Arindam cites a real life experience, with real people and incidents. A blue ambassador car was being readied for a long journey, by Om, the driver, on a foggy and cold January morning, outside a hotel, in Mathura, plonk opposite the Yamuna. Read what happened? Here’s an eerie ghost story, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
My maternal aunt, a pretty lady, was married to an hotelier in Mathura. While growing up, Agra Hotel, the only hotel plonk opposite Yamuna, in that temple-town was our second home. During Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna, the small township acquired a life of its own. Pilgrims were ready to sleep on staircases (though my uncle never allowed overcrowding). A huge Parikrama, circumventing the birth place of Lord Krishna – Mathura and Vrindavan – would be the wish of Krishna devotees.
My cousin, Alok and I, had a great time. We were inseparable (as same agers). My uncle performed a huge puja at home (part of the hotel was the family dwelling). While the elders would fast, we children – a huge army of cousins, second cousins, – would freak out. Boating on the Yamuna, singing, dancing and partying on our own were the order of the day. While the elders listened to Krishna Bhajans, we played Boney M, Abba, Frank Sinatra, et al, stealthily, helped by sisters-in- law.
A flight of stairs led to the ghat. There were two octagonal Burj (stone canopy) on either side of the wide stairs. We often sat there and watched sunrises and sunsets. Alok and I were partners in crime. He passed away a few years back. The ownership of that hotel has changed though the name remains the same.
I still recall that we fed the tortoises and enjoyed boat rides, swaying in the flow of the river.
We played cricket on its banks, during summers, when the water receded. Monkeys, stray dogs, a fat ox and passersby kept company.
During one of my many visits, during summer vacations, I found that my cousins would tease Om, by mimicking ‘Bataun’ in a nasal tone. Om would turn pale. I was intrigued. I asked.
None of them divulged. That night, after dinner, I asked my mashi, “What made Om, a cheerful and fearless person, so scared?”
She smiled and told me, “Ask Om?” After cajoling him and promising that I would not tease him, he shared what had happened. This is what he told me:
“It was a cold foggy morning, early January. I could barely watch the tip of my outstretched hand. I was getting the blue ambassador ready for a long journey for Babuji (a respectful way of addressing elders) and the family. The chill in the wind was strangely scary. I brushed it aside, blaming it on the terribly cold weather and the biting chilly winds.
“I and Bahadur (Man Friday of my uncle) were busy. Suddenly, there was power outage. It was terribly dark. A howling wind was blowing. The Yamuna was angry – like rivers are at night – it was perhaps the time of high tide. The full moon’s light was weak. The fog was very dense – it is near a river or open farms. I pulled my woolen cap tighter. Bahadur brought a kerosene lantern.
“Suddenly, we both heard a child crying. Strangely, it was coming from the riverfront.
“I saw her in the kerosene lamp light. There were thick kajal (kohl) in its eyes, smudged and runny with her tears. Her legs, a little below her knees, weren’t there. She was crawling up the ghat stairs.
“I asked him, kya hua (what happened), but she kept on crying. I felt sad. I again asked,
“Naam kya hai tumhara?” (What’s your name?).
Om said, “I guess about 8-year- old. The girl did not reply. But, she looked at me. I got a strange chill…still I asked her the same question. She stopped crying. Gave a scare, sinister laugh. Her face changed. It was very scary. And she just said, in a low, mean voice, ‘Bataun’, in a nasal tone. My throat went dry. I was shivering in fright….And the child vanished.
Literally. ‘Gayab ho gaya’. I fell down with a shriek. But I lost my voice. No sound came out of my throat. The kerosene lamp fell from Bahadur’s hand. It was very dark. We somehow ran back, not bothering about the smashed lantern, stumbling and falling a couple of times, inside the reception area of the hotel.
“Frightened, we shut the door. I was not prepared to go out, again…”
Trust me, this was one of the scariest ghost stories, I’d ever heard.
Pix from the Net.