Location: Rooftop of 15’Th storey building, Santacruz, East.
Date: December 31, 2017 (today)
Time: 10:00 PM
I am sitting on the top of the building, technically on 15’Th floor. The wind is howling, and my hands are freezing. My boyfriend and I are already set to welcome the New Year. We both are relaxing under the warm sheets on that terrace, watching airplanes take off under the big black sky. No one’s talking. The only sound we can hear is the honking of vehicles on the highway some faded party music being played in the neighboring houses mixing with the sound of planes taking off.
Suddenly, my boyfriend broke the silence, “Richa, tell me a story, probably which no one knows?”
“You are not a kid anymore Boo.” I laugh at his request.
“Come on Richa”, he insists.
Suddenly one chilling sensation travels through my body. I do have a story of my life he deserves to know. I have decided to tell him the story, which literally no one knows.
CHAPTER ONE: THE APARTMENT
On a rainy day, one tiny, beautiful building was standing strong on the busy street of Mumbai. The building, also known as TBI Bank, my office, used to be the busiest place during working hours.
I was submerged in my laptop in the nearly empty office post the working hours. I had joined the bank as a management trainee just a week ago. I was about to finish my report but got interrupted by one of the housekeeping staffs, who robotically cleaned up my desk. She gave me a glance, as if she was asking me, 'what are you still doing in office on a Friday night? '.I stood up to stretch my legs and realized there were only 3 people on the floor including the fat guy from the international markets group and the gossip queen from the compliance department. 'Well, I am not the only one who has a boring social life ' I reaffirmed to myself as I shut my laptop and left for home.
Being a non localite, I was accommodated in our bank’s quarter, small yet comfortable. My living room was interesting as it had a small black sofa set, dining table and surprisingly one big snooker table. The best part of living room was the window which opened to the view of Arabian Sea and the chowpatty (the beach).
The first week in Mumbai was good but there after it was hectic. I was slogging like a donkey instead of exploring exotic Mumbai which I have seen in Bollywood movies, like the busy streets of Linking road, rainy day in Marine drive, greatness of Worli sea link and the reel world of film city. I only remember coming home late at night, eating and sleeping and this cycle went on.
Suddenly one night, my sleep got disturbed by the noise of snooker balls falling on the floor. I woke up all soaked up in sweat and fear. I was afraid it might be a burglar as my house was on the first floor and our watchman was an old guy in his late sixties. Anyone could have trespassed him. I took my high heel in one hand and pillow in the other for my protection and headed towards the living room. As I reached, I saw two red eyes staring right at me. Suddenly, I heard another sound, “meow". I rushed to switch on the lights. 'Phew! ‘It was a tiny cat, sitting on the snooker table. It was a cute little cat, orange in color but looked Weak. Being a cat lover myself, I fell in love with her right away. She looked hungry. I had finished the last glass of milk in that evening, but I realized I had some eggs left in my fridge. I fed her some boiled eggs, which she gobbled up in few seconds. After eating, she followed me to my bedroom, very gracefully adjusted herself under my sheets, purred and slept.
I never believed in love at first sight until that day. I was in love with my permanent roommate, the cat.
Soon we found a maid ' Radha'. She was one happy go lucky person. She used to work early mornings and cooked delicious food for me. Radha, kitty and I made a great trio. Everything was too good to be true.
But life had written some other story for us.
Everything was going great until the day I fell sick. My entire body was burning with fever. Doctor confirmed it to be Malaria. I decided not to tell my parents since I wanted to be more independent. Another reason was, I didn't want them to panic. I was all alone and sick in this new city, so Radha agreed to stay with me for few days as my caretaker. For the next few days I just ate boiled food and slept next to my cat.
"Wake up Didi!” Radha screamed.
“What happened Radha?" I enquired while I was still drowsy on my medicines.
Radha kept shivering and mumbling something about the living room and the cat too was continuously growling at something. I rushed towards the living room but there was nothing unusual about I could find, so I wondered what has caused this situation?
"Didi, can I sleep in your room? She asked, still shivering.
