MADHAVACHAARI SHOOK ALL over as he stepped into the dimly lit office. A faint tinge of cheap lilac room freshener worked its way up his nostrils. Two orange lamps were lit behind the seated figure of Velayudhan, the man’s long face shrouded in shadow. The desk at which he sat was neither ornate nor expensive. Just four slender legs and a thin plank of wood resting on top, fastened with a nail at each joint. There were only two chairs in the room, one on which Velayudhan sat, and the other facing him, presumably waiting for a visitor.
Velayudhan made no movements as Madhavachaari appeared at the door. He disengaged his right hand from his left, and with one long finger switched on another orange light, this one installed on the wall adjacent to them.
It was six in the evening, beginning to get dark.
Madhavachaari allowed himself to look at Velayudhan’s face – this was only the second time he was seeing the man, and for all intents and purposes he seemed identically dressed: a flowing saffron robe; a black tunic around the neck; bare feet. His forehead was broad, and his hands and wrists sported no ornaments. The man was almost completely bald. He had a round, fat face that smiled easily, a second chin that bobbed up and down when he spoke.
He had a soft, soft voice. Madhavachaari had thought at the first meeting – back in Palem, under the banyan tree by Mandiramma Banda – that this fellow was either a monk or a madman.
As he walked up to the desk and stood next to the empty chair, he recalled that conversation, and he became more and more agitated. Fumbling in his pocket, he pulled out the Lucky Strike ticket and flung it on the table with disgust.
‘How did you do it?’ he asked Velayudhan. ‘What is your trick?’
Velayudhan smiled at the half-torn ticket, but otherwise made no moves to touch it. ‘Will you not sit, Chaari gaaru?’ he said. ‘I told you of my trick last week. Of course, I have all the time in the world to discuss it again –’
Madhavachaari felt a wave of helpless anger well up inside him. He himself was a tall, thin man, and he gripped the back of the chair to yank it back from the table. He placed his satchel on his lap and sat. He licked his thick moustache with the tip of his tongue, and shook his head.
‘No,’ he said. ‘That won’t do. Tell me what your trick is. Are you and Kamaleshwar working in cahoots? Are you out to trap me?’
‘Who is Kamaleshwar?’ asked Velayudhan mildly. Nothing seemed to surprise or faze the man, Madhavachaari noticed, and it irritated him further.
‘Kamaleshwar is the man who runs Lucky Strike!’ he said, reaching into his satchel and clutching at his book of zodiac signs for support. ‘Don’t pretend you don’t know him. How else could you have told me the number of the winning ticket?’
‘I told you how I know,’ said Velayudhan. He raised his hand slowly up to the side of his cheek, and scratched himself with an index finger. The sleeves of his robe were long enough to cover his wrists, and when he raised his arm Madhavachaari saw the tattoo of a coiled serpent on the crook of his elbow. ‘It appears as though you’re not convinced yet.’
‘I am not convinced at all,’ said Madhavachaari. ‘Do you take me for a fool?’
Velayudhan smiled with his teeth showing. They were serviceable, nondescript teeth. They did not glint malevolently in the light. Madhavachaari wanted them to. Something – anything to hint that this fellow came from someplace dark.
‘I find it ironic that I cannot convince an astrologer that I can see the future,’ said Velayudhan. His hands came to rest together on the desk in front of him again. ‘Don’t you?’
‘I am not here to debate the ironies of life,’ said Madhavachaari, lapping at his moustache again. Even though he was wearing a dhoti and a loose-fitting cotton shirt, he felt itchy all over. ‘I have come to ask you what you want. If you’re not going to tell me how you pulled that trick, at least tell me this. I am minding my own business over there in Palem. Why did you seek me out?’
Velayudhan shrugged. ‘I told you. I have a business proposition for you. You and I will be partners.’
‘If you can see the future, then you must already know what my answer is.’
‘Certainly,’ said Velayudhan. ‘I do. That is why I am not surprised you’re here.’ He thought for a moment about what he had just said. ‘I am never surprised – at anything that happens to me.’
‘Yes, yes,’ said Madhavachaari. ‘You’ve already seen it.’
‘As far as I am concerned, it has already happened.’
Madhavachaari paused for a while, and asked himself to breathe. He had broken into a cold sweat in the last few minutes. A part of him wondered if it was the stuffiness of the room, but here was Velayudhan no more than three feet away, perfectly at ease.
