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Beware As You Step Into Your New Flat

Beware As You Step Into Your New Flat

12 mins 24.5K 12 mins 24.5K

Beware when you are buying a house or flat, and I do not mean the legal documents of the house. Beware of the people who had lived there. Beware of what may be lurking in the house which you will be your home. Why am I saying this? Read on to find out.

In Mumbai getting a flat is nearly impossible when the requirements are many and the budget is tight. My husband had spent enough time searching on the net as well as visiting sites. Finally, a broker took us to see a flat. The building was old but sturdy. The flat had three bedrooms as we were looking for, one for my in-laws, one for our son and one for us. The best part of the flat was its price. It was much less than other flats we had seen until then. The price issue crossed my husband’s mind. What was the reason? All the documents were checked by our lawyer and given the green signal.

Until this time we had not met the owner. The broker said that he was an elderly man who had his own ideas about who could occupy the flat. He wanted a family with child/children as well as elders. He had no family and was not interested in money. We met the building society managing committee for a no objection certificate. They appeared to be not very happy. When I made this remark to the broker he said many of the members of the building society had wanted to buy the flat but the owner did not want to sell it to any of them.

Down payment and EMI were arranged. After registration, it was time to move into our new flat. Shifting arranging, organising took up all my time for eight to ten days. The first choice of rooms was given to my in-laws. They seemed to be happy with their room.

After we had moved in, I got into my usual groove of house-work and doing my professional work from home that I did to earn a little bit extra. This did not leave me much time to interact with my in-laws. All of us settled down to our new environment.

In the beginning, everything appeared to be normal. However, I started to feel that my in-laws were becoming restless. I could not make out why. My husband had gone back to his assignment on the ship. I did not want to burden him with my nebulous doubts by phoning him. As time passed my mother-in-law started passing comments on my cooking. My father in law would have a sour face when I served them. They started complaining about most of the services- the charwoman did not clean their room properly, the clothes were not being ironed according to their expectations and sundry other snide comments.

I was feeling the pressure. Every morning I got up with the thought that I would be criticised throughout the day. This was taking a toll on my health both mentally and physically. I felt trapped as I knew that we could not set up a separate household for ourselves. Before my husband had left, we had arranged for a doctor to visit our house and check the health of my in-laws. When he came for a visit, my mother-in-law complained that food was not good enough and sufficient. I was dumbfounded.

The doctor said everything was fine, with their health. He told them that he would instruct me on what to be served. In the hall where he was writing out the prescription for tonics he looked at my face and with a smile told me not to worry. Old people behaved strangely. I nearly broke down and said how both of them would be criticizing me for everything. The doctor said that he was writing out a tonic for me to calm my nerves but this behavior was something I would have to adjust with.

After a few days, my father-in-law said that he would like to go to the terrace for a walk. The terrace door was locked. I phoned the secretary. He said the lock had been put after an accident and it was not to be opened unless there was an emergency. When I told this to my father-in-law he was furious. He said this was a conspiracy. He alleged that I did not want him to get fresh air and sunlight in the morning. I tried to reason with him that there was a park nearby and both of them could visit it in the morning and evening. In fact, some people from our building went there regularly for walks. He was determined not to go to the park. He did not want to cross the road. In fact, he said that I was suggesting the park so that he could be run over by a car in trying to cross the road. I requested him to talk to the society secretary directly. He refused, as according to him the society secretary was hand in glove with me.

I knew I would have a breakdown if things did not change for the better. That day, after putting my son to sleep, I sat down near the phone thinking whether I should phone and tell my husband what was happening at home. Suddenly the phone rang. My husband was on the phone and he said that he was coming home for some time. I became anxious about him. Was there any problem with his health? How was he getting leave so soon? He told me there was nothing wrong; he was missing us and wanted to see how we were coping up in the new environment.

That weekend he was at home. I felt some relief but was anxious about what complaints my in-laws would have about me. He seemed to be happy and cheerful. Then he suggested that since we had not conducted any religious function after moving to a new house we should do so. This surprised me as we were not religious. However, I said yes as I did not have the energy to contradict anything.

My husband contacted a temple priest and fixed up the auspicious date. When he spoke to his parents they were unusually agitated. They said it was useless and they would not participate. I was surprised. They were religious. They had been angry when we had a civil marriage and both of us had refused to have a religious function. Now they said that it would be a useless expenditure. They wanted to leave the house on that day and visit a friend in another city.

My husband took everything in his stride. He was going out, phoning and contacting people whom I did not know. I could not make out what exactly he was organising. I was feeling too tired and my mind was not functioning properly. I tried to question him but gave up as his standard reply was he was taking care of everything and I should not worry. He arranged for our son to be with one of his friend’s family for the night and next day.

In the house (it did not feel like a home) my in-laws were becoming near violent. Since my husband was with me I could face the tension. However, I did not understand why they were behaving the way they were. The night before the ceremonies was to be conducted I heard some sound and got up to find out the cause. My father-in-law was searching for something in the drawing room.