“Sure Radha, make yourself comfortable." I retired to bed.
She didn't talk about that incident ever again, neither did I enquire. I was recovering faster. Thanks to Radha's supervision on my health.
CHAPTER TWO: THE ENCOUNTER
That day I woke up early, took bath and waited for Radha to come and make breakfast. She didn't show up. I assumed she needed rest too; she had worked hard last week. I cringed with the thought of eating the boring sandwich from the canteen. With that thought and empty stomach I left for work.
She ignored my phone calls like I never existed. Now I remember the fear in her eyes that night.
I finished dinner and came to my bedroom. The Cat was busy playing with shoe box. I applied the night cream and started reading my book. I lost track of time and kept reading it until I realized its 3 AM. Cat was asleep already. Suddenly, she started meowing at something in the living room. I assumed she is hungry, so I got up to get her some cat food. I opened my bedroom door and got numb by the sight of an old man standing behind my snooker table, looking outside the window. I felt freezing wave rushing from my toes to my brain. I got numb and scared, surprised and shocked, all at the same time. He didn’t look like a burglar or a kidnapper, but he didn’t look like a human either.
Who was he? A ghost? A Demon? An Angel? But the most important question was, what was he doing there? I came back to my bedroom, sat on the floor right next to my door. My heart was beating so fast that I feared it would come out of my chest.
‘How could I fight with this thing if he comes to my bedroom?’ I could not call anyone for help as my phone is discharged, and the only passage to outside is being blocked by that thing in the living room.’I should have bought the pepper spray which our HR told us to keep in our bag’. A drop of tear came down of my eyes witnessing my helplessness at my own house.
Finally, at around 4 AM cat stopped meowing and slept. I gathered courage to open the door. There was no one. I hoped he had left already. I came back to the bed and rested my eyes. I was too numb to react at that time.
That day I decoded, why Radha had left.
'Good soul Radha! She didn't leave until I got fit, even after experiencing this unusual incident. Poor Radha! I hope she is safe.’ I prayed for her and slept.
CHAPTER THREE: MISSION POSSIBLE?
Next day after that incident, I tried to focus on work but couldn't. That incident kept repeating in my head. I was terrified. How can you fight something you can't identify? Radha was lucky to get out of this situation. I wasn't. I couldn't afford to shift to the new apartment. I could not quit my job either. I didn’t tell about it to anyone, not even to my parents like the last time, after all the taste of independence is really sweet.
I came home; everything looked okay inside as if nothing happened the other night. Since then, I started praying every night, avoided going out after 8 PM and skipped dinners. I stopped partying, socializing or even grocery shopping after 8 PM. skipping dinner made me visibly weak.
I was sick of being coward and coward of being sick. One day, I decided to confront this uninvited stranger. I was a fighter since childhood; I could have killed the monster under my bed. But before that I wanted to know who he was. I knew, I am going to fight this thing. I knew running away was not an option. I started doing what I was good at, researching! I read whatever I could about ghosts. But the question still existed, was he even a ghost? That evening, after work, I visited temple. I knew it was not going to be a cake walk but I also knew I can do it. That evening I came home, completed my evening routine and got ready for my Mission
This time the weapons were of my choice, sharp knife in case I need to assault, pepper spray for temporary damage and mobile camera to record and show to the world in case I am no more there to explain myself.
Mission Day: 1
That day I stayed in the living room post 8 PM. Cat was inside the bedroom. The lights were off. I was shivering with the chills, so I covered myself with the warm blanket. I tied my hair up, wore my spectacles, kept my mobile camera ready and waited patiently. The old man arrived at 12.30 AM and went right at window like the other day and stared outside at sea. I kept observing him doing nothing but stand and look outside the window until 2.30 AM when he suddenly disappeared. After that moment, I was not scared but curious. I went to the bedroom to take rest for a while. Luckily next day was Saturday so I could sleep little extra.
Next day, I woke up to the meowing of my cat. She looked upset with me. I checked my phone it was 8 PM. I had slept for more than 12 hours. My cat was starving so I quickly poured her some cat food. I got freshen up and was all set for my mission. Again!