Out went the arm. A finger jabbed at a switch. The ceiling fan began to turn. But Madhavachaari still felt like scratching himself all over.
‘How much did you win?’
‘Two thousand rupees,’ said Madhavachaari. ‘But you must know already.’
‘You misunderstand,’ said Velayudhan, almost as if he were saying sorry. ‘I am not omniscient. I only know everything that has ever happened to me. So for instance, I know that I have asked you how much you won, and that you told me.’
‘If you already knew, why did you ask?’
‘I cannot stop myself from asking, any more than you can go back in time and stop yourself from buying that ticket.’
Madhavachaari said, ‘Then I should have not answered your question.’
Velayudhan smiled. ‘But didn’t you?’
‘You’re playing with me,’ said Madhavachaari. ‘I don’t know what your game is, but you’re trying to trap me. You’re trying to take me for a ride. You’re – you’re a big conman!’
Velayudhan listened with utmost calm on his face. Then he nodded. ‘Would you like me to give you another piece of information? There is an India-Pakistan cricket match happening this Friday. Do you know about it?’
Madhavachaari shook his head.
‘Doesn’t matter. If you go down to the end of this street, you will find a hotel called Bharat Hotel. The man sitting behind the counter is a man named Ramesh Reddy. Ask him if he is accepting bets on the match.’
Madhavachaari smiled himself now, as he saw through the plan. ‘Only two teams are playing, aren’t they? There are fifty-fifty odds that you will be right.’
‘Of course,’ said Velayudhan. ‘I am asking you to bet some money that the fifty eighth, seventy third, and one-hundred-and-fourth balls of the first innings will be wides.’
‘If you want, I can give you a list of all the balls that will be wides in both innings,’ said Velayudhan. ‘But that will arouse Ramesh’s suspicions.’
‘If you know this,’ said Madhavachaari, ‘why aren’t you betting on it?’
Velayudhan’s eyes softened in sadness. ‘I don’t know why. All I know is I didn’t.’
‘Right,’ said Madhavachaari, catching a sneer from appearing on his face. ‘You can only see the future, not change it.’
Velayudhan nodded. ‘I know that I told you about it.’
‘And did I or did I not bet on this information?’
‘I don’t give you the answer to that question.’
‘Why not? Why can’t you decide to answer the question right now?’
Velayudhan watched his visitor with eyes that suddenly seemed to burn. He made a tent with his fingertips pressed together, and for a long time said nothing until Madhavachaari looked away.
‘Remember,’ he said. ‘Fifty eight, seventy three, one hundred and four. Write them down if you want.’
‘No need,’ said Madhavachaari. ‘I will remember. How much should I bet?’
‘As much as you want.’
* * *
On Saturday morning, Madhavachaari arrived in Dhavaleshwaram by the first bus. He was in a similar state as he had been on his first visit to Velayudhan’s office. Now he stopped at the shoe store on the ground floor and pretended to look for a pair of sneakers.
As the sales boy was fitting his foot, Madhavachaari asked him, ‘Do you know the man who occupies the first floor office?’
‘Yes, sir, Velayudhan is his name, they say,’ said the boy. ‘Paid the owner a year’s rent in advance. Just comes in and sits here all day.’
‘What does he do?’
‘No clue. Brings his lunch. Makes small talk whenever he sees us. Seems to have a big interest in cricket. Politics. You know, the usual thing. How does this feel, sir?’
Madhavachaari walked around in the sneakers for the boy’s benefit, then examined himself in the mirror and said they did not suit him. ‘I will come back later,’ he said.
Upstairs, he found Velayudhan in exactly the same pose in which he had left him the other day. Only this time the lights were off, and the man’s scalp was dotted with beads of sweat. This relieved Madhavachaari a bit, for he was beginning to think of Velayudhan as an ethereal being.
Last night, after going back home late, he had dug out his copy of the Garuda Purana and read everything he could find about the Kimpurushas. Among other things, he had read that they did not sweat, and that they had tripartite knowledge – of all that had happened, of all that was happening, and of all that was about to happen. He’d wondered if this fellow was one of that breed who had lost his way. But now, seeing a lunchbox on his side, and seeing him perspire like the rest of us, Madhavachaari dismissed the notion.