I woke up my husband. He took his father by hand and sternly told him to go to his room. Then he locked their room from outside.

We hardly slept after that. Even before the crowds started cawing there was a knock on the main door. Three people had come with a number of heavy bags. They left the bags and went out without saying anything. My husband went to have his bath before instructing me to clean a portion of the sitting room. I did as I was instructed. Then I went for a bath.

 By the time I came out all the items required for the ritual had been arranged. Some of them appeared unfamiliar from what I would see in other puja rituals. The three people came back with a person wearing a red cloth who I presumed to be the chief priest. His eyes were very penetrating. I did not feel comfortable. He started shifting and reorganizing the items of the rituals. From his own bag, he brought out a mud pot drew some swastikas and other religious symbols, took out a small plate that covered the mouth of the pot.

From my in-laws’ room the noise was increasing in volume. Both my in-laws were becoming frantic inside their room and their banging on the door rose to a crescendo as the priest started to mutter the mantras. I was confused about what was happening. The rituals were very different from what I was familiar with.

The rituals went on, my in-laws sounded tired. The noise from their room was subsiding. The chanting was becoming fast and high pitched. The priest jerked his head towards their room. My husband got up and quietly opened the door. Both my in-laws were sitting near the door looking angry but drained out. As soon as the door opened they got up and started moving rapidly towards the priest. His assistants had been ready for this eventuality. They caught both of them and held them down. The chanting was loud; the in-laws were jerking to break free and moaning. This continued for some time.

The priest took up the pot and the lid and moved towards my in-laws. They appeared to have regained their strength. These three assistants were struggling to hold them down. It was amazing that these two old people had so much strength.

What happened then still gives me the shivers. The priest went close to my in-laws. They were using such foul language. Their eyes were bloodshot. The priest started to shout at them but appeared to be talking to someone else. With a loud moan both my in-laws dropped on the floor. The priest with a loud shout closed the pot with a lid. He took moist mud and covered the lid and closed it securely. Meanwhile, the assistants took the husband and wife into their room and put them on their beds. They lay there as if in a stupor.

The priest and the assistants packed up everything except the pot. The priest handed over the pot to my husband, spoke to him softly and left. Before I could ask questions he tied the pot in a red cloth and put it in his cupboard and locked it.

I was feeling dizzy. I was not able to understand and rationalise what had happened. My husband put his hand on my shoulder, smiled and said that he would explain everything later.

“Why don’t you prepare breakfast”? I grimaced and went to the kitchen. Rest of the day was normal. My in-laws seemed rested. They ate and slept normally. After evening tea my husband told me to get ready to go with him. I was following his directions without any question.

We reached the flat that my husband took me to. The old gentleman who received us was the original owner of our flat. He apologised to me that because of him I had suffered. He looked at my blank face and said that he would explain. This is what he said.

“My sister had married into a business family. Her husband was the only child who worked with his father in their family business. Since we belong to a different cast, the parents of the husband of my sister were very unhappy. From the beginning, there were frictions, whether it was for cooking, cleaning or choice of clothes. Things became worse when a daughter was born. My sister was not even capable of having a son they said.

After putting up for a couple of more years my sister started insisting that her husband should separate from his parents. The father refused to give any part of the business to the son. The bickering developed into shouting match between father and son. My sister did not remain a mute spectator. Her mother-in-law would join in the fray. Life was hell if not worse!

One day may sister came to me with her daughter. She wanted to stay for some days. Next afternoon a phone call changed our future. She was called to the police station. There her husband was waiting. Her in-laws had jumped from the terrace. The note they had left behind named my sister the reason for their drastic step.

My sister was taken into custody. We spent a fortune to get her bail. The case went on at its own pace. Every moment of every day was tense. The lawyers felt the case was weak as both her in-laws had blamed her in writing in their statement before death. Also, the neighbours told the police that there would be quarrels amongst the family members every day.

Nearly five years passed like this. They could not shift without the permission of the police. Also in Mumbai, it would be impossible for them to go to a new flat as the case had received publicity in print and news channels. My sister found it difficult to go to her daughter’s school, shops and other public places. She refused to stay with me as it would bring ignominy to me. Every day I would phone my sister in the evening. However one evening there was no answer. I immediately went to the house. It was locked from the inside and no one answered. I feared the worse and so it was. All three had died by hanging themselves. My young niece is for whom I grieve most. She could have been spared.

I did all the ‘shradh’ rituals, went to Gaya for ‘pind’ so that nothing should affect their afterlife if there is one. Now I realize that no proper rituals had been conducted for my sister’s in-laws and their spirit must have lurked in the house. My thinking is your in-laws had been possessed by them. “

My husband said that he had come to know about my problems from the doctor when he would phone him to enquire about his parents. Someone in the ship heard the problem and convinced him that the problem may be caused by something beyond normal. Then my husband contacted the original owner, explained the problem.

The pot was taken to Nashik at a later date  all the required rituals were performed and the pot was immersed in the river.

We have been living peacefully ever since, but the memories of this episode will haunt me all my life.


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