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Do ghosts like hill stations, too?

About Manju Khatri

At the age of 18, Manju self-taught herself to read in Hindi. She made sure that both her sons were educated. Her elder son is an engineer and younger one just finished his Class XII exams. She is a native of Mussoorie, but for the last twenty five years, she has been living with her loving husband and two children in Chandigarh. Manju is incredibly talented, and prides herself for her powers of clairvoyance.

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Synopsis

 

“Baba, is that you?” I said to the shadow of a man whose face I could barely see in the dark.
No one spoke.
It was all silent in my little hut for a while, and then, the shadow began striking a matchstick again – and because the hiss and crackle and pop of the entire activity was so unnerving for me, I couldn’t go back to sleep.
“Baba, if it’s you, please don’t make that noise,” I said.
This time the silence lasted a couple of minutes before the shadow was back to its work.

 

Part 1

What it was, I don’t know, but I still remember the incident that happened with my nine year old self as if it happened yesterday!

 

I am forty six today, even so, I need just close my eyes to see my hut in Tehri, my two sisters sleeping on the makeshift beds and my mother snoring somewhere between them. My father, had migrated from Nepal with my family only a few years ago. He laboured hard and long, in the dense forests, working as a security guard. He would look after the logs of Chirpine that had been cut the previous day by labourers. Since he worked till late in the evening, he would often come back home to have his dinner and then retire to be with his friends for some amusement. They played cards, without involving cash, of course, and then my father would come back to our hut around twelve to sleep on one of the mattresses. My mother and my two younger sisters would have already slept by then. There was no gas or electricity in our hut, the reason why we worked by day and slept early – all of us, except me. In those days, sleep eluded me until the wee hours of the morning and I would often spend time tossing and turning on my old mattress, waiting for my father to join us, and then hear our family snore hard.

It was one such night in the forest. I was awake in my bed, waiting for my father to return. There was only one other hut in the vicinity, a couple of metres away from ours. I could easily hear the hoots and cheers of my father and his friends. Maybe one of them was winning at the game or who knows what they were doing. So, I was staring at the thatched roof of the hut, probably thinking what I was going to do with my sisters the next day, when I heard this shadow striking a matchstick. Somehow, its presence made me feel eerie, the noise of the matchstick end rubbing against the coarse part of the matchbox churned up my insides. It must have gone on like that for an hour before it stopped, almost as suddenly as it had started. The door opened and my father stepped inside. I was glad as he hunched down to enter through the small door, his lean silhouette only just visible against the bonfire light from the neighbouring hut.

But, but – if my father was just coming inside the hut, what was “it” that was striking the matchstick?

 

If you say it was a visitor – I would like to remind you that there is not much scope for parties and merrymaking in the middle of a jungle, so nobody comes calling “just like that” to your dwelling. In fact, my heart still starts thudding as I think about that incident, and that weird shadow, of a man or a woman, I do not know, that came to visit me that night. However, considering it wasn’t the only incident that happened with me, I must surely have a knack of attracting ghosts to myself.

 

Part 2

The following incident took place when my elder brother was still alive and had gone to the town for some errands; he wasn’t expected to return until late in the evening. I was sitting in the drawing room of my two-bedroom house in the village of Hathi Paon along with my parents and elder son. My father always taught my brother to cough in order to announce his arrival into the house. You should be aware that most houses in Indian villages do not have doorbells, and so, if you do not announce your arrival, you could probably run into a family member changing clothes, for instance.

 

It was one such cold, rainy evening in the month of August. The sky was overcast with clouds and by all means, it looked like it was about to rain again. My parents, my son and I were all sitting near the chulha, warming up our hands and waiting for my brother to come home when we heard someone coughing outside the door. Now, have you ever seen those tiny houses on top of mountains surrounded by wild shrubs and trees? Well, that’s the sort of house we had with hardly any neighbours around us – or even if there were any, they were located quite a distance away from us. Therefore, on a late evening like this, there was no chance for anyone to come outside our door and utter that same dry hacking cough like my brother’s. Surprisingly, we didn’t see my brother until an hour later and that too badly bruised from an accident.

“Something pushed my scooter from the front as I was driving – something invisible,” he told us, and added how the resistance was so much that he lost his balance and fell on the ground, the scooter on top of him and all his grocery bags beside him.

Curiously though, he had this accident around the same time as we heard the coughing noise outside our door. If it wasn’t my brother, who was it, then? Did an invisible presence know that we were waiting for him to come back home? Did it also know that my brother coughed before entering the house? And mind you, it wasn’t just me who heard the coughing noise this time, my parents and son heard it, too.

