Short Story: The Blind Palm Reader
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He was born blind and he didn’t know the world in colours or had any idea of visuals. However, he loved reading and had learnt how to read braille very well. He had heard about the legendary Helen Keller, but he wanted to be better than she was. With a voracious appetite for books, he had read every book of stories translated into braille. He had an extraordinary sense of touch and could access textures and objects very accurately. He started making little experiments of guessing games to test his ability to read by touch. For this tenth birthday, his mother gave him a present on palm reading to encourage him to challenge himself beyond reading braille. Little did he know, this new hobby was to change his life.
He started on this new interest and began to take it very seriously. From tracing the braille with his fingers to identifying the natural lines imprinted on the skin, the little protruding dots of text, he read the book over and over again and tried to find a pattern he could follow and read.
He read his mother’s and grandmother’s palms, for their past and near future. It was incredibly accurate. The word spread and soon, people were queuing to have their palms read- for no fee as the little boy was more than glad to practise his skills and was thrilled by this new talent he’d discovered. He had also gotten better at accessing people’s reactions towards him, from their breathing patterns to their nervous twitches. Being blind, it is more difficult to read reactions of people who discriminate against him, but often he could feel negative feelings generated towards him, and he also felt some people’s skepticism in his abilities. He tried to ignore it and focus on his craft that he had grown to enjoy. Why they would continue to spread the word and go to him to have their fortunes read, he did not understand.
He had not realised that this talent of his was taking a toil on his own health. When he saw too many people a day, he’d feel exhausted and weak. As the Chinese believed that the future fortunes of a person should be kept secret at all cost; by reading the future of others, the reader is losing time on his own life as he reveals the ‘secrets of heaven’, meant only for the deities and gods. Only 12 years old, he looked a good 10 to 15 years older than he was. His mother started to worry and demanded that he stopped this activity before it took his life, slowly, but surely. In the following weeks, his age accelerated and doctors who were consulted could not explain the phenomenon. His hair was turning white and crow’s feet started to form around his eyes, his previously firm young skin started to wrinkle. However, he persevered and continued to read palms as he felt the desperation in voices, hands and the racing heartbeats of people who came to him.
He had tried many times to understand this strange gift he had to read the future. He was no normal fortuneteller, he did not charge for his predictions and he recently discovered that he could read beyond lines. Recently, someone had come to him for a palm reading. However, the texture of the skin felt extremely smooth and he had difficulties tracing the lines on the hands. In fact, he couldn’t find the lines but he managed a reading through the delicate curvatures of the flesh of the palm. Nobody had dared to speak up to tell him the truth. Later, he found out that those pair of hands had once been corroded by mild acid and much of the skin cells had died and the lines on the palms were invisible to the naked eyes.
As time passed, he got better and more accurate at readings. Despite his mother’s warnings and pleading, he didn’t want to give up reading palms as he really enjoyed it and he was glad in some way he had given people relief. Asked whether he actually believed in it, he merely shrugged his shoulders.
“I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter, does it? If it were within my capacity to help others, I’d do it. I say everything as it is, I don’t lie about the bad omens neither do I exaggerate the good.”
He had tried to teach others how to make out the head, heart and life lines and gave simple introductory classes on understand one’s palms. He found it ironic that his own blindness gave him the ability to read the future. He often laughed about it with his grandmother. His grandmother, funnily enough was always counting karma points on his behalf. Reading palms is considered a favour, some people do it for a living, but he did it because he didn’t know what else to do with this skill. For every good reading and bad reading, his grandmother said her Buddhist prayers for the visitors and burnt 3 incense sticks. As they didn’t charge a fee, many gave monetary tokens to express their appreciation and thanks.
One day, an old man walked into his house for a reading. He had a skin disease, which left his whole body and face marked with unsightly bulbous nodes that looked like boils. It looked like he had hard rubber balls buried beneath his skin. He was comfortable with himself and handled the negative attention well. He assured everyone not to worry as his disease was not contagious. He sat down and asked for a palm reading.
“Boy, I have heard about your marvelous talent to predict the future and the tale of your blindness. I have met many people over the years, but I have never heard anything like that. I know that one’s fortunes change over time and the lines on one’s palms move into different positions. I have not had my fortunes read in years and I ask of you to make a reading.” He gently raised his hands and rested them on the pillow on the table.
“Dear Sir, I will read your palm like I have done the others. I cannot explain this phenomenon that has happened to me, but I want to help when I can.” He reached over and took the palms swollen with nodes.
“Wait, these lumps on your palms spell something in braille! I can read your lifeline and heart line, but there is a message formed by the bumps on your hand…” he was suddenly excited by reading the combination of braille and palm lines.
“Hold on, I want to be very sure about this. It reads ‘dare’ in Braille… These bumps on your palm read ‘dare’. Do you have any idea if it has any significance? Your lifelines read well, and your head and heart is clear, there is something positive awaiting you in the future. But I don’t know what to make of the braille ‘dare’.” The boy was thrilled by the incident.
“Well, young man, thank you for your reading. This is the first time I have heard about the hidden message in my palm. These bumps have been on my hands for years and I have borne the discrimination and disgust of others repeatedly. I don’t know what ‘dare’ means. I’m terribly sorry. Thank you for your patience with me.” The old man withdrew his palm.
“Wait, there must be a way to interpret this. Are you sure that you know nothing of this?” The boy was determined to discover the mystery, whatever it was.
The Italian verb ‘dare’ is to give and in English to be brave and take risks, whether or not either had an implication on the message of boils, it served to teach the boy acceptance – some things you cannot and will never understand. He wasn’t able to let go of the puzzle and aged beyond his years before giving into an unfulfilled death.blind, braille, palm reader, short story