Ghosts11 mins 189 11 mins 189
Fear is certainly one of our very basic emotions and we have all experienced fear in many different ways. Most of us do not believe that ghosts exist, even though we enjoy watching horror movies that seem to capture our imagination and sends our hearts racing for a few hours. It cannot, however, be concluded with certainty that ghosts do not exist.
The incident narrated here happened when we were still in school. Our school was a two-mile walk from our house and I was used to walking the route daily with three other friends of mine. Between the school and our home was a stretch of wilderness, loosely resembling a forest. This stretch was barren except for dry shrubs and thorny bushes. There was a pathway which cut through the barren land and led to a group of hutments inhabited by the poor. Once we crossed the slum, we would reach our school. There was absolutely nothing scary about the barren stretch and we crossed it twice every day on a regular basis.
On a bright and sunny morning, we were negotiating the forest when we saw Rahul suddenly freeze as if he had seen a ghost. still. We were actually walking ahead of Rahul and it was when one of us observed that Rahul was not with us that we stopped to see. We walked back and found him standing there, eyes wide open, a deathly pallor on his face. We feared he had fallen ill, and enquired. He had hardly noticed us as his gaze was fixed at something in front of him at some distance. We shook him up and sure enough, the vacant gaze gave way to normal life in his eyes. He appeared nonplussed when we told him what he had been doing. He could neither recall nor remember why he had suddenly stopped. We put it aside as a trivial happening and walked home.
It happened again the next day.
Rahul stopped at the same spot and started walking away from the pathway and into the bushes. We tried to see what he was looking at but found nothing but boulders and shrubs. We just stood and watched him move away from us, unmindful of our cries asking him to return. He must have taken a hundred steps or so towards whatever he was seeing, when all of a sudden, he turned around and ran. He was running like mad as if he was being chased by a ferocious dog. Alarmed, we ran after him till he reached the road and then he came to an abrupt halt. We caught up with him, lungs exhausted by the flight, to find him bursting into tears. He would say nothing. We silently walked home, wondering what on earth was happening to Rahul.
That evening, Rahul came to my house. He was still looking pale and frightened. I decided not to ask him anything about the incident and instead drew him into a game of carom. His listless display and restless disposition compelled us to end the game prematurely. I was worried and asked him what the hell happened in the forest.
“You will have to believe me,” he said, looking at me with pleading eyes. I assured him that I will.
“I saw the dark man hacking the girl into pieces.” I looked at him in amazement.
“ Which dark man are you talking about? What girl? We were with you and we saw nothing! Rahul, you must take care of yourself. I hope nothing is seriously wrong with you. Have you told your parents about this?”
Rahul did not attend school the next day. On our way back, we crossed the spot where Rahul had stopped twice. I told my friends what Rahul told me. We looked at the boulders and shrubs and found nothing. We even walked up to the spot he had run and looked around for something to believe Rahul’s story. We found nothing.
In the evening, I went to Rahul’s place to enquire about his health. Rahul was in bed with a high fever. His parents told me that he had been rambling through the night about a man trying to kill someone. The doctor had advised him rest for a few days and the rambling was put to high fever.
When Rahul resumed school after a week, he would not walk back with us. He preferred to take the bus instead. We asked Rahul about the forest incident. He kept telling us that he, in fact, saw a lean dark man hacking a beautiful girl into pieces. In fact, he confided that he had been seeing this incident happen frequently in his dreams also. We were flabbergasted. How could such a thing come to be? Rahul must have been imagining this long enough to believe that it was real.
Avoiding the walk through the bushes, seemed to be hardly doing anything good for Rahul. He had now started seeing the man everywhere - at school, on the bus, at home. The man was pursuing Rahul. The girl was now not to be seen. Rahul was convinced that the man was after him as he had seen him kill the girl. Who was he? Where did he live? Why did he kill the girl?
I told my parents about Rahul. Rahul’s parents were deeply disturbed by their son’s behaviour. He was behaving like a fugitive, running away from someone, looking around him like a man pursued and in fear. He would be normal one moment, and the other moment he would rush away to hide from the killer. He kept saying that the killer would get him sooner or later.
Psychiatric help was arranged for Rahul. Doctors were of the view that it was some personality disorder and put him under some strong medication. The parents, however, were not satisfied with the diagnosis and were seeking some alternative remedies.
Mr Ram Avtar, my father’s friend, used to frequently visit our house. My father used to tell us about his paranormal powers and strange healing methods. He himself hardly believed in such powers but tales of his friend’s miracle remedies did impress him. Rahul’s case was submitted to the friend for evaluation. Ram Avtar, the miracle man, demanded a one to one meeting with Rahul.
Ram Avtar was from the Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh. He was short, strong and sported a very impressive moustache whose ends curled up. His forehead always carried a tilak. He always wore a long string of spatik (mercury) beads around his neck. Ram Avtar himself did not believe that he was a miracle man, but there was something in the spatik necklace that he wore. His tryst with the paranormal is said to have begun in the holy city of Benares.