My father passed away a few years ago, but my mother still often narrates many incidents that are beyond the understanding of a scientific brain.

 

For instance, our house stands in close proximity to a cliff that once witnessed a landslide in which many innocent labourers were killed. Even to this day, my mother hears drumbeats from the forest as if a group of people (or spirits, maybe) were celebrating something. Often when she goes to cut wood in the jungles, she hears strange voices; once, she heard someone calling her “Baji”; another time someone pushed her so hard, she landed face down on the mud track along with her bundle of wood. Are you wondering what she did? She cursed this invisible energy at the top of her voice, got one of her nephews to come down from the village, collected the bundle of wood, cursing still, and came back to her house as if nothing ever happened.

For city dwellers these “bhootiya” tales might be a novelty, however, for those residing in the hills, these are “everyday” stories. It does seem like ghosts and spirits prefer the cold, quiet and solitude of hills better than the noisy, narrow, crowded streets of our metropolises. Also, most people like me aren’t analytical about these incidents, which is perhaps the reason why they happen with us more frequently than they do with others. Whatever the reason, they are a source of great amusement to us. On cold winter evenings, there is nothing better than a hot cup of tea and a tale about something “invisible”. Who cares about the latest movie on TV when there is Insidious 5 happening right outside our houses, right?

“Baba, is that you?” I said to the shadow of a man whose face I could barely see in the dark.
No one spoke.
It was all silent in my little hut for a while, and then, the shadow began striking a matchstick again – and because the hiss and crackle and pop of the entire activity was so unnerving for me, I couldn’t go back to sleep.
“Baba, if it’s you, please don’t make that noise,” I said.
This time the silence lasted a couple of minutes before the shadow was back to its work.

What it was, I don’t know, but I still remember the incident that happened with my nine year old self as if it happened yesterday!

I am forty six today, even so, I need just close my eyes to see my hut in Tehri, my two sisters sleeping on the makeshift beds and my mother snoring somewhere between them. My father, had migrated from Nepal with my family only a few years ago. He laboured hard and long, in the dense forests, working as a security guard. He would look after the logs of Chirpine that had been cut the previous day by labourers. Since he worked till late in the evening, he would often come back home to have his dinner and then retire to be with his friends for some amusement. They played cards, without involving cash, of course, and then my father would come back to our hut around twelve to sleep on one of the mattresses. My mother and my two younger sisters would have already slept by then. There was no gas or electricity in our hut, the reason why we worked by day and slept early – all of us, except me. In those days, sleep eluded me until the wee hours of the morning and I would often spend time tossing and turning on my old mattress, waiting for my father to join us, and then hear our family snore hard.

It was one such night in the forest. I was awake in my bed, waiting for my father to return. There was only one other hut in the vicinity, a couple of metres away from ours. I could easily hear the hoots and cheers of my father and his friends. Maybe one of them was winning at the game or who knows what they were doing. So, I was staring at the thatched roof of the hut, probably thinking what I was going to do with my sisters the next day, when I heard this shadow striking a matchstick. Somehow, its presence made me feel eerie, the noise of the matchstick end rubbing against the coarse part of the matchbox churned up my insides. It must have gone on like that for an hour before it stopped, almost as suddenly as it had started. The door opened and my father stepped inside. I was glad as he hunched down to enter through the small door, his lean silhouette only just visible against the bonfire light from the neighbouring hut.

But, but – if my father was just coming inside the hut, what was “it” that was striking the matchstick?

If you say it was a visitor – I would like to remind you that there is not much scope for parties and merrymaking in the middle of a jungle, so nobody comes calling “just like that” to your dwelling. In fact, my heart still starts thudding as I think about that incident, and that weird shadow, of a man or a woman, I do not know, that came to visit me that night. However, considering it wasn’t the only incident that happened with me, I must surely have a knack of attracting ghosts to myself.

To Be Continued in Part 2…

“Baba, is that you?” I said to the shadow of a man whose face I could barely see in the dark.
No one spoke.
It was all silent in my little hut for a while, and then, the shadow began striking a matchstick again – and because the hiss and crackle and pop of the entire activity was so unnerving for me, I couldn’t go back to sleep.
“Baba, if it’s you, please don’t make that noise,” I said.
This time the silence lasted a couple of minutes before the shadow was back to its work.

What it was, I don’t know, but I still remember the incident that happened with my nine year old self as if it happened yesterday!

