Author Topic: The Ghost  (Read 3954 times)

The Old Spirit

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    • rajivmudgal
The Ghost
« on: January 26, 2011, 04:30:01 PM »
The Ghost

What is a ghost, but a memory trying to escape the boundaries of its time, a memory that has by a mere accident become one with its surroundings. A delicate repeat of events in its minutest detail that arise, appear and in its rising gathers itself into the same and familiar.

Time on the other hand is certainly a mystery, and still, it is only memory that holds time and oblivion within the very same region, and it does so by letting each shine forth in its own light.

**********

I cannot remember when I met her for the first time, I think it was during the college elections where she was canvassing for someone whom I vaguely knew as an eccentric scholar of the occult. Yes Sunda was quite a strange creature, loving and at the same time quite disturbing. On the other hand there was something extraordinary about Aruni, something magical, something spiritual, If I may still use that word, a spirit by whose presence the surrounding bloomed and a certain liveliness appeared. They say only the invisible presence of a god can bring things to bloom into spontaneous flowering. Often in olden days they could divine their closeness by the appearance of joyousness in and around places and mehfils. “Gods” the ancients inform us are attracted to poetry like a moth to a flame. Ka after all is the most potent spirit to exist in the three worlds, the mother of speech, the wine of the gods.

That day when she visited my rented room, I could not take my eyes of her. Time and again I kept wondering as to what on earth could produce such a bewitching beauty who by her mere looks could bring things and object to bloom. Even the walls, windows, trees seems to partake her spirit, and shine plumed with radiant joy.

“So what’s up with you” I asked, becoming nervous by her beatific presence.
“Nothing in particular” she replied smiling, just that Sunda was explaining to her the other day how one can send ones ownmost memories into the future, into past and into parallel worlds.
“And can you!. …really can one!!!” I asked trying to hide my embarrassment as her lips rubbed past my cheeks almost creasing my face.
“Certainly… Why not?” she replied playing with my ears, “why not” she echoed mildly taking a whole circle around my body, teasing it as my arms gently slipped around her waist, holding her tightly like an atom that hold in its grip the secrets of the beyond.
“I don’t think it is possible dear! I mean… think” I whispered back.
“Why not?” She responded, loosening my grip and withdrawing my arms from her waist.
“Why not! Good question.” my eyes followed her delicate scent. “Why, why” it kept stammering, “its common sense my dear”.

“What is common about this sense” she responded, closing her body in and gently resting it over my chest where her breath playfully caressed my neck while her eyes kept nervously searching for something deep and beyond the obvious glint and shine of my otherwise brown eyes.

“Ok ok” I said. “But first and foremost, let us agree upon some basic commonsensical facts such as the future Aruni does not yet exist, like you are 19 and I am 20 and not 40. A is not B and two of us cannot occupy the same space at the same time, as our own bodies won’t allow us such pleasure.”
“It does allow!” she protested moving a little away. “Distance too like time is an Illusion.”

“Time?” I echoed trying to figure as to what exactly she was after. “Time is a dense and dark possibility, but illusion it certainly is not”
“Your hopes and desires” she snapped sipping the coffee that she had by now grabbed from the table “is what covers it with expectations, fills it with sights and happenings. This filling is like pouring breath on an imagined grid of endless possibilities” .
“Time! I mean…I…I Think…( I stuttered at her uncanny confidence) “LOOK” I said gathering myself, “You cannot send your thoughts into a future that does not yet exist because there is no way to predict or know what the world will be like and in what shape and form. So where are you going to throw your thoughts at.

