Here’s an interesting story of six men, based on true life incidents, by Arindam, for the regular column, exclusively in Different Truths.
On the rooftop of a well-known lodge in Varanasi, in busy Godholia, there was a row a six rooms for semi-permanent boarders. Six married bachelors, an artist-cum-photographer, an insurance officer, a journalist, two bankers and a musician had been brought together, accidentally, by a quirk of destiny or shall I say, jobs outside their hometowns.
The roof of the old mansion-like lodge was huge. A little distance away were three bathrooms and three toilets, which were locked. Each of these was shared by two boarders.
Summer months are hot. But the cool breeze of the Ganga made it somewhat less oppressive. Six bare bodied men, dressed in shorts, lungi or pajamas, would pull out the wooden chairs and the chowkis (beds made of wood planks), out of their respective rooms. They would sit and chat there, amidst endless cups of chai, cigarettes and simple dinner, in the backdrop of Kashi Vishwanath temple’s bells and the din on the bazaar below.
Parimal da, the senior most member, was being introduced to Orjun, a journalist, working with an English daily, by Romen, his artist friend. Blowing clouds of smoke, Parimal da said, “I should have retired two years back. But, I have two more years of job.” Orjun had an amused look. “Aschorjo hochcho kano? (Why are you surprised?) Baba (Daddy) reduced my age by two years and the government extended the retirement age by two years – from 58 to 60. I gained four years.”
While Orjun smiled, other laughed, guffawed and clapped boisterously. These five over-grown teenagers would be his lodge-mate, he pondered.
Laltu – as Lalit Mohan was better known – a former football player, now a banker, would share his clandestine affairs with desirable women. Like folktales, his love stories would be told afresh, with added details, spiced heavily, for his voyeuristic audience. He had a way with words and would often have some of these half-naked men squirm and moan in delight.
“Pinky, a young widow, needed a huge OD (over draft facility) for her Banarasi Saree and carpet business. Her mansion with ten dogs, a little away from Varanasi, was best suited for love making….Next morning was the best. Seated in a cowgirl position, on my lap, she shaved me, making wild love.” Flicking ash from his cigarette, he gave such graphic details that made Penthouse Letters a pale patch.
His bragging would perhaps beat his dribbling on the field, Orjun thought, scratching his healthy full beard.
Laltu, goaded by his two fans, was spinning long yarns.
Romen, a senior visualiser and a talented photographer, with a local advertisement agency, spoke the least. Often he would doodle on his scrapbook. A lame dog…err…a tree would metamorphose into two damsels with clinging wet sarees, stepping out of the Ganga. Sipping his Rum and coke – which he never shared with anyone – he was lost in his self-absorbed world.
Orjun lit his pipe and muttered softly to Romen, about Laltu’s tales, “Ekebare ganjai dom…” (Big talks of a cannabis smoker). Romen smiled and added, “You have to meet the real one, still…not among this group.”
Tall, dark and lanky, Nankai, with sparse grey hair that flowed up to his shoulder, was the Man Friday. His countless wrinkles and toothless smile made it difficult to guess his age. He resembled a gnawed, dried tree, leafless, that still clung to its root out of sheer habit.
Nankai came balancing six compartmentalised thalis, the dinner for six half-naked men. He wore a lungi that might have been white ages ago. His long green kurta seemed to have been discarded by some crazy Fakir (Muslim mendicant).
Breaking the reverie of the group, he said, “Babu logan, kha lijiye” (Sirs, have food).
Orjun heard from the grapevines that the lodge was haunted. People had seen an Ulta Bhoot (an inverted ghost), it stood on its head in dark lonesome corners. The lodge that had a roaring business a few years back, lost much of its clientele due to its infamy.
About a month later, on a Sunday afternoon, Orjun was telling Romen and Aboni, the musician, about his brush with Tantra.
“In my younger days, after my Intermediate board exams, unknown to my parents, I was attracted to the taboo world of Tantra.”
He explained that being a ghost buster of sorts, the infamy of the lodge had attracted him to stay there. “My Guru, Shibesh da, had initiated me with reason and logic, freeing Tantra of black magic and mystery, largely.”