I am forty six today, even so, I need just close my eyes to see my hut in Tehri, my two sisters sleeping on the makeshift beds and my mother snoring somewhere between them. My father, had migrated from Nepal with my family only a few years ago. He laboured hard and long, in the dense forests, working as a security guard. He would look after the logs of Chirpine that had been cut the previous day by labourers. Since he worked till late in the evening, he would often come back home to have his dinner and then retire to be with his friends for some amusement. They played cards, without involving cash, of course, and then my father would come back to our hut around twelve to sleep on one of the mattresses. My mother and my two younger sisters would have already slept by then. There was no gas or electricity in our hut, the reason why we worked by day and slept early – all of us, except me. In those days, sleep eluded me until the wee hours of the morning and I would often spend time tossing and turning on my old mattress, waiting for my father to join us, and then hear our family snore hard.

It was one such night in the forest. I was awake in my bed, waiting for my father to return. There was only one other hut in the vicinity, a couple of metres away from ours. I could easily hear the hoots and cheers of my father and his friends. Maybe one of them was winning at the game or who knows what they were doing. So, I was staring at the thatched roof of the hut, probably thinking what I was going to do with my sisters the next day, when I heard this shadow striking a matchstick. Somehow, its presence made me feel eerie, the noise of the matchstick end rubbing against the coarse part of the matchbox churned up my insides. It must have gone on like that for an hour before it stopped, almost as suddenly as it had started. The door opened and my father stepped inside. I was glad as he hunched down to enter through the small door, his lean silhouette only just visible against the bonfire light from the neighbouring hut.

But, but – if my father was just coming inside the hut, what was “it” that was striking the matchstick?

If you say it was a visitor – I would like to remind you that there is not much scope for parties and merrymaking in the middle of a jungle, so nobody comes calling “just like that” to your dwelling. In fact, my heart still starts thudding as I think about that incident, and that weird shadow, of a man or a woman, I do not know, that came to visit me that night. However, considering it wasn’t the only incident that happened with me, I must surely have a knack of attracting ghosts to myself.

To Be Continued in Part 2…

The following incident took place when my elder brother was still alive and had gone to the town for some errands; he wasn’t expected to return until late in the evening. I was sitting in the drawing room of my two-bedroom house in the village of Hathi Paon along with my parents and elder son. My father always taught my brother to cough in order to announce his arrival into the house. You should be aware that most houses in Indian villages do not have doorbells, and so, if you do not announce your arrival, you could probably run into a family member changing clothes, for instance.

It was one such cold, rainy evening in the month of August. The sky was overcast with clouds and by all means, it looked like it was about to rain again. My parents, my son and I were all sitting near the chulha*, warming up our hands and waiting for my brother to come home when we heard someone coughing outside the door. Now, have you ever seen those tiny houses on top of mountains surrounded by wild shrubs and trees? Well, that’s the sort of house we had with hardly any neighbours around us – or even if there were any, they were located quite a distance away from us. Therefore, on a late evening like this, there was no chance for anyone to come outside our door and utter that same dry hacking cough like my brother’s. Surprisingly, we didn’t see my brother until an hour later and that too badly bruised from an accident.

“Something pushed my scooter from the front as I was driving – something invisible,” he told us, and added how the resistance was so much that he lost his balance and fell on the ground, the scooter on top of him and all his grocery bags beside him.

Curiously though, he had this accident around the same time as we heard the coughing noise outside our door. If it wasn’t my brother, who was it, then? Did an invisible presence know that we were waiting for him to come back home? Did it also know that my brother coughed before entering the house? And mind you, it wasn’t just me who heard the coughing noise this time, my parents and son heard it, too.

My father passed away a few years ago, but my mother still often narrates many incidents that are beyond the understanding of a scientific brain.

For instance, our house stands in close proximity to a cliff that once witnessed a landslide in which many innocent labourers were killed. Even to this day, my mother hears drumbeats from the forest as if a group of people (or spirits, maybe) were celebrating something. Often when she goes to cut wood in the jungles, she hears strange voices; once, she heard someone calling her “Baji”; another time someone pushed her so hard, she landed face down on the mud track along with her bundle of wood. Are you wondering what she did? She cursed this invisible energy at the top of her voice, got one of her nephews to come down from the village, collected the bundle of wood, cursing still, and came back to her house as if nothing ever happened.

For city dwellers these “bhootiya” tales might be a novelty, however, for those residing in the hills, these are “everyday” stories. It does seem like ghosts and spirits prefer the cold, quiet and solitude of hills better than the noisy, narrow, crowded streets of our metropolises. Also, most people like me aren’t analytical about these incidents, which is perhaps the reason why they happen with us more frequently than they do with others. Whatever the reason, they are a source of great amusement to us. On cold winter evenings, there is nothing better than a hot cup of tea and a tale about something “invisible”. Who cares about the latest movie on TV when there is Insidious 5 happening right outside our houses, right?

 

* chulha – fire for cooking

 

…The End…

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