mention in the almanac about a timeframe within which the predicted incidents should happen but I knew it must be round the corner. I made a mental list of things I had to complete before kicking the proverbial bucket. And I set about my task meticulously. Nothing happened for two or three days but I knew that it was just a question of time. The agony of all this suspense was worse than death itself. I looked skywards and implored, ‘Death! Where is thy sting?’ Four days later I heard my daughter telling the servant to clean up and disinfect the bath room as there was a dead lizard that apparently got crushed in the bathroom door. I suddenly felt a wave of relief sweeping through me. The lizard had just foretold its own death by falling on my head. The death that the almanac had listed could be anyone’s and I had undergone all the mental torture believing that it would be mine. Or is it that the lizard took pity on me and sacrificed its own life in order to keep me alive? God knows!