The Naughty Ghost
The Naughty Ghost
"I can't stay in that room, Sir. Someone knocked on the door throughout the night."
Shivangi had reached Norfolk Students' Village in September, 2010, to do her Masters in Engineering from the University of Sheffield in England. That was just a few days back. A young girl from Kolkata, this was her first trip abroad, that too all by herself. She had subdued the butterflies in her stomach, put on a brave face and smilingly waved her parents good bye at Dumdum airport. By the time she reached Manchester via New Delhi and Brussels, she had begun to enjoy her newfound freedom; the freedom of being on her own.
From Manchester she had taken a bus to Sheffield and reached Norfolk Students' Village. There she was allotted a room in an old building that had been turned into a students' hostel. Incidentally she happened to be the only female resident there. She talked to the warden Mr Mathews and requested him to give her a room in a girls' hostel. But Mr Mathews disappointed her by saying that nothing could be arranged at the moment. Shivangi had no alternative but adjust herself to her new surroundings. She pushed open the old creaky door of her room and entered it.
It was a big room with high ceiling and wooden flooring that creaked when someone walked on it. The old, wooden furniture and big fireplace seemed to belong to the medieval age. Shivangi remembered reading an article in a magazine which said that many of England's old mansions were haunted. Such a remembrance was not a comfortable one for her in the current situation.
The long, tiresome journey made Shivangi feel sleepy. She decided to have an early dinner and hit the bed by 9 pm.
There are people who find it difficult to sleep in an unknown place and Shivangi was one of them. In spite of being tired she tossed and turned on her bed for more than two hours before dozing off to sleep.
But at midnight she was rudely woken up by a loud knock on the door. The suddenness of the sound almost made her jump out of her skin. She sleepily stepped down from her bed and proceeded towards the door to open it. Suddenly she remembered that the other residents of that hostel were all men. Immediately she stopped and returned to her bed. The knocking stopped after a few minutes, only to restart after an hour or so. Shivangi felt sure that some drunken male students were trying to crush inside her room. She pushed the heavy study table and blocked the door with it. The knocking stopped after a few minutes.
Poor Shivangi couldn't get a wink of sleep that night. In the morning she met Mr Mathews and narrated her previous night's horrific experience.
"Another such night would turn me into a nervous wreck," said she.
"Did you see or hear anyone outside your room?"
"I don't think so. I only heard the knocking."
"I thought so. Anyway, don't worry. I will arrange something for you," replied Mr Mathews thoughtfully.
After talking to the University authorities Mr Mathews shifted Shivangi to another hostel nearby. Incidentally, she was the only resident in that building. She was given a room on the first floor.
Before leaving Shivangi asked Mr Mathews to find the culprits who tried to break into her room on the previous night.
"Such atrocious behaviour should not go unpunished," said she.
"Young lady, let me tell you that there is no one in the hostel for the past two days," said Mr Mathews.
"What? Then who knocked on my door?"
"It's all very confusing. The male residents are still holidaying at Cleethorpes Central Beach and won't be back before tomorrow. Outsiders are not allowed inside the campus."
"Anyway, forget it. Your problem is solved, right? Wish you all the best."
And the conversation ended with a handshake.
Shivangi did not feel elated to see her new hostel. The old mansion looked no less eerie and haunted than the previous one. Living there all alone couldn't be fun for anyone. The new warden Mr Wilkins was very helpful but he couldn't do anything to solve her problem of loneliness. Thankfully a few days later a Nigerian student named Sara came to reside in the room opposite to hers. Soon they became friends.
One day Shivangi narrated her first night's horrific experience to Sara. The mystery still remained unsolved.
"Isn't it peculiar that you did not hear or feel anyone's presence outside the door? Maybe your room was haunted," observed Sara.
"Could be," replied Shivangi. But she was still not convinced about the incident being a supernatural one. But before long she was forced to change her views and acknowledge that spirits did exist after all.
One day her classmate Jackie visited her hostel room to discuss some study materials with her. After some time Shivangi went to the kitchen to make coffee. When she returned she found Jackie bending down to look under the furniture.
"Have you lost something?" she asked.
"I can't find my wallet," replied Jackie.
They searched a lot but failed to find the wallet. Jackie felt sure that Shivangi had hidden his wallet to play a prank on him.
"Come on Shivi, enough is enough," said he. "Gimme back my wallet now."
"Believe me, I know nothing about your wallet," said Shivangi, who really was innocent. Jackie refused to believe her and left in a huff.
Losing the wallet created a great problem for Jackie. He had to undergo a lot of hassles getting the duplicates of his id card and other official documents. He also had to block his ATM cards and apply for new ones.
In spite of Shivangi's repeated denials he still believed that it was one of her practical jokes.
Shivangi felt bad that her friendship with Jackie went under strain for no fault of hers. She expressed her grief to Sara who always lent a sympathetic ear to her.