Mission Day: 2
Like the previous day, I waited for him. He arrived at around 12.30 AM and went right at my window. The wave of courage hit me; I stood up and walked right at him and stood next to him. I looked at him. We were standing just 2 feet away. He turned his face towards me, our eyes met. His sharp, wrinkly old eyes were now looking at me. He gave me one warm, mild smile. I was too numb to react on it. We both looked into each other's eyes and suddenly, he got faded out. I quickly checked my watch, it showed 2 AM.
I came back to my bedroom. I was freezing. I was thinking about his eyes, ‘Who was he?’ I retired to bed thinking about those eyes. It's like he was looking for something or someone. I knew whatever I was searching for was in them, ‘Eyes, they speak!’
CHAPTER FOUR: THE FEAST AND THE FIX
Next day, my friend Neha had invited me for the dinner. She did invite me multiple times in the past as well but I always managed to avoid. This time it’s different, one, I really need to eat proper food to survive and two, her mother was in the city. I could not say no as homemade food was luxury and her mother is an excellent cook, especially her dal makhni.
Location - Neha’s house.
I reached at Neha's house. I brought my cat too. We were warmly welcomed by Neha's mother. Her mother had visited Neha after six months. Dinner was delicious and I ate a lot. After dinner, Neha went out to buy an ice cream. I was helping her mother with the dishes. It was just me and Neha's mother in their kitchen. We both were quietly listening to the radio.
Suddenly, “I see him", Aunty said. She Continued, "The man you see, his name is Victor. He is not a dead person".
"If he is alive, then why he keeps visiting me. What have I done to him? Is he going to kill me? Am I going crazy? “I started crying like a baby.
Aunty hugged me. "Don't worry everything is going to be fine”, she said.
“But Aunty, how did you know about him?” I asked
"We all have our secrets Richa. I am born with psychic powers. I can see things ordinary people can't". She sounded genuine.
"Can you tell me more about this man?" I asked
“All I know is his name Victor Ray, he was an old employee of your bank, he stayed in your quarter long time ago and he is not dead and will not harm you in anyway. But he definitely needs your help. Rest is up to you to find Richa “She said. Neha entered the kitchen and we discontinued our discussion. After eating the ice cream and intuitive conversation, we returned home.
“Well hello Mister. Victor. It's time that we both meet since you are alive.” I said and went off to sleep. I had a lot of research to do the next day.
CHAPTER FIVE: THE DECODING
Mr. Victor Ray was an employee of my bank. My bank records also had some papers with Mumbai police stamps on it. His wife was killed by some local burglar. After the death of his wife he quit his job in year 2005 and moved back to his family house in Vasco, Goa. Since then his health was continuously deteriorating. I tried to dig further about the details of his family members from our existing bank records. His son Mr.Agnel, was in the tourism business. He has home stays to offer to the backpackers and travelers. I had booked my stay in ‘Ray Villa’ itself. I packed my bag, booked my tickets. Everything was going as per plan. My leave got approved too after the cribbing and boring management gyaan session of my boss, “if you work hard today, you will get to eat the ripped fruit later”.
I was really excited, as this time I was the visitor and “the visitor” he was the host.
The Day - 1
I reached Vasco at 10.30 AM. Victor's grandson John came to pick me up. John was of my age so I decided to be friends with him first. We reached the ‘Ray Villa’. The villa was old yet beautiful. ‘Victor has such a nice home, then why he keeps visiting my rented apartment’ I wondered as I walk from the narrow corridors. I was following John. He was taking me to my room. He stopped at room 03 and opened the door. The room was nice; it had a view of Cashew garden from its window. John gave me the tour of the room and left. The bed was welcoming me but I had no time to relax. I ordered coffee for myself and started working on my mission right away.
John was one friendly and interesting person. He was working in Delhi and had come home to meet his grandpa, Victor since his health was deteriorating every day. He told me interesting stories of Goa and how he spent his entire childhood, partly in Mumbai and Goa. Topic of Mumbai gave me an opportunity to ask more about Victor and his wife. Ray family was extremely uncomfortable talking about their past in Mumbai. He told me things which Neha’s mother already had told me. I also got to know that Victor had stopped food intake and was completely bed ridden. His vocal chords were still in good shape which means he could talk! That was enough for me to find my answers.
