Since my teenage days I had been fascinated by the idea of ghosts. From Doyle to Poe to more popular contemporary writers in English and Saradindu and Ray and others in Bangla I devoured tales of the super natural in literature and popular fiction.
Naturally, I was curious to experience the para normal and tried visiting so called haunted houses and crimination and burial grounds at night to catch a glimpse of the nether world without any success. All it gave me was firing from my parents and a notoriety among my friends.
But on three occasions I came very close to believing in the spirit world.
The first time was in a sleepy hill town where we were staying with some friends in a secluded wooden cottage. The neighbours had warned us to avoid a particular bend in the road after dusk as spirits of some accident victims were reputed to haunt that place. It so happened that walking back from a day trek to the hills, I was a bit late and a slide drizzle had reduced visibility to a few feet. I noticed that I was approaching the notorious bend. Suddenly a felt a chill down my back. It could have been a sudden gust but the atmosphere got to me. I confess, I felt slightly uneasy and tried to quicken my pace. I noticed then that there was another figure walking a few feet ahead. Encouraged, I hurried down to catch up with him. But as soon as I reached close by, I froze. My companion did not have a head. I must have screamed. The headless apparition also stopped and to my horror, turned around and came towards me. Just before I lost consciousness he spoke.
“Babuji what are you doing after dark on this bend? Come I will accompany you home. “
I noticed that he was wearing a plastic sheet on his head to stay dry from the drizzle which gave him the headless look in the mist. I was glad to have the company of this ex-ghost back to our cottage. But later no one could figure out who was my unknown beneficiary.
The second time was also in the hills. On the way upto Sikkim, we had witnessed an accident which killed an old mentally challenged lady who used to waive down traffic on that road. The locals avoided her but some passing truck may have mowed her down. Our driver was sad but said that she was a traffic menace.
On my return journey when passing that same spot towards dusk, suddenly an old lady leapt in front of our jeep and tried to waive us down. Our jeep veered dangerously and avoided her but stopped. By then, she had disappeared in the gloom. Our visibly shaken driver said this must have been some other lady who has filled in the place of the crazy one.
The third time, there was no scope for misunderstandings. A good friend had been brutally murdered by Pakistani terrorists on 26/11 in Taj Mumbai. The same afternoon she had sent me some joke on SMS and I had not the heart to delete the number from my phone on her demise. She was a celebrity foodie and journalist whose husband was my roommate in college. A year from the incident I received an SMS on my phone saying
“S……….., how come I don’t hear from you anymore?”
Seeing the name on my phone, gave me a shock and I texted back,
“Who is this?”
I received an immediate response.
“Have you already forgotten me?”
A chill went down my spine. I was being addressed by name. Could not be a wrong number. I wanted to call the number but something stopped me. Instead I texted back
“This is S…….., roommate of ………… in college and this number belonged to …………, his wife, who is no more. Please call me.”
There was a gap of time. I kept staring at my phone. Then it rang. The same name showed on screen. Still in shock, I picked it up. A familiar female voice created goose pimples and replied.
“Uncle, this is ………… I now use mom’s sim card. I was calling my friend S…….. as you have the same name and it is saved on moms sim I must have called you by mistake. So sorry. Must have really scared you.”
Her voice was uncannily like her mothers.