Yet Another Ghost Story
Yet Another Ghost Story
"What's that haunted fort in Jaipur named”, I curiously asked as we stretched on the stairs of Resident hostel after evening walk. “Used to be really creepy when that TV serial was in vogue during the Doordarshan era", I continued. Though I was an under-10 kid when that program used to air, I have very vivid memories of that spooky misadventure of some friends visiting that haunted fort.
“Most probably it’s the Banar fort, skirting the Jaipur-Alwar route", said Samit after consulting our era's wizard, the omniscient Google, breaking the silence invoked by my haunting query. “Though there are 4-5 more such places in Rajasthan," he continued with Google's regurgitations, "that's the one we are interested in, I guess". "Hmmm, Banar sounds familiar, “I latched up to the hint, "but it may even be something like Banagarh"."They have attached a story to the whys and wherefores of its sinister tag as well", Samit said and narrated a short tale of the mysterious disappearances in the fathomless darkness of its expanses.
"Maybe we could plan a trip down there some weekend", I suggested. The rest of the brigade didn't quite cherish the idea and silence prevailed once again.
“Sometimes I hear trinkets in our corridor after midnight", revealed Videsh. "Guess you could enjoy the spookiness right here if you stay up late. So, no need to travel miles if you could live the vile, sparing the trial."
“Wow, you rhymed well dude “I exclaimed!” But you know the trinkets might be something else rather than a white cloaked damsel ramping down the corridors in candle flames.
To lighten up the ambiance, I started narrating a childhood experience. "You know guys, once during my summer vacation visit to my aunt's place in Bokaro; the trinket lady haunted me for two nights."
"Trinket lady, two nights!! What are you talking about Anik?" Almost everyone shouted in unison.
“It was the summer of 89," I tried to start my story on a classical note,” and we were visiting my aunt's place in Bokaro". "We reached there in the evening after a five hour drive from Jamshedpur. Inadvertently, I noticed that it was an amavasya night. We were bountiful of kids and such gatherings always involved a lot of fun. We enjoyed a multitude of games and gossips and by the time we were coaxed to sleep, the topic would inadvertently be ghost stories."
Our gang leader, Rhobhit Bhaiya, started the proceedings for the evening with his world famous Khurshid's tales from the crypts. His tales invariably had an element of authenticity on account of the nearby cemetery, which he claimed to be Khurshid's lair. To make matters worse, we even had mushrooms cultivated from the farm adjoining the cemetery's that night. So, while Khurshid kept up to his reputation in giving us goosebumps, Rags Didi's narration of white sari ghost asking for lift on amavasya night left us trembling. Jeet was already crying and hiding among sheets. I was no less terrified but tried to put up a stoic face. None of us dared going to the washroom at bed-time and we had reinforcements talking to us from the other side of lavatory door while we hastened through the proceedings of nature's call. No lights were put off till we fell asleep playing Mario. Then everything was put to rest, as if caressed by the smooth favonian breeze whispering outside. It was a amavasya night.
The blood red night lamp was shining on my face with all its might when I woke up suddenly in the midst of night. The next thing that I saw through my squeezing myopic eyes was the shadows of trees swaying outside in wallowing wind. I was still perplexed as to what woke me up....the light, the wind, Jeet's sleepy kicks, snores from the other room or..........the tinkling. The trinkets tinkling!!! I concentrated hard, eyes wide open to confirm whether I heard a tinkling sound. To my relief, nothing reverberated in my ear drums for five minutes or so.
Relaxed, I prepared myself for another marathon slumber. No sooner did I close my eyes that I heard it. Tink...tink...ting...tingggg. Very loud and clear. No illusions. Ting...Ting...Ting... Ting. Again. Now I was out of my bed frantically looking for my glasses. By the time I could apprehend the ambience with clarity, the tinkling keep surfacing in trebles interspersed with deadly silence. Be holding my breath, I whispered "Didi...Didi...” interrupted by the sudden tinklings which ran a chill down my spine.
