|Illustration: Uday Deb
I entered a restaurant and ordered a cup of tea. My appetite for a proper meal had been replaced by a burning in the pit of my stomach. I spoke to the owner about sending my meals to the house. He saw the address and said, “I will send all your daytime meals. But at night, none of my boys will agree to go there. A woman jumped to her death in that well. She may still be hanging around.” He looked at me again. “Aren’t you afraid of ghosts, saar?”
“No. I’m not,” I replied casually. “I have my mantram.”
I kept talking about this mantram. What mantram? I didn’t know either.
Hearing that the ghost was a woman, half my fear had evaporated and I was somewhat reassured. She must have some traces of tenderness still left in her, I told myself.
I had my tea, made arrangements for my food and then walked to the bank nearby where a couple of my friends were employed as clerks. I told them of my predicament and they promptly berated me.
“That was a very foolish thing to do. Couldn’t you have asked us before you took the house? We would have advised you. The place is haunted. And it is men who are attacked by the ghost,” they said.
So, it is men she hates.
“Who knew all this at that time? Anyway, why did the woman jump into the well?
“Love. All for love,” one of them said. “Bhargavi was her name. She was twenty-one years old, had just finished her BA and had fallen passionately in love with this man. But the fellow went and married someone else. On his wedding night, Bhargavi jumped into the well and died.”
So that is why she hates men.
By this time most of my fear had gone.
Confidently, I told them, “Bhargavi won't bother me.”
“Why won’t she bother you?”
“My mantram, my mantram.”
“We shall see. Soon you will be screaming for help.”
I chose not to reply.
A little later I returned to the house. I opened the doors and windows. Then I went out to the well and called out softly, “Bhargavikutty!” After a few moments, I began…
“Bhargavikutty, we don’t know each other. Let me tell you about myself. I am the new tenant here. I consider myself a very decent man. A confirmed bachelor. You know, Bhargavikutty, I have heard people make complaints about you. You won’t let anyone live here in peace...You bang doors in the middle of the night. You open up the water taps. You put your hands around men’s throats and strangle them…That’s what I’ve heard. Now tell me, Bhargavikutty what do you want me to do? I have paid two months’ rent in advance, and I can’t afford to let it go. I don’t have pots of money. Besides, I like this house of yours very much. It is your own house, isn’t it?
“I want to work here in peace and quiet. I write stories, Bhargavikutty. Tell me, do you like stories? If you do, I shall read all my stories to you...”
To be continued
Excerpted from Ghost Stories