One evening the two girls were preparing dinner in the kitchen. Sara talked about some 'problem' in the hostel building.
"What problem are you referring to?" asked Shivangi.
"Leave it Shivi, you won't believe it."
"Don't keep me in the dark, Sara. Please tell me."
"Well, I think there's a ghost in this house."
Shivangi usually laughed aside these things as 'silly superstitions'. But that evening, something in Sara's voice made her get goosebumps.
"What makes you think so?" she asked.
"I have often felt his presence in this house."
Shivangi forced herself to laugh.
"His presence? You're sure that the ghost's a male? That's ridiculous!"
Sara did not reply. She continued to chop the vegetables. The conversation ended there.
That night Shivangi had a disturbed sleep. She had the uneasy feeling that someone was present inside her room.
'Sara and her stupid superstitions!' she thought angrily and switched on the light of her room.
On the following day Shivangi had an important presentation in the University. She woke up early and arranged her files, notes and other necessary documents on her desk. Then she got undressed and was about to enter the washroom when someone gently knocked on the door. She knew it must be Sara but still wanted to be sure.
"Who's there?" she asked.
"It's me, Sara," came the soft reply.
"Wait a minute please," replied Shivangi and hurriedly put on a dressing gown. Then she opened the door only to be greeted by an empty corridor. There was no one outside.
"Sara! Are you there?" cried she. Her voice echoed in the empty corridor but nobody replied. She frowned and walked towards Sara's room. The wooden floor creaked under her steps. She knocked on the closed door but no one replied. She knocked again, louder this time. The knocking sound and the creaking noise echoed in the empty old house creating an eerie atmosphere. Shivangi was suddenly gripped by a strange fear. She hurriedly returned to her room and locked the door. She felt terribly thirsty.
She walked towards the desk to get her water jug. But something made her stop midway. Jackie's purse lay on the top of her files!
Shivangi felt shocked beyond words. She had no idea how that purse found it's way on her files. There was no one in the house apart from herself and Sara. Probably Sara was also not present in the hostel. Then who entered her room and kept that purse there?
Shivangi slowly sat down on the couch and drank some water. Was Sara right about the presence of a ghost in this hostel? Normally such an idea would be revolting to an engineering student. But what happened was beyond normal understanding. Moreover, Shakespeare himself had written in 'Hamlet', "There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
'If great personalities believed in the existence of the supernatural then there must be some truth in it', thought Shivangi. She composed herself and thoroughly checked the purse. The money and all the documents were intact inside it.
Soon Sara returned from the market. She looked surprised when Shivangi told her about the morning's incidents.
"But I did not knock on your door, Shivi!" said she.
Shivangi was not surprised.
"I know Sara. Anyway, forget it."
She lightly patted Sara on the cheek and left for her University.
That afternoon she met Jackie and returned the wallet to him.
"I knew it! I was sure from the very beginning that it was one of your silly pranks!" cried Jackie, jumping up and down.
Shivangi tried her level best to explain the matter to him, but in vain. Jackie refused to believe that his purse was stolen and later returned by a ghost!
Shivangi resided in that room for the rest of her University days. She felt the presence of the ghost a number of times but never saw him. An old villager told her that years back a young Chinese student died in that hostel.
"Wang Lei was a very lively boy," he said. "The little prankster was quite popular among his friends. One day he and his friends went for a joyride on their bikes. Accidentally his bike skidded and he was thrown off on the road. His friends took him to a nearby hospital. His external injuries were not serious. The doctor discharged him after nominal treatment. But that night he started vomitting and blood came out of his nose. He was immediately taken to the hospital but then it was too late. Soon he died from internal hemorrhage. But his spirit remained in the hostel. Many students have felt his presence in that building. Sometimes he plays pranks on them, but he has never harmed anyone."
Shivangi felt sorry for the unfortunate Wang Lei. How pathetically his life had ended! How unfairly destiny had aborted his dreams!
Wang Lei's spirit no longer scared Shivangi. In fact she found a silent friend in him. Sometimes she even talked to him and felt that he was listening to her.
Shivangi passed M Tech with flying colours. The day arrived to say good bye to Norfolk and the University of Sheffield. She and her friends promised to keep in touch with each other. But what about Wang Lei? She was going to miss him.
Before leaving she took a piece of paper and wrote on it in bold letters, 'Good Bye Wang Lei. I will always miss you my friend'. She kept the paper on her desk and covered it with a small statue of Laughing Buddha that she had specially purchased for Wang.
A few days after reaching Kolkata, Shivangi rang up Mr Wilkins to enquire about his health and know what he had done with the statue of Laughing Buddha that she had left on her desk.
"Laughing Buddha? I got no such statue on your desk!" Mr Wilkins sounded genuinely surprised.
"Forget it Mr Wilkins," replied Shivangi. "It was my mistake."
A mysterious smile danced on her lips as she disconnected the phone. She felt happy that her friend had accepted her parting gift.