In his over three-decade journey as a journalist, Arindam shows us the many faces of newsrooms in India, at the turn of the Millennium. It’s about the glimpses of life both inside and outside the newsrooms. He calls this series, ‘The Life of a Reporter’. Insightful, humorous, serious, sad or spooky, there are many shades and hues in the lives of journalists that never see the light of the day. Here’s a first- hand account from an insider.
Gour (name changed) was delirious with joy. He held a copy of a new men’s magazine, one of the five advance copies, that was to be launched later that week. As a managing editor of the new venture, he and his team had toiled tirelessly, for months.
An abstract concept that germinated in a coffee shop almost a year back had materialised. The ‘unborn child’ now had a face.
Gour and his team were staying in a three-star hotel, not far from Hotel Janpath, New Delhi. This hotel (name withheld) had become their camp office in Delhi, away from their head office, in Allahabad.
It was a time for celebrations.
An international brand of a renowned Scotch, his favourite, flowed like river. The party was in the hotel room of the CEO of the project. In all, there were four of them. The core group of the new magazine. Choicest lip-smacking dishes were there. That night, they kept drinking till they could barely stand.
It was nearly 2am when everyone dispersed. They went to their respective rooms. Gour fumbled with the keys and staggered into his room. He kicked off his shoes and somehow managed to change into his pajamas.
He clambered on his bed and turned down the bed light, turning the knob of the electronic regulator near the headboard of the bed. He gulped some water directly from the jug, spilling much of it on his kurta. He was very sleepy but could not sleep.
The room was filled with scents of fresh flowers and incense stick smoke. There were no flowers in the room. No incense stick either. The scent grew stronger. It was eerie. His intoxication had vanished!
Gour felt uneasy and disturbed. The reason was the strong smell of flowers. There was a feminine presence. He smelled and heard the soft rustle of silk. Also, there was the fragrance of French perfume. But, despite all these there was a cold smell of death underneath all these. The kind some of you might have experienced at a place where a woman’s corpse is kept, bedecked with flowers, in the midst of incense smoke.
It was inexplicable how the mix of these fragrances kept on intensifying. So did the strong smell of death. Gour pinched and told himself that he was sufficiently drunk. He got up, opened the door of his room, and stepped out into the silent lobby on that floor.
The strange fragrances weren’t there anymore. He cautiously walked down the steps to the floor below, keenly observing his reactions. Gour was watching himself, if we may use the term. His mind was racing. There were nothing, no fragrances, no body odor, no smell of death either.
Brushing aside his unnecessary fear and blaming his inebriated state, he went back into his room.
He then heard the mute sobs. It felt like some women were in excruciating agony. Despite fear, Gour felt sad too.
The fragrances were sharp now. Weird things started happening. Many things at once. The still fan was on. It started whirring at full speed. All the lights that were off, were turned on. The bed lamp regulator and various electric switches were moving, as if these had life. The TV turned on. The door of the bathroom swung open and kept on swinging on its own, making a creaking sound.
A dog wailed somewhere. More dogs wailed…
For the first time in his life, fearless Gour was scared. Terrified to the core. He felt cold air swirl around him. This was no hallucination. The presence of the spirit was loud and clear.
Gour wanted to yell. He lost his voice. A raucous sound was all that he could manage.
But, despite all this, his mind was racing. He was quickly thinking of all that he had heard and read, the dos and don’ts in such cases.
Gour had talked of life, death, and life after death with some seers during Kumbh Mela, in his hometown. He had also interacted with Tantriks as a journalist.
He recalled what Ashok da (name changed), a Tantrik, had told him about ghosts and spirits, when he was in college. He did not believe in anything that Ashok da had said years back.
Uncannily, Ashok da had warned him, “One day you will need all these gyan (knowledge).” Mentally he had brushed it aside only to be told that his ‘avidya’ (arrogant ignorance that obfuscates reasons) stopped him.
Gour remembered what Ashok da had told him, “Don’t be scared. The rate at which you lose your energy is directly proportionate to the rate at which these spirits gain it. You have an advantage. You have a body, they have none. They have an advantage. They are on the fourth dimension. You and I know just three dimensions. Use your body and mind to your advantage. Let the spirits not take any advantage of your disadvantages. It’s a battle of wits.”
Ashok da added, “In fear, we slump. Move back and push ourselves against the wall. The moment we do, we allow the spirits to do half the work. Geometrically, it has to work 180 degrees, instead of 360 degrees. That’s to the spirit’s advantage. Worst is if you push yourself in a corner of a room. The spirits have get 270 degrees advantage. They work mere 90 degrees. Never ever push against the wall or move into a corner. Be brave. Stand in the center of the room. Make the spirits work more. Chant mantras.”
He had also been warned to avoid going near water, fire or in the open where there are trees. “Each of these give more power to the spirits.”
Gour had taken all these with fistful of salt. His rational mind was amused. He wasn’t even aware that his memory had stored all these information carefully. Not till he heard Ashok da’s sonorous voice within him.
Gour’s throat was dry. He moved in the center of his hotel room. An agnostic, he was chanting mantras, invoking Goddess Durga to give him strength.
He lost track of the time he stood there. He had gained strength. Slowly the strange activities died down. What remained was the fragrances of flowers, women’s body odor, incense smoke and the cold smell of death below all these.
Gour told himself the next morning, “My brush with Ashok da was not without reason. No experiences, no matter how absurd or stupid it might appear, is without meaning. Every person, every experience has a reason. We fail to understand these…almost always.”
Gour’s spooky experiences in Delhi continued for a long time. He unraveled many more mysteries.
Later, he established communication with a spirit. They became good friends. They were equals. They had set each other free. Gour promised never to use ‘the power’ for himself or for anyone else.
But those are different stories…
Pix from Net