She stared at me with her deep eyes that spoke more than her smile, There was a certain uneasiness in her glance that didn’t seem to like the shape and feel of that which was now trying to surface itself out of the dark recesses of my otherwise numb and uninteresting mind. “When you see something”, I continued “for example that old man there on the street, you acknowledge him and thus bring his being into existence, into a world, into…a ”
“Into…?”
“WELL!!! Time is the evolving web secreted from that living relationship between you, me and the world, between us them…” I struggled for words “between two beings in their beingness.”
“Been there, known that” she tried to distance herself, “I don’t think time is some sort of silk secreted by the living in their coping and struggle to be in a world.”
“True, yes” I spoke almost embarrassed. “Look…I know that in all these things I often sound confused and outright stupid, but I too have tried to know and I have like you often wondered about these…things. -remember what I said about Sunda’s tantric and occult explanations, that I find Indra poetically more difficult to fathom than Agni, you see, ‘time’ is the concerned movement of the body in trying to appropriate a stance, so bodily space rather than the mystical is what puzzles me.” and as I spoke these, I noticed how her face flushed and swelled and deep dark lines appeared on her forehead, she after all was a creature of mystery. I watched her face darken, I wanted to stop but it was too late, like some demon caught in his own momentum I went on. “Time” I said, “is my body in movement to a world, to you, to that old man. Agni is what guides this movement by lighting things, making them…!”
“Shine…!” she prompted.
“Yes shine, and by this act bring into relief, a world, as loka.”
“What are you saying!!!” She sounded exhausted.
“What am I saying, look!” I took a deep breath and relaxed, “I am worried about you and all this Sunda stuff, …alright!” She looked away, “alright, alright, fine, have it your way, now suppose, if the future already exists, that is in some sense already achieved, then what would you actually achieve and struggle to bring yourself to; would not all such self-movements then be mere folds of lapsing delirium.
“No, not delirium” she sounded disturbed, “by illusion I mean something other than delirium. Anyway, you are a confusing person” she winced clearly irritated. “Sometimes you make a lot of sense and sometimes you are simply incomprehensible. Wasn’t it you who lectured us endlessly on how this brain, that is my brain has to first come to its own.”
“Yes, but I meant it in some other sense, that is, that your actual evolution operates from another level of intelligence than your usual consciousness, a consciousness that you usually associate with your being-ness, your ‘me’ that wishes to send its thought into future it cannot even touch.”
“No no, that is not what you meant” she protested. “You said,” she continued in a deliberate tone, “that man is an evolutionary failure. He seems to be auto piloting on billions of delirious programs which keep telling him what he is supposed to do. He no longer knows how to stop or purge what is driving his cell in its innermost crust. As a species, he has written himself off. And then you proposed in a flamboyant fashion -Ladies and gentleman” (she acted me out) “I propose to you a riddle. What happens when this brain, that is this (she said pointing at my head) has been running routines from thousands and thousands of years, suddenly stops working in the only manner it knows how to work.
“Now” she paused for breath, “I have thought about this and I along with Sunda and others have finally cracked that riddle. We now know that when it is no longer processing things as it normally would, that is secreting this ghostly silk of yours!”
“Poetic metaphor” I objected.
“Yes, when it is not spinning this poetic thread of yours, then you have a new brain. For the first time in the evolution of man, our brains would finally be operating from its own intelligence and not from some millions and millions of delirious programs telling it what to do.”
“No, It is not like that at all.” I protested, “ Agreed that I may have said that man is an evolutionary failure, and that he wanders possessed as if by million ghostly voices, what has this got to do with tunnelling memories into future or some parallel space time continuum?”
“Well that’s exactly what I wanted to ask you. Do you think that this intelligence, which is also THE intelligence animating the universe, will this intelligence be interested in sending memories into the future?”
“Or,” I said with some irritation, “Will it, for the first time, look into why it wants to do so!”
“Can you repeat what you just said!”
“You don’t get it, don’t you,” I said frustratingly, “I gave a funny answer to a silly question. End of it.”

She threw her hands up in disgust and her eyebrows quivered with anger, “so!”, she nodded her head in disbelief, “You think I am silly! and a fool!”
“No, no, that’s not what I meant.” And even before I could complete, she violently pushed the cup on the table spilling its dark portendious liquid over its shiny lacquered teak.
“All right.. Ok.” I said, knowing fully that I may be playing with the very thing that mattered the most to her while at the same time having not the faintest Idea what she might be going through “So to whom would you be sending these memories?” I asked meekly,

She didn’t reply but kept staring at me with her glistering dark and wet eyes and then from the extreme corner of her left cheek a wicked smile slowly dawned, and with its arrival, magic and mystery once again flooded the whole room , and filled it with joy and liveliness. I should have stopped then and there, lifted her in my arms, kissed her lips, and showered her with all the love I cared about in the three worlds, and still like a fool I went on talking. “You know” I continued, “we were having a party that night, and all of you had something interesting and exciting to say about strange and wonderful things, so I coughed some of my own, but let us go by my words. See, even if what I said, and even though I was obviously in a partying mood, and inspite of it all, you did hear what you wanted to hear or understood to have heard me say things that clearly made sense to you from your perspective. The point of contention then is this: if someone wants to transmit his memories and he happens to be the same brain that is operating from some millions and millions of delirious program telling it what to do, then what sort of memories will it be sending into the future!”
“That’s exactly what we want to know.” she said wiping the table clean, “On that day you also said that our brain is not some sort of computing device operating in a state of mechanical absurdity, but is a meaningful sibylline center because we never ever encounter a swirling cosmos full of frequencies, signals, particles or empty spaces, but a universe which holds us. We see the sky, the earth, the rivers full of teeming creatures. It is these that our brains keep reaching out for.”
“Yes, I do vaguely remember saying something like that, but they were merely poetic words, articulated to bring into focus simple and ordinary things such as how ideas and explanations come to exert their sway over us by attuning us to their ways, by delicately shaping our choices and marking our decisions from within. On the other hand my darling, I cannot just simply ignore the mere presence of our physicality which for me is something utterly undeniable and mysterious. So, what I said was never supposed or intended to be taken in its literal sense.”
“All right” she said in a soft and closed voice, then turning around she gently picked her belonging, her bag, her books and left.

I don’t know what came over me that day, why did not I stop her, or followed her to the door, to the gates, to the bus stop. Why did I allow her to walk away and vanish like a puff of smoke. What kind of stupid creature just watches his most precious, and his most beautiful gift disappear just like that. And still, that was the last time I saw her, she never turned back and from there on I never heard from her again. For all my wise wits, it was after all my ego that stopped me from reaching out to her and then when I did start looking, it was obviously too late. She had by then disappeared into the inner circles of the city that encloses and envelops millions of living creatures into its dark and deliberating folds of perceptual oblivion.

