What with cloudy days and ghost stories, the former being considered as ideal for the latter, I have yet not been able to make out the deeper connection between the two. Is it the mist that rises from the grounds on a cold, cloudy morn, thickening on the trees, shrubberies, bushes and the grass-beds, slowly enveloping the surrounds in a dull grey shroud? The gradual opaqueness which prevents normal vision through the vaporous mesh? Or is it the black, rain-laden clouds with furrowed brows, hunched over the bosom of a breathless earth, ready to spout in torrential rage? Or is it those who will themselves out of downy pillows, cozy quilts and warm blankets to follow their usual routine of daily toil, covered head to foot in heavy overcoats, caps and boots, leaving the trudge-marks of their purposeful gait on desolate roads tearing the misty veils and ignoring the wrathful sky? Or is it those mean four-wheelers revved up to action throwing a glissade of pale lights on fast vanishing tracks striving to mark a weak trail in the coagulating fog? Or is it the solidified silence that descends unaware and prevails for long hours on the cityscape as though the civilization has come to an abrupt halt or to an untimed end? Is it the greyness, the paleness, the mistiness, the cloudiness which make it easier to believe all those things which slink away hurriedly in the light of cool rationale and irrefutable logic on a clear and bright sunny day? Whatever the inexplicable link be, on a frosty winter morning, you do feel nice getting scared and haunted and mystified, somehow enjoying those curdling goose bumps on your arms and the steaming cup of tea held in light, shaky clasp going cold over a furious discord between doting dread and dauntless courage. The gathering darkness and freezing cold outside spooning in that extra measure of surreal to wholesome incredulity and triumphant make-belief!! Be it a film, a book or just a robust, raucous debate on their (non) existence, cloudy days are meant and meant only for the extra-sensory perceptions.
My mamaji (maternal uncle) was a great story teller, relishing every bit of the unwavering attention that he received during those afternoon tale-telling sessions. At the most suspenseful juncture he would stop suddenly, perhaps to gauge the effect of his narrative on the audience, and light a cigarette and drag on it with calculated ease, demanding a cup of tea of my mother declaring that he would not utter a syllable further till he had wetted his parched tongue with the slurps of that golden brown beverage. We would object loudly, we the children of the household, whom he had managed to reign in so cleverly around him with his sing-song word pictures, putting thereby a sound brake on any further rowdy mischiefs. He is the one who introduced me to Maupassant, though not exactly a ghost story writer, but definitely dealing in those strange human behaviours and incomprehensible happenings in their lives, defying outrageously all cerebral deductions.
My elder brother, decades younger than my mamaji, had weirder snippets to share…
“Kolkata of the 70s reeling under the Naxaal onslaught…
A bus plying through the night, its head lights the only means to lighten the dark, deserted stretch. Night riders were few, restful and sleepy, in their respective seats. A boy sat next to the open window dozing lightly. The cool night air brushing his cheeks and swaying his well combed locks. A plain boy in his early teens in a bush shirt and pants; nothing remarkable or extra-ordinary about him!!! All of a sudden, the bus came to a halt, perhaps at a regular stop, now indistinct in the overcrowding darkness. A man jumped on board and came to sit next to the boy. After a while, the bus moved on. The man was about to settle into a comfortable posture turning his head towards the window to get a draught of fresh air.
Seeing the boy, he jerked up from the seat and exclaimed disbelievingly, “Aren’t you the very same who got killed at the bend of the alley a few minutes past?”
And poop tumbled the boy’s head off his shoulders before the man’s bulging eyes.”
While we would gasp with fright the elders would have a hearty laugh at the bluff master. And soon would ensue a vociferous debate on the believability of such happenings…
However, there is one such incident, which comes to my mind, being a more recent one, though not the only brush that I have had with the extra-sensorial.
Around five years back…
We had moved into our new flat, our own, that is to say and were in the process of settling down. Those who had shifted base would know, it takes ages to get accustomed to the new habitat. After a trying day of shifting and placing the furniture where they should be, we retired to bed early. I am in the habit of visiting the bathroom intermittently during the night.
It was peak summer. For effective air-conditioning we always shut our bedroom door tight. At 04.00 am as I opened the door to go to the loo (we don’t have attached baths), a few steps towards the right of the bedroom, I had this electrifying encounter.
Our bedroom opens into a big, square drawing-dining hall. The far end of the wall is taken up mostly by a big window. On either side of the window are placed the TV and the Music System on stands moulded to fit in to each corner. The drapes were drawn allowing only a faint streak of moonlight to disperse the darkness inside the hall, albeit, in vain. I am myopic and don’t generally put on the specs when I get up during the night which may account for the shadowy skeletal figure that I saw stooped a little over the Music System as though trying to switch it on.
Usually I go dumb and rooted in fear. But on this occasion a shriek escaped my lips which could have awakened the dead, “Who..who is that standing there?” A few seconds and I was fumbling for the switch, a few steps to my left. When the lights came on, the hall was devoid of all spectral form except me shivering in my night gown.
When I told my mother (now wide awake) what I had seen she promptly attributed it to my fertile imagination and penchant for spooky Hollywood movies. My sister and Brother-in-law were a little more condescending analyzing zestfully all the aspects of the episode from various angles and reasonability till my mind was soothed to a considerable measure. Throughout the commotion, my pet Mr. Snow Boot slept soundly.
However, that morning more surprises lay in store for me. Our office, a corner plot, with three sides open, was distributed in three floors and was easily accessible to tresspass/invasion. We had recently been taken over by a larger corporate entity. The new Administration had purchased a dozen computers off-the-showroom which were largely installed on the first floor. The night I had the encounter-of-the-unknown-kind, a pack of hooligans had broken in and robbed the new machines clean off the desks. Evidently, they had transferred their loot through an open windowwhich they had expertly unlatched from the outside.
When I shared my experience of the previous night with my peers, they insisted that it was a kind of premonitory indication of what was simultaneously happening or going to happen in the office that very night. Some friendly spirit was trying to communicate the same in his/her own way to me.
My office lies outside the municipal limit of my city. Though, within the ambit of the National Capital Region (NCR), however, geographically, my office falls in the neighbouring state (NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh) whereas I reside in the Capital. What good would it have been even if I had an inkling of what was going on in the Office was beyond my comprehension. Neither would I have been able to reach in time to stop the miscreants from stealing nor did I have the telephone numbers of the concerned In Charge to tip him off about the ongoing/forthcoming burglary. It would have been really helpful if the good hearted ghost had contacted somebody who lived near the office premise or could communicate with either the Guards-on-duty or the Administration Head.
Notwithstanding the wrong choice that our friend from the other world made in me, his intent, ethics and accountability were indisputably irreproachable. 🙂
However, the explanation proffered by my colleagues did provide me something to mull over especially on days when the window panes licked on mist-crested creepers, birds nested in quietude and the sun snuggled a little longer under the coverlet of velvet clouds.
More spooky tales: