NISHI - The Night Caller
NISHI - The Night Caller12 mins 364 12 mins 364
This is taken from the folklore of Bengal...
Asit was a hard-working farmer, growing just enough to feed a family of five that was left after selling in the local bazaar. At an age of forty-five, with a docile wife, Rani, two sons Ashok and Ajoy and a daughter, Rukmini, he was doing well in terms of life, health and family ties. Like him, his both sons didn't work in the field, rather they grew up cultivating the grey matter under supervisors, generally, we call as teachers. The eldest one was at college, while the second one was appearing for intermediate. Rukmini was in primary school and was the cynosure of the family.
The village was one of the remotest ones in the cluster for that district and still lacked electricity and pitched roads. People still lived off the farm produce, river and pond water for drinking and even fishes. Rice and fish, being the staple diet of the people in those parts, are relished over any other form of food, demanded an equal amount of skill to have it included in their daily meals. Ponds were constant sources of small and only a few fixed varieties of fishes. One who wished for bigger ones and of a different kind had to venture towards the river.
The path to the river was a little difficult and lengthy. Difficult it was, because of the numerous and narrow embankments those overlooked the muddy and water-logged farmlands, then few stretches of barren fields those were ambushed with fast-growing bushes and played host to snakes, scorpions and what not and then there were few patches of clustered and small stretches of forests.
One evening Asit was finishing his daily chores when one of his friends, Madhav, came up to him. Asit was amazed to see him and said, "Hey brother, how are you? It's been a few weeks that I saw you. And you won't believe that I was thinking about you today itself while working at the field."
Madhav smiled and replied, "Even, I suddenly had a thought about you today. And, see I came to meet you."
Asit gestured to ask him, "Suddenly here?"
Madhav was from the adjoining village, which was about seven kilometres away from theirs. They were friends from their primary school days. Asit had to withdraw after the sixth, while Madhav studied till tenth.
Madhav clarified, "Yeah! I came to see my uncle. He was not doing well."
Asit was visibly upset hearing that.
Madhav looked at him and said, "He is ageing, so that is quite normal. No? But we are still strong, right?"
Asit nodded and asked with a smirk, "Are you thinking something, that even goes inside my head?"
Madhav almost jumped with a smile and exclaimed, "Fishing!"
Asit also smiled at the proposition that longed in his head and immediately suggested, "Then, like old times. We go to the river at 5 AM."
Madhav exclaimed, "Then I shall call you out from your house at 4:30 AM. Done?"
Madhav went in the direction of his uncle's house while Asit arranged his tools and went to his house. As he went in, he announced to his wife, "Rani! Early morning at 4:30, I will be going for fishing in the river with my old friend, Madhav."
After an early dinner, he went to sleep little earlier than other days.
People in villages rarely use alarms as the biological clock is their best alarm clock than the mechanical ones.
He didn't know how long he slept, but suddenly a voice startled him out of his sleep. With half-opened eyes, he pointed his ears in the direction of the voice. It called him out once again, "Asit! come out. I have come. Let's go fishing."
Asit got up somehow and somehow reached out for the kurta and put it on, while he was still struggling to come out of the clutches of the hypnotizing drowsiness that denied leaving him. He searched for the thick shawl because he knew it would be cold outside.
By then he was again called out, "Asit! come on hurry up. We need to put the nets before daybreak. Then only we can expect some good fishes in it."
He replied, "Yeah...yeah. I am coming in a moment." Quickly he found his chappals, opened the door, stepped out and closed the door behind. With sleepy eyes he couldn't clearly see in the darkness of the night, somehow he figured out that Madhav stood at a distance wearing a white dhoti and a black shawl was wrapped over covering his head. He felt the chill of the early morning in the air as soon as he stepped out.
He called out, "Madhav! why are you standing so far?"
Madhav waved to him and said, "You are delaying by standing here just follow me quickly. While on the way we shall speak," and he started walking towards the river.
Asit also nodded and with drowsiness still hovering over his consciousness, he walked like a zombie following his friend.
After walking for a few minutes, he felt a little thirsty and looked at his friend who was sprinting through, while he was finding it difficult to balance on the narrow embankments of the fields.
So he shouted out, "Hey! slow down a little. I can't walk that fast behind you."
But Madhav didn't even pay any heed to his friend's requests and kept pacing through. Asit somehow managed to still match his pace, but the gap between them was something that continued to elude him. Suddenly his toe hit a stone on the field and with excruciating pain, he was out of that drowsiness that was reluctant until then to leave him. He stopped for a moment to rub off his toe to ease his pain. As he eased his pain, he looked up and noticed that Madhav also had stopped and was still at the same distance from him.
But...he faced in the front away from him. He neither turned at him nor did he ask him anything.
Asit felt a little uneasy about him suddenly.
Madhav stood like that unmoved, and then suddenly said, "Don't delay. Follow me quickly."
Asit grew a little suspicious by then, but he didn't want to raise any alarms yet. So, he resumed following him. They passed through the barren bushy fields to reach the mango forest. It looked all so gloomy and the branches of the trees swayed in the light breeze like some octopus trying to reach out its tentacles. The full moon that peeped through the gaps of the branches and the leaves to cast that ghastly shadow on his face.
The path was completely blurred out of his sight, with the moonlight being obstructed by the over-towering trees. Despite that, in that darkness, he could clearly see Madhav, in his white dhoti and shawl that was wrapped covering his head, walked ahead of him. That feeling of uneasiness almost instantly turned into eeriness, with the chill pricking him even through his warm shawl. The hairs behind his neck and on his ears stood straight. He could feel the goosebumps on his forearms and rubbed to suppress them.
Then he noted something more. Madhav didn't look like walking. It seemed as if he floated in the thin air beneath his feet. He tried to concentrate on his feet. But where were they?
Down from where his dhoti ended almost a couple of inches below his calf muscle, there was actually nothing.
His chest felt the heavy thrust of the heart, which pounded heavily. He could hear his own voice inside his head.
"What thing is this? The dhoti looks in shape as if wrapped around the waist on to the legs but without a leg. The shawl wrapped around outlined the shape of the whole body and ended with covering over the head. But, is there a body that exists underneath that shawl?"
A chilling sensation ran down from his neck till the end of his waist, continuing right into the middle of his back. His mind stopped working, and he felt like in an unknown trance, where he could now see and understand everything but he lost control over his body, that obeyed and followed Madhav.
But was that thing Madhav? It couldn't be.
Crossed the mango forest and came out in an open space with the moonlight now clearly showering all its glory on his eyes and on that which walked before him.
He saw that thing now for the first time with wide-open eyes and in the clear light of the moon, in an otherwise pitch dark night.
The shape of the body was there, formed by the shawl and the dhoti, but it still seemed formless. In that darkness, something even darker seemed to grow out below the end of the dhoti, which fooled the eyes to show like legs. But those legs didn't end. They didn't touch the ground. The uneven ground didn't make the treading of that thing bumpy at all. It floated absolutely smoothly.
Asit exclaimed to himself inside his head, "Oh god! Is this the NISHI? The night caller? I am doomed then."
Nishi is the name of such a thing that is formless and calls its prey out at the night for three times. If someone answers it within those three calls and steps out of the house in a sleepy trance, then it eludes it to some secluded place and then claws on the face and throat. Slowly chocking that person, and then takes the shape of one of the most fearful faces, that instantly freezes the blood inside and kills the person. Then that soul resides with it and becomes a new 'Nishi' that preys on someone else.
But Asit wanted to live that night to tell the tale to others. So, he needed to be calm and raise no suspicion. Because, if Nishi understood that the prey is awake and conscious, then it doesn't wait any longer and rips the body in two, causing the most painful death.
By then they reached a bamboo forest and those tall grasses swayed in the breeze like some slender men, and small tiny twigs on their trunks looked like some claws. Those were ready to grab his throat. The breeze blowing through them caused a whistling sound, and the bamboos brushed against each other, causing a cracking kind of sound which added to the fear of that fateful night.
He realized he had to do something to escape the sure hands of death.
But what he should do? Turn and run? NO!! Because he couldn't outrun it. Then what was to be done.
He decided to talk to it in the same drowsy manner and engage him in something also think of something in parallel.
Then he started, "Madhav, do you remember how I used to win every challenge to catch the number of fishes?"
It said nothing, but only nodded its covered head.
He said, "Hey brother why are you so quiet, are you feeling scared?"
It replied, "I am not scared of anything."
He said, "But in childhood, you used to get scared so much, have you forgotten?"
It said nothing, but kept quiet.
He then said, "Hey stop! I think I forgot to get my fishing net. I will have to get it from home."
It stopped and replied with a slight growl, "No need! I have a fishing net."
He said, "Yes. But you know I am more adept with my one. And if I have my one, then I can defeat you today as well."
It replied, "No need, you follow me. We will be late."
He said, "It won't take long. You can come with me to my home and once I have the net will rush back with you."
Then he slowly turned and kept his head down with half-opened eyes, as if he still sleepwalked. Then started walking back.
He felt that thing floated behind him and almost came within a hair length distance. He could feel the brush of the shawl against the upper back of his neck. He felt the ice-cold breath that fell on his shoulder. It just froze his skin and somehow he managed to keep his goosebumps in control.
He kept his body language absolutely calm and normal. Walked at a constant pace and didn't show any hurry. His heart pounded heavily inside his rib cage and feared when would the freezing shoulder skin feel the pain of piercing fangs.
It whispered into his ears, "I told you, that you don't need a net. You can use mine. We are getting late. I can't stay too late until the morning. You should come with me."
He kept quiet and raise not much suspicion in it. He quietly and drowsily kept walking towards his home. That thing kept walking, almost stuck behind him and menacingly breathing over his shoulder. He passed the same mango forest on the way back when that things made a branch of one of the trees break and fall right before him. But he pretended to be not perturbed by it. As he walked a little ahead, he saw from the corner of his eyes something hanging from one of the branches of another tree. Going little ahead, he noticed it was a body of a woman with her face covered by her hair and hung with a rope tied around her neck. With the breeze, her lifeless body swayed in the air.
He felt like shouting out of fear, but somehow he kept quiet. Slowly and steadily he crossed that forest and after a few minutes more could see his hut. He felt an urge to run, but he didn't. He knew he was almost there, and now he couldn't do something rash. He knew that he already braved all this while and walked the most dangerous part, with so few more steps.
After a few more steps he was close to his house, and he slowly opened the door, went and closed it behind him. As he shut the door, he left a big sigh. Hearing the sound, his wife woke and confusingly enquired.
He asked her to quieten and then went close to her and whispered, "Where is my watch?"
She rubbed her eyes and took it out from the shelf beside to hand him. He pounced on it and took it close to his eyes to see the time.
It was 3:15 AM. He looked at his wife, astonished, who didn't have any idea of what had happened. She asked him what had happened.
He said, "I was picked up by a Nishi!"
Her eyes widened in fear and shock. She demanded the details.
He told how he had met Madhav the previous evening and decided to go fishing. Then how he was called, and he answered it and went out following behind it and how everything thereafter happened.
They thanked God for saving him that night, and later at agreed time, Madhav came calling him. This time he waited for him to call four times and then he went out fishing and didn't miss telling him about his supernatural ordeal.
Nishi, in the folklore of Bengal, holds an important place with an almost equal number of cases found in villages and towns. The legend goes like when you plan with someone outside your own house about going some place early in the morning even before sunrise, then Nishi comes and calls you. It calls you only thrice and if you answer its call within this and leave your house, then it takes you to your doom. So, if you ever make such an early morning plan, wait for him to call you out at least four times.