Friday, November 25, 2005

Radha

Disclaimer: This is based on a true story. If you do not believe in ghosts, it is not my problem.

Deep inside a national park in Central India is the tribal village of Belkund. Belkund means the pond of the Bel tree, named so for obvious reasons. The pond itself is located at the base of a cliff: it is a watering hole frequented by tigers, deer and other big game. at the edge of the cliff is a dak bungalow that has seen better days. big verandahs, high ceilings, faded black and white photographs of british officers proudly posing with their trophies. electricity is yet to come to these parts.

A small path leaves the dak-bungalow and switches back and forth down the face of the cliff, leading to a wildlife observation platform disguised amongst the branches of a bel tree. a brief note on the bel tree is in order here. Its leaves are believed to have healing properties, and find use in both hindu religious practice, and in traditional medicine. It is also the preferred abode of ghosts.

Late one summer night, he sits up, ghost-like, hoping to catch a glimpse of a tiger that is known to frequent the pond. Its a warm night and he dozes off. He is woken up by the soft clinking of anklets. ordinary anklets of the kind that are frequently worn by tribal women in india.

It's too late for any of the villagers to come down to the pond, and walking around at night is unadvisable. Unable to see well enough in the light of the half moon, he scrabbles down the rungs of the ladder, only to hear footsteps up in the tree. Scared and disturbed, he heads back to the bungalow. He turns around the first switchback and realizes that the footsteps are following him. He runs. All 500 or so feet up the cliff face, chased by the unseen sound.

Gasping, he reaches the bungalow. The door to their room opens into the verandah, and he knocks on it, as he hears the approaching sound of footsteps across the stone floor. Thankfully S, his hiking companion groggily opens the door just in time; he shuts the door and bolts it.

"What happened?"
"Shhhh..."

For he can hear the footsteps in his room. S turns and looks around, wide-eyed, terrified. As they cower under the blankets, she walks the room, unseen, given away only by the sound of her anklets, and the occasional self-satisfied soft laugh.

The next morning, they relate the incident to the caretaker of the dak-bungalow, a wizened old man of seventy years. His father had been the caretaker of the bungalow, and before him, his grandfather. It is a familiar occurence for him, he says, happening only to single males who stay in the dak-bungalow. In any case, he knows her.

She would have been his great-aunt. In nineteen twenty six, she was a girl of eighteen. His name was wilson, an englishman five thousand miles away from home, in the sweltering jungles of the Central Provinces. He had raped her, and she had jumped off the cliff to hide her shame.

They stay away from people, the undead do. They prefer the wild, and in cities, the back alleys and the hidden nooks and crannies. But they will occasionally drop by and make their presence felt, as a gentle reminder that there is more to the world than meets the eye.

Little did he realize that fateful night that she would fall in love and, unknown to him, decide to be with him. She menaces the women he wants to be with and he wonders why he remains single. Little does he realize on the lonely nights when he is woken up by the sound of her footsteps and her laughter, that he has an unseen lover.

5 comments:

Falstaff said...

Nice. Though personally, I prefer my relationships the other way round - where the woman is seen, but not heard. :-).

Heh Heh said...

Amen.
:)

absolutely clueless said...

hmm....now where have i heard this story before...

Anonymous said...

And you're sure she's not one of the seventeen?

Amarula said...

>>If you do not believe in ghosts, it is not my problem.
ok :)