“Ghosts are nothing more than high energy packets that are trapped in time. They are like the watch that stopped ticking. The age at which they died is what they are, many, many years later. Like people, ghosts are good and evil.” Shibesh da had reasoned that an evil spirit can be good for someone too. “Good and evil are relative terms.
“A murderer or a rapist could be a loving father, husband or son. Everything is in a huge flux. The world of ghosts has many parallels with ours. In the nether world, ghosts are similar to the constants in a Physics equation. If you understand them, you understand the temporal world around you….Even gods have been thrown out of heavens, time and again, by the asuras (demons). Nothing is permanent, not even for gods.”
Orjun had asked, “How do we tackle or control ghosts? They are so powerful. Their fourth dimension makes us so hapless…”
His Guru explained, “Ghosts are terribly incomplete. The soul (read spirits) need a body. We, having acquired bodies, are like caged birds. During a clash (read contestation), each has to play to its strengths. There are certain dos and don’ts.”
Shibesh da went on to explain, “In fear, we move back for support. When we are afraid, we lose our energy, which the ghost(s) absorb. If we stand against a wall, the ghost gets twice the energy. It has to work on 180 degrees, instead of 360 degrees. If we push ourselves in the corners of the room, we are allowing them four times greater strength – now they have to work in 90 degrees instead of 360 degrees. All this is when we are not afraid, losing energy.
“If you feel that the Spirit is more powerful than you, stand in the middle of the room. Avoid going near trees, water bodies or fire. All these are high energy sources. The life-force in plants and water bodies and the combustion energy in fire aids the ghosts,” Shibesh da had reasoned.
Romen and Aboni listened with wide-eyed wonder.
“I must find out why energy packets (ghosts) are drawn to this haunted mansion,” Orjun asserted, adding, “Ardha Satya (half-truths) are far more dangerous than white lies.”
Two night later, in the wee hours, Aboni, the musician, and Rakhal, the bank clerk, woke everyone up with blood-curdling cries.
Orjun checked his wrist watch. It was 2:30 am. While Aboni rushed to the group of men sleeping on the terrace, shouting, “Ulta Bhoot,” Rakhal was almost unconscious, frothing from his mouth.
Orjun leaped towards Rakhal with a flashlight in his hand, followed by Romen, armed with a stick (they kept it handy to shoo away the monkeys in the morning). Others followed, with Laltu, not moving an inch from his bed. He was awake and shivering.
In a lonesome dark corner was the Ulta Bhoot. He was standing on its head. Flashing the light on him, Orjun burst into a laughter, much to the amazement of others.
Romen too was beside him by then. Nankai, who resembled an apparition that might scare the weak-hearted in broad daylight, was standing on his head, the classic Sirsha Asan position. Romen poked him gently with his stick. Nankai fell on the floor.
The duo went up to him. He was lying on the floor, still and stiff, like a corpse. Nothing would wake him up.
Amidst laughter and big talks of Laltu, the group went back to sleep. Parimal da was the first one to get up. He said, “At 5.30am, Nankai, who we thought was dead, went missing.”
“Like the dead cat that ran away,” added Orjun.
Nankai brought tea and biscuits for the six men at 6.30am. He did not remember a thing and argued that he was asleep in his room, below, on the ground floor.
Aboni said, “Am sure it was the spirit of the Ulta Bhoot that had possessed our dear Nankai.”
Strangely, after that incident, Ulta Bhoot fled from that lodge in Varanasi!
Photos from the Internet.
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Arindam Roy has 37 years experience in various newsrooms. He was the Managing Editor of a reputed Gurgaon-based Citizen Journalist portal and has held senior positions in several publications. As Correspondent and Bureau Chief, he has written extensively for Associated Press, Times of India, Hindustan Times and multiple news outlets. He has contributed 13 chapters to various publications. Of these, seven chapters were published in two Coffee Table Books, published by the Times Group. He is a co-author of a novel, Rivers Run Back that he penned with Joyce Yarrow. The novel was launched at the American Centre, New Delhi, on January 2015. He lives in Allahabad.