Now, I was frantically shaking up mummy and Didi both. They woke up, startled, and tried to calm me down anticipating a nightmare. "Close your eyes and you will fall asleep" both emphasized simultaneously, as if stamping their authority in resolving sleep disorders. “I hear trinkets", I tried to explain. No sooner had I uttered the forsaken words that both of them again exclaimed" too much of spooky stories tonight, it seems". "And you certainly have been in awe of the sixth sense", added Didi." Offo, I really heard the sound of anklets tinkling’s" I insisted. All three of us gazed at each other with abated silence. No damn tinkling at all, not even an iota of it. So, there I stood dumbfounded as not even a pin drop could be heard while I was claiming a conundrum. Both of them waited for a while, "where's the tinkling" poking from their eyes. Finally, they declared the entire episode to be my bewitched nightmare and fussed the class with a "sleep now".
As we prepared to tug ourselves in, "ting...cling...Ting". "There it is" I exclaimed with joy at my victory, forgetting the Goosebumps the same sound made minutes ago."Mausiji hongi, so jao sablog", murmured Jeet from beneath the pillow, unable to restrain his anger arising out of the humdrum disturbed his sleep for much longer. "Yes, Jeet's right....."Mummy couldn't complete her sentence when she saw a perplexed Mausiji standing at the door, perplexed and the tinkling still persisting around. “What’s happening around here?" enquired Mausiji. Jeet was out of his pillow armor by now, obviously aware of the fact that his hypothesis has been nullified. “Will somebody tell me what's wrong", insisted Mausiji, switching on the lights. "Did you hear that", all four of us said in unison. "Hear what"? “The tinkling of anklets".
Now it was Mausiji's turn to get startled but the fear factor had been mitigated by logs under the lights. Yes, now everyone could hear the tinkling echoes. Sometimes from the west, and sometimes from the south and sometimes coming from all around. A mouse hunt ensued as we searched every nook and corner of the house and around. Fear had given way to curiosity by now. After an hour or so of futile search we finally gave up, with overbearing sleep weighing down our enthusiasm. Eventually, we succumbed to sleep, not to mention that the lights kept illuminating the room. Once again we were all fast asleep. Silence. Silence. Tink. Ting. Ting.
Next Morning the entire gang discussed the curious case of tinkling night. Many theories were propounded, from mouse in the room, to thief jumping around. The thief hypothesis came very close to the jury's approval as there had been an earlier incident of a thief eating coconut in the garden in the middle of the night, after making the entire effort if climbing up the coconut tree.
“We must have revoked the spirit of Khurshid and he was the one roaming around" propounded Rhobhit Bhaiya. This one dismissed the thief theorem and was unanimously agreed upon by the gang.
"But, Khurshid with anklets??” questioned Didi? Tell you, our gang was quite an inquisitive lot and we didn't just take up anything for an answer until our logic logically quenched. There were giggles all around imagining Khurshid dancing round the lobby in anklets. But as no other plausible explanation came forth, dancing Khurshid prevailed.
Theory validated and curiosity satiated, we were back to all fun and no work.
Post lunch, we were drooping in the same eastern corridor room overshadowed by the fragrant jasmine tree."Khurshid in anklets", exclaimed Jeet out of nowhere and ran out of the room. The others glanced at each other and strained their ears hard, holding their breath to discern the dreaded tinkling. "Ting, tink", there it was. “It couldn't possibly be Khurshid at this hour of the day", pondered Bhaiya, “they are nocturnal, not day-walkers". This fuelled our curiosity once again.
“Switch off the fan so that we could hear the sound clearly and trace this mortal Pied Piper" blurted the orders. Fans switched off, lights ablaze, torches out we readied us for the mission. No tinkling. We waited. No tinkling. We waited further. Still, no tinkling. We waited, sweating incessantly. Not even a tiny ting. We gave up, assuming the "thing" got subdued.
No sooner were the fans switched on, the chimes returned. This time around we focused hard and realized that the sounds were more profound around the eastern and southern quarter of the room. Those corners also housed the almirahs and now we were pretty sure that the "thing" is going to prop out of them any moment. “What’s his love for the fan", a query prompted, as the sounds kept dampening whenever the fan was turned off. Our grey cells hadn't even started releasing the acetylcholines when all of a sudden the almirahs on the east opened with a bang. The hues and cries that ensued were mighty enough to bewilder even the ugliest of the witches. When the conundrum finally halted, Didi gathered courage to look into the almirahs. "Relax guys” it was just the pressure from the rolled quilts that forced open the weak doors of this antique almirahs. “Nothing inside, see", she authenticated.