The Day – 2
Almost two days in Vasco and still no success of meeting Victor. I was extremely disappointed. We literally shared the same roof in last two days.
‘No matter what happens Richa, find your way out’ I gave myself a little motivation speech. That day, in the afternoon, I saw John entering Victor's room. I grabbed the opportunity and immediately rushed inside without waiting for any permission.
“Meet my grandpa, Richa". Poor John didn't know we were old friends by then already.
"Well! Hello sir. Heard a lot about you from your grandson."
“Hello Miss. It's nice to meet you" I shook his weak, lifeless hand. He warmly greeted me.
“Grandpa, she works for your Bank" John said.
“Well then I am sure Miss Richa and I have a lot to talk about. Why don't you get a fine glass of wine for the nice lady, John?" Victor said with shivering voice. John left the room.
I didn't want to waste that very little time we had. But before I could ask anything Victor started talking.
“You are being a nice host miss, let me try my best hosting you too" Victor said.
“So you know why I am here." I came straight to the point. I continued,
“You are one nice, alive human being. Then how do you come to my house every day? How do you manage to travel every single night that too in this physical condition? Are you really a human or an alien? Can you read minds as well? Can you travel to other countries or outer space for that matter? Can I also have this power? “I asked him almost everything I could.
“How about we have a sit and talk Richa" Victor calmly suggested. He continued, “first of all, let me apologize for scaring away your maid, your cat and you. I am aware I have disturbed your life. But I also know you are one brave, curious girl Richa and you definitely deserve to know the truth. You may choose not to believe my story but just listen to it like any other fairy tale. Yes, I am not a ghost or a demon but like you experiencing some old man visiting your house, I am also experiencing my own soul leaving my body every night. I am not sure if this is some special power given only to me or bed-ridden people have this power as well.
I have stayed in that apartment for 17 years. After the death of my wife, I had to resign and move out. My family has created memories in that house. I played snooker with my wife and son. I have seen my wife taking her last breath in that house. She was killed in that house Richa. I am only alive with the hope of finding her murder. Every night I come there and wait for him to visit. He owes me one life until then I can't stop.
"The man you are looking for is already dead. See this police report.I found it from our office database. He had been killed by some local gang." I handed him one letter which I got from the police official. I continued," Sir, I only hope this satisfies you". Victor took that paper in his old, shivering hand. Tears came out of his eyes as he finished reading the letter. He started mourning for his wife.
"That is not just a house to me but a box full of memories. Now that I am on my death bed, I visit that house every day, waiting patiently for my death like how my wife did. I know it's scary to you but please Richa I request you please let me visit the house". Victor said. He looked tired and breathless after talking so much that I had to stop him from talking more.
"Oh! Okay then. Please take rest for now. I am leaving tonight for Mumbai. I am sorry for your loss sir. I can’t change what happened in the past but I can definitely be a nice host henceforth, I promise." I smiled. John entered the room with two glasses of wine. He switched on Mohamed Rafi songs in Victor's room. And we left the room.
I waved Vasco and Victor goodbye and left for my city, Mumbai. On my way home I got a message from John saying, ‘Victor is no more.’
I reached home that night, got freshen up. And I downloaded some nice Mohamed Rafi songs. Kept them playing in my living room, came back to my bedroom and fell asleep.
I never saw him after my Goa visit. I stayed in that house for next 14 months. Every day I played Rafi songs in that living room at night. I made sure I was hosting him right. I still don't know if he ever visited that house after that day.
Because some things never change.
Location: Rooftop of 15’Th storey building, Santacruz, East.
Date: December 31, 2017 (today)
Time: 11: 55 PM
I completed my story without realizing the drop of tear coming out my eyes. My boyfriend softly wiped it off and hugged me, “I am proud of you Richa. Happy New Year”. We both hugged each other with crackers bursting in the background.