‘So that is your game,’ he said. ‘You spot-fix cricket matches.’
Velayudhan said, ‘I wish I spot-fixed cricket matches. But I don’t.’
‘That is exactly my point. If you knew which balls in the match yesterday were going to be wides, what stopped you from placing bets on them?’
Velayudhan’s eyes again burned like they did the evening before. His voice remained soft, however. ‘A man who knows the future does not get free will,’ he said at last. ‘Do you understand that?’
‘I do understand that in a theoretical sense,’ said Madhavachaari. ‘But if you had decided to go to Bharat Hotel last night, and if you had decided to bet on the wides, what would have stopped you? Would you be struck down by lightning or something?’
‘I am incapable of deciding anything,’ said Velayudhan. ‘My whole life has already happened. I am just living it out.’ He looked at the wall next to him for a few moments. ‘The future, for me, is as dead and immutable as the past is to you.’
‘So it is all preordained, you’re saying,’ said Madhavachaari. ‘And it will happen the same way no matter what you do.’
‘It will happen the same way,’ said Velayudhan, ‘because it has already happened that way. Think of it as a movie I have watched – and I am part of the movie and outside of the movie at the same time. I know what happens, what is going to happen, but I cannot change it. The movie is already made.’
Madhavachaari shook his head disbelievingly. ‘I cannot believe you’re still telling me this. So you know everything! Everything that is going to happen in the world. When is the human race going to die?’
‘I don’t know everything,’ said Velayudhan seriously. ‘I have only seen my movie. So I know when I will die. When and how. And after I die, the movie stops. Whatever I know of the future, I know it in relation to my life. You could say that I know all the future events that will happen to me until I die.’
‘And all the future actions that you will take in response to the events.’
‘And it never strikes you to do anything other than the responses that you have seen in the movie.’
Velayudhan appeared puzzled. ‘How can I change something that has already happened?’
‘It’s the future!’ said Madhavachaari. ‘It has not happened. The present faces an infinite number of futures.’
Velayudhan smiled and inclined his head. ‘But only one future is selected at any time. The words future and past are meaningless to me. So is the word choice.’
‘So you’re saying you had no choice in approaching me,’ said Madhavachaari.
‘Correct,’ said Velayudhan.
‘And you had no choice but to tell me the winning lottery ticket number.’
‘And you had no choice but to tell me which balls in the match yesterday were going to be wides.’
‘And you know what I am going to say right now?’
‘Even if I decide to change it at the last moment?’
Velayudhan’s second chin bobbed up and down in mirth. ‘That decision to change it in the last moment is already made. For you it may appear as if you’re making it. I know that you’ve already made it.’
‘You’re speaking to me in riddles.’
‘Not at all,’ said Velayudhan. ‘I am explaining it to you as plainly as I can. I know every single detail of our conversation.’
‘Tell me what I am going to say next!’
‘I could go one better,’ said Velayudhan. ‘I can see that you’re not yet convinced I am telling you the truth. Here’s another little prediction, as you will call it. Do you know of a company called Oil and Natural Gas Corporation? ONGC for short.’
‘Yes,’ said Madhavachaari.
‘On the twenty seventh of this month,’ said Velayudhan, ‘the stock price of ONGC will drop 6%. And on the twenty ninth, not the twenty eighth, note, it will go up around 8%. On the twenty eighth, it stays relatively flat. So remember: 6% down on the twenty seventh, flat on the twenty eighth, 8% up on the twenty ninth.’
Madhavachaari ran his fingers through his hair. ‘I – I don’t have a stock trading account. I –’
‘You can open one,’ said Velayudhan. ‘There’s enough time. Or you can just watch the market and see if I am right.’
‘But you know what I am going to do.’
Velayudhan smiled, with a hint of mischief in his eyes. ‘I certainly do.’
* * *
On his third visit to Velayudhan’s office, Madhavachaari appeared tired. Contented, yet tired.
He plopped down on the visitor’s chair and faced the erect seated figure of his host.
‘Okay,’ he said, ‘I give up. I don’t know what your game is, and how you’re performing all of these feats – but I figured I don’t need to know. If you want me to be your partner, I’d be foolish to say no.’
‘You would, yes,’ said Velayudhan. ‘How much did you make in the three instances?’
‘You already know, don’t you?’ said Madhavachaari.
