Ghostly Kick

Mussoorie and Landour, 1860s.jpg
Mussoorie and Landour, 1860s.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Photo of a stone fireplace.
English: Photo of a stone fireplace. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This image was selected as a picture of the we...
This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 29th week, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ghost Estate

Snow covered everything. This was a strange land for everyone after the heat of Lahore. We were in the hill station of Mussoorie. The children had the entire Malakoff Estate to explore. The fireplace was a quaint focus of family gatherings in the evening. Tea was being made and served all day long by our newly acquired servant, Kaalu. It was like a big picnic. Strolls during the day on the Mall which only a few days back had not allowed ‘dogs and Indians’ to walk on it.

Some of the men were still in Lahore trying to sell off everything and come back with as much precious stuff as they could from our old home. Malakoff Estate was a huge place but my parents were part of a large entourage of members of a gigantic extended family. My grandfather was there with his two brothers and all of them had their wives, children and grandchildren along with them. This joint family had not yet got used to the large rooms for everyone. They preferred to stick together in the giant living room and eat dinner together before going off to sleep in their various allotted rooms.

Of course, I was yet unborn, this is all hearsay evidence. The ghost story though is true. I heard it from my mother. Although the days were spent by my aunts, uncles and parents taking pleasant trips to the Mall shops a pall of tension hung over the fate of the men who were still not back from their mission in the new state of Pakistan. Everyone huddled together near the fireplace, sang songs, played cards and munched on the delicious pakodas that Kaalu made.

Everyone had to walk down a steep path about a half a kilometer long before reaching the Estate. This was a very dark passage and everyone heaved a sigh of relief in the evenings when safely inside. Things were thus going well in their repetitive calmness when suddenly a strange incident scared everyone. Dinner was finished and the family members were chatting and joking around the fire when they heard a loud banging on the front door. It was very dark outside but the young men got up to check who it was. They found nothing. Fresh snow had fallen but there were no footprints. A cloak of chilly fright touched everyone. That night everyone stuck together in the living room and waited out the night. The incident was reported to the distant police station. A tall and thin policeman came and checked the house. He talked to everyone present and then left to make his report.

Sadly the knocking on the door after dinner continued for many nights. Everyone became convinced that this was a haunted house. Sunday night was fraught

with fear and the children sat huddled with the elders in front of the fireplace. There was a bang on the door and then shouting. The young men’s league got up again to check and to their surprise found their uncles back from Lahore and in their grip was Kaalu.

They thrashed him till he admitted to banging on our front door at night. Motive- to get a raise of ten rupees. He was handed over to the police and life returned to normalcy at Malakoff Estate.

Days and nights passed while the men discussed their next move in Independent India. It was a Sunday and the family was having a hot debate over this incident when suddenly the front door was being banged again by a new ghost. The men again jumped to the rescue. No one noticed my mother and my aunt slip onto the carpet in front of the fireplace. They had a guilty look on their faces but also one of having accomplished something very naughty. They giggled and muffled their conversation in order not to invite undue attention. Strangely the ghost did not appear again after that night.

Many years later my mother and aunt admitted to having kicked the door just to get a feel of the ghostly sound. They ran for their scared lives after that into the outhouse. Then they slipped in sniggering near the fireplace through an open backdoor. They never tried that stunt again because they had scared themselves more than the other occupants of the house.

Home Alone 3/13

It's a ghost!
It’s a ghost! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dracula (first edition cover), Bram Stoker's v...
Dracula (first edition cover), Bram Stoker’s vampiric novel, a reference for gaslight fantasy literature. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summer is here and a certain traipsing around the countryside is done by friends and relatives to catch up with each other in the holidays. Long forgotten aunts come to stay for weekends and poor unsuspecting pals get visits from long forgotten friends.

I am totally afraid of this social exchange. I feel everyone carries an invisible quiver full of arrows to all social events. At a right precise moment people stick in an arrow into your heart with a hurtful statement or comparison. It is like being at a hedgehog convention. I prefer to stay home and let my quills or arrows just wither away into oblivion. I have done enough of biting, chewing and piercing.