Ram Avtar was born and raised in Faizabad, close to the holy city of Ayodhya. His family was very religious and his father actively participated in organizing congregations of sadhus in Ayodhya, which happened twice every year. Young Ram Avtar was commissioned to help his father in making arrangements for such congregations.
On one such occasion, Ram Avtar met a man of very saintly personage. This saint picked Ram Avtar from the thronging crowd of devotees and asked him to be at his side during the ceremonies. During the function, the saint would ask Ram Avtar to take him home, which the latter ignored as a formality. To his utter surprise, the saint, one evening, came home. Ram Avtar’s father was gratified by the visit. The saint told Ram Avtar that he would one day visit Benares and he should not forget to meet him then. He even gave him the address of his ashram.
Years passed and Ram Avtar got married. His children grew up and as chance would have it; his daughter was married to a man who worked in Benares. At the invitation of his daughter and son in law, Ram Avtar and his wife decided to visit the holy city. While packing for the trip, Ram Avtar chanced upon a scrap of paper, with the address of the ashram scrawled on it. He was surprised. How could this scrap survive all these years? He put it safely in his wallet.
At Benares, Ram Avtar and wife visited all the holy spots. Their week’s stay with their daughter was most satisfying. It was time to return, and tickets were booked. It was when Ram Avtar opened his wallet for money to give to his granddaughter that the forgotten scrap of paper fell out. Ram Avatar told his wife about the sadhu he met, years ago, in Ayodhya and the sadhu’s invitation. It had been so long that he doubted that the sadhu was still around or would recognize him. His wife implored on him to visit the sage before leaving the city. They still had time to catch the train, and the ashram was on their way.
Ram Avtar was nonplussed when, upon entering the ashram, he saw the old sage sitting on a cot outside the ashram. The old man looked at Ram Avtar and said:” I knew you will come”. Ram Avtar fell at the sage’s feet and sought his blessings. He was quite ashamed that he could not remember to visit the sage earlier. The sage blessed him, took out a necklace of mercury beads and giving it to Ram Avtar said, “Wear this and you shall be guided.”
It was with the help of this necklace that Ram Avtar is believed to have done his miracles. He himself believed that whenever he wore the necklace, he would be possessed by some spirit.
Ram Avtar’s meeting with Rahul lasted an hour. When it was over, Ram Avtar wanted to take the boy to the spot in the forest. He asked four people to accompany him with the boy. Rahul’s father, my father and two other neighbours went. I wanted to go too but was not allowed.
It must have been about seven in the evening when the party left for the barren stretch. They returned after three hours, while a clutch of anxious well-wishers waited for their return at Rahul’s house. Rahul was asked to go to bed after a glass of milk and honey.
The commotion caused by their return settled down. We were waiting for someone to tell us what happened. Finally, Ram Avtar spoke, his soft words ringing into silence in the room. All of us sat absolutely still, eyes on Ram Avtar, ears strained.
“The boy will be fine. The spirit tells me that what the boy saw in the forest was a very real picture of his innermost fear. It so happened that Rahul witnessed a roadside tamasha some time back. You know such tamashas, done by those banjaras (gipsies) who move from one place to another for livelihood. The man in the show cut a small girl into pieces before the audience. It seems that he then went around to collect money, threatening to cut into pieces anyone who refused to give money. Rahul had no money to give, and he could not help fearing that the man would now kill him like the girl. As the gipsy approached Rahul for money, he fled the scene. In Rahul’s frightened mind, what the dark man did to the girl was real and he had been witness to the killing. What he, however, did not see was that it was all a mere tamasha and there was actually no killing at all. But Rahul was too afraid and had fled before the girl emerged unscathed.
It is strange, what fear does to human beings. You try to run away from things you fear, but they follow you, disguised in so many different ways. This happened with Rahul. In the beginning, he started dreaming about the show, fearing that the gipsy man would really cut him to pieces. His fear then grew in proportions and he started seeing the man and the girl even in the day. Rahul became obsessed with the image of the man killing the girl and feared that the man would hunt him down and kill him because he could not give him money. When we went to the spot in the forest today, Rahul conjured his image quite vividly. Those with me would have noticed how Rahul froze in fear. What Rahul saw, no one else could see. The spirit of the sage, which resides in me, could sense the high vibrations caused in Rahul’s mind because of his fear. His mind was actually recreating the show he had witnessed. What the sage did was just complete the show for Rahul, thee end, which Rahul missed. The hacked girl was brought back to normal, and the show ended with the girl smiling and waving to the crowd. Rahul now knows that the girl did not die and so there is no need to fear that the man will kill him.”
Rahul returned to normal in a few days, as if nothing ever happened to him. We even joked about the entire tamasha.
I once believed that ghosts can be found only in storybooks, comics, and movies. Now I believe that ghosts live within the dark recesses of our minds and feed on our fears, real or imaginary.
Rahul’s story ended happily, thanks to Ram Avtar. There are millions who suffer from a similar fate, consumed by fears they nurture, which eventually drives them into the depths of insanity. These indeed are souls haunted by ghosts.