Velayudhan shook his head. ‘If you don’t want to tell me –’
‘No, no, I will. I am so grateful to you, of course I am. I told you I made two thousand in the lottery. In the cricket match I bet the two thousand – and I got back six thousand. With the market I went a little further. I put in six thousand of my own money. Shorted ONGC on the twenty seventh. Went long on the twenty eighth, sold on the evening of the twenty ninth. In all I pocketed thirty thousand or so, after commissions and fees.’
‘Not a bad haul.’
‘Not at all,’ said Madhavachaari. ‘Listen, I should give you a cut in this –’
‘Ten percent,’ said Velayudhan.
‘That’s it?’ said Madhavachaari. ‘I was thinking you deserve to have fifty percent. Now, should I overrule you and give you just ten? Or shall I go with my gut and give you fifty? How much do I actually give you?’
Velayudhan smiled. ‘No matter how much you try to change reality, Chaari gaaru, it remains conserved.’
‘No? You’re not going to tell me?’
‘You gave me ten percent.’
‘Ha!’ said Madhavachaari. ‘Now I will change reality and give you twenty percent instead.’ He dug into his satchel, counted some notes, pulled them off their bundle, and placed them on the table. He slid them across at Velayudhan with a sense of triumph.
Quietly, the other man pocketed the money. He brought his eyes to focus on Madhavachaari.
‘Does this not prove – oh.’
‘Yes, Chaari gaaru,’ said Velayudhan. ‘What does it prove?’
‘You will say that this is how it happened.’
‘That is the only way it can happen,’ said Velayudhan.
The two men sat looking at each other for a while. Madhavachaari found himself relaxing in Velayudhan’s company now. The itchiness of the first visit was now replaced by a soft glow of expectation. If a week in this association made him richer by so much, what would even a year bring? He could easily retire, buy one of those expensive lots in Palem West, send Raghu to one of those American universities. Harvard? Stanford? Why not both one after the other? Even if the boy was not good enough to get in on merit, Madhavachaari could make his money talk.
Velayudhan wet his lips with his tongue, and shifted a little forward in his chair.
‘Now,’ he said. ‘What I have in mind is a partnership in a fortune-telling business. You will be the front end of this firm. For all intents and purposes it will be you who is doing all the work. You will bring your charts, you will speak of planets, you will do just the sort of thing that you do right now. I will supply you with the predictions.’
Madhavachaari opened his mouth to ask a question, but Velayudhan raised an arm, showing his serpent tattoo again. ‘Questions at the end, please. I have already set up the office here in Dhavaleshwaram. Not this one. A bigger place. We need a bigger place.
‘The way it will work is that you will make dire predictions, and you will tell people that it is very unlikely that you can change it. But you promise them that you will try. You will charge them a fee for a number of activities that they must perform to have a small chance of escaping the prediction. But of course, it won’t work.
‘At the same time, we make happy predictions too. We tell them of all the good things that await them in their future. Here, too, you will hedge your bet. You will say there is a slim chance that the person may ruin their good fortune by performing black acts. You will charge them money here as well, to ward off the evil eye and to keep their good luck intact.
‘On both occasions the predictions will come true. But you win on both sides. The person who received a bad prediction from you will blame himself for not doing enough to prevent it from happening. The person who received a good prediction will give you all the credit for warding off all the misfortune. Both people will marvel at your powers.
‘Our arrangement will be the same as it has been for these first three predictions. Ninety percent to you, ten percent to me. We divide the winnings every month. At any point you want to stop working with me, just give me a month’s notice and I will look for someone else.’
Velayudhan stopped talking, and went into a state of repose. Madhavachaari waited for a while. Then he said, ‘Can I ask my questions now?’
‘You can do this with any astrologer, right?’
‘I needed someone in this area,’ said Velayudhan. ‘I asked around. Your name came up a lot.’ Then he seemed to have thought of something, and smiled. ‘Also, I don’t make decisions, remember. All I know is that I contacted you and no one else.’
‘Right,’ said Madhavachaari. ‘You’re at an advantage over me here.’
‘How is that?’
‘You know exactly how long we’re going to work together, how much we’re going to make, when we will break up and go our separate ways – you know everything about how this business turns out in the future.’
‘That is correct.’
‘And I don’t know anything,’ said Madhavachaari. ‘I am stepping into it blind, whereas you can see everything.’