As a consequence I find myself home alone while my wife goes on an exploratory mission to our old home town to meet her parents and fast friends. I gloat over my pile of freshly bought DVDs.

This home alone thing has as they used to say in our economics class a diminishing margin of returns. Only one out of ten DVDs turns out to be watchable. That long cherished dream of finishing My Experiments with Truth falters after a hundred pages. The self made sandwiches begin to taste exactly that—self made. And then I do the mistake of selecting a horror movie for my with dinner entertainment. I am not drinking because there is no stopping me if I drink alone. I am concentrating on the family pack of cokes.

It was fifteen minutes into the scary movie that they showed that scene where the heroine is preening herself in front of a mirror and a frightening face appears alongside her in the mirror. This triggered all my hypersensitive brain cells and raised the hair on my arms into attention. I got creeping goose bumps all over my stomach and a proverbial chill went up my spine. I shut off the damned DVD. When I read Dracula in my teens I could not sleep for years without leaving the lights on in my bedroom. I still sit in corners and with my back to the wall. Of course evil spirits can walk through any partition but all good gunslingers and private detectives too like not to be surprised by an attack from behind.

The entire visage of the apartment changed into a malevolent mode. I would switch off the lights and air conditioning of one room and go into another only to find on returning to the first room that the lights were on again and the air conditioning was running full blast. Drawers in the kitchen which I was certain I had closed, I found open after a few hours. The fish too were swimming with desperate speed in the aquarium as if, as if, well, as if they had seen a ghost.

The cushions of the sofa are black on one side and golden on the other. They  were placed inside out. I was sure the golden sides were facing the room in the morning. Now the black sides were facing out.I wondered if my wife had done that or a poltergeist was definitely at work in the apartment.

It is the rainy season here. Black clouds gather in the sky within minutes.  Moments. The wind howls through cracks and under the doors. Cupboards open and shut with ghoulish groans. I think of my mother. Please mother come and save me from your appointed place in heaven. Similarly Dad. I light a candle in prayer to my personal gods, to my dearly departed parents. Yes I am a heathen I worship the Sun, the winds, the sky, the moon, the trees and the earth. I worship anything that will save my condemned soul.

I can see through the window the tall poplar trees swaying in the dark evening outside. They are waving to me and saying be warned. Then a crow. Very black, it has to be a raven from the hills who has lost his way. Why does it  appear on my balcony outside and stare at me so unflinchingly? ‘Kaun, Kaun, Kaun?’ it asks in Hindi meaning ‘Who, who, who?Who is going to visit you now mister smart ass watching horror DVDs?’

The bloody cane chair behind me makes a sighing sound as some invisible person sits down on it. Of course the explanation is that the ropes and cane sticks cool with the air conditioning and creak and moan as if weighed down by sinister spirits. The explanation does not soothe my nerves it still feels as if the chair is haunted. At night I am trying to sleep and suddenly their is this shhheeee shheee tuk tuk tuk. My skin crawls my hair stand on end and I jump up ready to defend myself against this new ghostly invader. There is no one. The sound has stopped. I keep standing motionless. Again their is the eerie sound, I look up, it is the damned ceiling fan. Must be the main bearing. Needs greasing. I increase the speed and the sound disappears.

Damn these movie visions. The scenario is perfect for the appearance of an evil spirit. Damn Bram Stoker for creating such a toothed creature to scare the living daylights out of lonely men. Meanwhile it has turned dark as the depths of hell. Black Clouds swirling and looming.

Suddenly the power goes off and then the door bell rings. How can the door bell work in a power cut? It is pitch dark. I am looking for my torch. The bell rings again. The door bell ringer is an experienced person and shouts, ‘its your pizza guy and not Dracula!’ I find the torch and gather my wits and my money before I reluctantly open the door. It is definitely the pizza man. He is smirking. I pay him quickly and slam the door. The lights come on. This is it. I grab the pizza and my car keys and I drive quickly to the safety of my aunt’s place. That’s what the summers are for. To visit aunts and to socialize and never mind those arrows. They are less hurtful than the teeth of a vampire. I did not switch off the lights because this demented spirit would turn them on anyway.