Relaxed a bit, we mustered some courage and barged open the second almirahs as well, not to mention that two of our comrades had equipped themselves with brooms in the meantime. Nothing spooky surfaced from the other almirah either. Everyone in the room searched the almirahs thoroughly which were finally given a clean chit. Both almirahs were tight shut and the sounds started clammering once again. Almost at the same point of time Thakur started laughing in sinister overtones. "The thing's got him, damn it", was the common observation, while I was expecting him to take off in the broom he was so fastidiously clenching in his right hand.
While everyone was speculating and expecting something extraterrestrial to happen, Thakur exclaimed: “it’s the escutcheon"!!! Everyone exchanged perplexed glances while Thakur gallantly marched towards the almirah. Thump! He even surrendered the broom, his not so deadly looking yet a weapon in the circumstances. “Switch off the fan", he commanded. The order was implemented sans delay. “Switch it on now", his subsequent order sublimed even sooner." Everyone can hear the tinkling, right"? All nodded in unison. Then he placed his thumb over the escutcheon and asked me to do the same with the other almirah. I did that reluctantly. And lo, the tinkling stopped!!! We removed our thumbs and seconds later the sounds reappeared. Now, everyone queued up to feel the magic themselves. So, this was it- rumblings of the escutcheons sounded to us like rumblings from the crypt.
"So you need to check the escutcheons of your wardrobe Videsh", I addressed to the residents gang. The gang responded with a potpourri of aahhhs, hmms, ooohs and yawns. "Guess we should be retiring to beds", Shamit said" it’s almost midnight".
All and the sundry agreed and dispersed towards their quarters bidding goodnight.
My room was at the end of the alley and I was left alone while I approached it. Must admit, that though I narrated the entire not-so-ghostly story very gallantly, now I was feeling a bit spooky myself. As I turned round the corner, a tinkling sound caught my attention. Tink, tink....silence. I glanced at the corner room and the only thing I could discern with clarity was the room number. It was 13.
"Too much of ghostly tale tonight, phew", I murmured as I hurried my pace to go past the room. Just as I negotiated the curve, the lights went off and I stood frozen in pitch darkness for a moment. A chill ran down my spine when I saw a flickering light with the silhouette of a lady at the end of the gallery. I closed my eyes for a few seconds, at the same time gathering strength to shout out loud if the shadows persisted on opening the eyes. After a few deep breaths I opened my eyes. Pitch black. No flickers, no silhouettes. No nothings but fathomless darkness. Somehow the darkness comforted me more than the hint of light that shook me up seconds ago.
“A mirage at night, that's funny" I consoled myself as I flashed my cellular light. I hurriedly unlatched the door and straight away jumped into my bed. Need a good night's sleep. As I was fighting to get asleep as soon as possible I started hearing tinkling. "I'm really fatigued man, it’s all kinds of hallucinations," I thought. "It’s the escutcheon again, why am I getting paranoid" I blurted out loud and this thought relaxed me somehow. I very well remembered that sound and was damn sure that nothing else on earth can produce such music save the clinging of escutcheons. After some struggle, I finally managed to fall asleep and the last thing that I remembered before snoozing was that it was an amavasya night.
I woke up pretty early the next day, wrapped up in an unfamiliar white shawl. Must be Shwarab's shawl which he left behind when we had tea in the evening, I guessed. Made myself a cup of black coffee and was smiling at myself for what transpired the other night. Couldn't help notice a half-burnt candle with wax drippings all around perched atop the window. Couldn't recapitulate, but i must have lit it yesternight after the lights went off. All the illusions........ And hallucinations....... and stupid nothings!!!!! And all this because of a silly escutcheon!
Sipping my coffee I picked up the machine oil to grease the noisy thing. I felt as if I spotted a hovering shadow in the mirror as I approached the cupboard. Illusions again. Momentary and fleeting. Now I was standing next to the cupboard and the next moment the coffee mug slipped off my hand, my eyes wide open and gooseflesh thawing me horribly.
The cupboard had no escutcheon.