Velayudhan paused and inclined his head. Madhavachaari did not know whether this was an unexpected turn in the conversation, or whether this had already happened and this was how he knew he had reacted.
‘That is why I am offering you ninety percent of the takings,’ said Velayudhan at last. ‘In the hope that it compensates you for the advantage – as you call it – that I possess.’
‘I do appreciate it is that advantage precisely that is going to make us money,’ said Madhavachaari. ‘Please don’t think I don’t get that, because I do.’
Velayudhan nodded. ‘I know that you do. Thank you. Are these terms acceptable to you?’
‘I may need to think them over a couple of days. Okay?’
‘Of course,’ said Velayudhan cheerfully. ‘Our seed capital is going to be four lakh rupees each. So I will put in four lakhs, and you will put in four lakhs. If and when we choose to stop working together, we will split the capital in the same ratio – ninety percent to you, ten percent to me.’
‘What is this seed capital for?’ asked Madhavachaari.
‘Primarily marketing,’ said Velayudhan. ‘Paying the rent of the office. Other expenses. Public Relations. We will need to get your name out there. Have interviews of you on television, newspapers, that sort of thing. If my projections are even wildly conservative, I am expecting that we will make about forty lakhs in the first year. Thirty six to you, four to me.’
Thirty six lakhs in one year. Madhavachaari took a moment to consider what that meant: a house in Palem West. Retirement. A hefty contribution to Raghu’s university fund. Diwali saris for Prameela.
Then he cleared his throat. ‘Your share of it is rather less than mine, isn’t it?’
‘It is designed that way,’ said Velayudhan. ‘As you rightly pointed out, I am at an advantage here. I own the skill, and I know exactly how many years I have in front of me during which I can exploit it. I also know how much money I make in the future, in all my remaining years combined.’
‘And it is much more than thirty six lakhs?’ asked Madhavachaari.
Velayudhan smiled. ‘I could give you any answer to that, Chaari gaaru, and you wouldn’t know what to make of it.’
‘That is true,’ said Madhavachaari. ‘That is true.’
‘But I will say this,’ said Velayudhan. ‘You make a lot more than thirty six lakhs in your association with me.’
‘Does that mean we will work together for longer than a year?’
‘Much longer,’ said Velayudhan.
‘Can you – maybe you can give me a hint as to how much longer we’re talking about here?’
Velayudhan chuckled, and his chin bounced up and down. His cheek fat almost covered his eyes. ‘Now, Chaari gaaru, when you’re at home thinking this over, please remember that you must get back to me by tomorrow night.’
‘You already know whether I will say yes or no.’
‘That’s right,’ said Velayudhan. ‘I do.’
* * *
Velayudhan shook hands with Madhavachaari on the morning of next Sunday, in his office.
‘All the formalities are finished, Chaari gaaru,’ he said, handing over a laminated folder containing a sheaf of papers. ‘This has been attested by my lawyer, signed by the both of us. One copy for me, one for you.’
Madhavachaari took his copy of the contract and pushed it into his satchel. He allowed his eyes to linger for a moment on the bundle of currency notes that he had just passed over to Velayudhan’s side of the table.
‘I will deposit this money into the escrow account right away, as soon as you leave,’ he said, his voice very soft. ‘I cannot touch this account without a signature from you. Page two of the contract has the details of the account. State Bank of India, Dhavaleshwaram Branch. You can walk in anytime and ask to examine the account.’
Madhavachaari nodded, and upbraided himself to think like a businessman. This had been his problem forever. He thought too small. An investment of four lakhs now is going to grow into thirty six lakhs by the end of the year. He forced himself to think of the house in Palem West, the smile on Prameela’s face when he brought home a Mysore Silk sari.
‘Now I must remind you, Chaari gaaru,’ Velayudhan was saying, ‘that we will keep this office for the rest of the year. Will help us with odds and ends. But we will be working primarily out of the other office. We’re getting some painting done as we speak, and we’ll have it ready for you by Tuesday. That’s day after tomorrow. Will you be able to come down in the afternoon sometime on Tuesday?’
‘Tuesday – I don’t know if it’s an auspicious day…’
‘Ah,’ said Velayudhan, smiling, ‘I see. We’re not going to begin operations on Tuesday… but it’s up to you. Any day this week that you think is appropriate, just come over. You will find me here.’
Velayudhan gave him his hand once more. ‘To a long a prosperous journey.’
Madhavachaari returned the man’s handshake. And told himself that he should smile.
* * *
On Tuesday morning, Madhavachaari was woken up by a letter that came through registered post. The ‘from’ address on the enveloped merely said, Head Post Office, Dhavaleshwaram.
With a sense of foreboding – for what good thing could happen on such a day? – Madhavachaari tore open the cover and began to read.
He stood at the front door for a long time afterward, wondering what the meaning of it all was. And yet, somewhere deep inside him, he understood.
* * *
To say you’ve been duped would be accurate. To say that I duped you would also be accurate. But the extent to which you’ve been duped – perhaps that is debatable.
If you were to narrate this little tale to anyone in your acquaintance (which I do not recommend), that person may conclude that I am just your garden variety charlatan. Of course, this friend of yours would say, I must have partnered with that lousy man who runs Lucky Strike in Palem. I must have had Ramesh Reddy at Bharat Hotel on my payroll. I must have deep connections to the cricket spot-fixing industry as well. And I must have some insider knowledge about the workings of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation. Armed with this, I slowly snared you into my net until you believed me – and then I sprung the trap.
That would be a reasonable summation of events. It would also be wrong. I have never met the owner of Lucky Strike. I don’t even remember his name, though I recall you told it to me. I have never met Ramesh Reddy either in person. I still don’t know what he looks like. And I have little to no interest in cricket or the stock market. How, then, did I pull those – those tricks, if you will?
The explanation is simple. These were not tricks. I truly am who I claimed to be. I see the future and the past as one. Correction, I see my future and my past as one. I know everything that has happened to me, and everything that will happen to me. It is knowledge that I was born with. It took me a good number of years to realize that I was not like others in this respect. But once I did – well, nothing truly changed, you understand. Nothing truly changes in my world. Ever.
You will have many questions now. You will wonder why a man who is given such a wonderful gift is bothering with small matters such as lightening your wallet by four lakh rupees. Why am I not out there changing the world? Why am I not doing big things with what I’ve been given? Why did I seek out you alone among all the astrologers in the Dhavaleshwaram area? Why, why, why…
And I wish I had answers to give you. But I have none. I’ve never asked the question ‘why’ in my life. I never make choices. I never decide anything. These concepts, in fact, are so alien to me that I don’t even know what they mean. I go through life being both puppet and puppet-master at once. I am the one watching the movie – a movie I have seen a number of times – and I am also playing me in the movie. Can you understand how this must feel? Because this is the only way I can explain it.
Once you understand this, your questions answer themselves. Why am I not out there changing the world? Because I’ve seen the movie. I’ve not changed the world. Why am I not doing big things? Because I’ve seen the movie. I’ve not done any big things in my life. In fact, I have done nothing but move from village to village, under new names and new identities, finding small people like you to fleece. I did this for years and years until I died alone in a house not far from here – wherever ‘here’ is for you.
Do I like it? I can’t say I do. But can I change it? I can’t say I can. No more than you – or any normal person – can change their past.
Sometimes I wonder if this determinate nature of my life is common or rare. For instance, is your life as determinate as mine, and only the knowledge of it has been kept from you so that you retain an illusion of free will? Or is it that whoever is running this big show sometimes makes a mistake and people like me are the result?
Does the present indeed face an infinite number of futures? Or is life merely marketed to us that way?
What are the answers to these questions? I will never find out. I know this because I have never found out. Maybe there will be another of my type in the future whose life will include research into matters such as this. I think that people of your kind and people of my kind will have to collaborate – in a much grander way than you and I did, I am afraid – in order to puzzle out some of these pieces.
But for us, Chaari gaaru, I am afraid it is goodbye. I will never meet you again. As solace, let me offer you this possibility that you were always destined to lose your four lakhs, no matter what you did. Your life is as rigidly set in stone as mine. You just don’t know it. So there is no universe in which I did not con you. There is only one universe, one reality. And it conserves itself.
The alternative? The alternative is to think that you had free will and choice throughout, and that you could have escaped my wiles if you perhaps did this or did not do that. Believe this if you must, but I think the first option is much kinder – to both of us.
One final thought before I leave: not all gifts are given to the deserving.