**********

Somu and I were good friends. We went to the same college, smoked the same pipe, and both dreamed of becoming fighter pilots, having girls by our side, saving princes in distress and watching girls swoon and faint at the mere mention of our name.

After graduation, I started freelancing for various Dailies and Somu cleared his civil service and ended up being an IPS officer.

It was June and unusually sultry. I can distinctly remember the excitement in Somu’s voice as he flashed the tickets howling Ooohoo like a wolf who had his voice exchanged for an owl.  In my younger days, Sridevi was the heart throb of young India. We never missed her films, and It always had to be first day first show.  Even before we entered the theater, our eyes were all colored with posters of Chandni blooming all the way down into the very hollow of our skulls. Oh man, what a film, fantastic is all I can tell you, and when we came out of the theater, we were mesmerized beyond belief. She was every where, in our heart, feet, eyes, nose. You stare up and there she was, look down, there she was, her charms were written all over our face.

It is not easy to hail a taxi in these late hours; To catch one we had to cut right across the inner circle of connaught place, so we started to walk through the thicks of Central Park, humming the song from Chandni that seemed to have come stuck on our lips.

At 12 in the night these places are usually deserted except for the occasional thulla banging his stick on the ground. We walked quietly and Shomu pulled out a quarter from his left pocket. We relaxed and sat under the Jamun tree and sipped a few gulps. I think we must have dozed off because I awoke with an eerie feeling that something was wrong. There was a dark silence, you felt as if your eardrums had suddenly gone numb. In the faint light I became aware that Somu had sat-up all stiff and was staring unblinkingly into the momentless darkness that had come to surround us.
“Somu”, I whispered but there was no reply. I shook him but found him rigid as a log. I looked in the direction he was staring and behold, I saw a faint outline of a woman who appeared to be floating in air. The very thought of a ghost froze my heart. She seemed to be in her mid 30’s, her dark brown hair was neatly tied in a purple scarf, she wore a red Rajasthani Ghagra and a pink Tshirt, thick stacks of white ivory kanganas dangled from her right hand, and on her left I noticed a faint glitter of a gold watch. She had no shoes but I could see silver payal on her ankles, a Gandhi style bag hung from her shoulder.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I became aware of her soft and beautiful features. Her face glowed like a moon and her body was lit as if from its inside, her skin seemed translucent and shining. To this day I have never seen a woman so beautiful, so perfect, and in full bloom of  her womenhood. But at the same time there was something sad and mournful about her. You often see such expressions in the paintings and portraits of the young wives of Maharajas.

She certainly reminded me of someone, and as she floated close, she seemed even more familiar and more than that, she was breathtakingly fascinating. I wanted to touch her. I stretched my hand but she backed a little. I stood up and moved a few steps but already she had started to vanish, and as her apparition dissolved, I could hear an eerie sound like the one you hear when you slowly tear a piece of a newspaper into two.

Somu was in a state of panic. “Bhoot!” he shouted. “Bhoot Bhoot.”
“Yes, I saw her.” I assured him.
“You saw her. My God, My God, it was a Bhoot.”
“It could also be a trick, a prank.” I tried to reassure him unsure and confused.
“Who would trick us at this hour, there are thullas all over the park.”
I had to agree with him, but I don’t believe in ghost; It had to be something else, but then what could it be?

Shomu certainly was creped out, The shock and fear was clearly visible in his looks. His hands were shaky and I had to take him back home myself as he was in condition to go all by his own, That night I stayed in his house. Shomu did not sleep but stuck close to me. Even in sleep I could feel the shiver in his hands as he tightly gripped my left forearm. he even woke me up once as he wanted to fetch some water from the kitchen..

**********

Times change and I left journalism to become a puppeteer. In few years I migrated to Bombay.
In the winter of 2006 I was invited to Delhi to attend and lecture for a puppetry workshop organized and funded by the ‘Indian Art and Craft Foundation’. Having finished my lecture, I stayed back to enjoy the cocktail party with my friends and colleagues. It must have been 10.15 in the night when I left the hall. But instead of hailing a taxi, I strolled around CP enjoying the pleasant weather and allowing distant memories to visit my unusually cheerful heart. After spending some time sipping hot ginger crushed tea, I walked my way to the Metro station and waited for the train.

In the preceding years, Delhi had experienced some radical changes and CP in particular had undergone a complete face lift. What was missing from its map was the whole of Central Park.
This gigantic Metro station was built right under what was once a dense woodland of towering jamun trees. To construct this Metrodrome they had to mow down the whole thicket till not a single of these ancient Jamun trees remained. Imagine doing something like this to the New York’s Central Park, there would be a public uprising, anyway, with its disappearance, the era of technological spitting lifeforms had finally arrived, and its telltale signs were everywhere, from high pollution to the deafening noise of engines and the peeps and onks of swift and trendy cars; nothing had escaped its gaze, be it, undrinkable ground water to pesticide ridden vegetables. But down below, the station was almost empty with just few souls scattered here and there.

I must have waited for 5 minutes or so when the train arrived. But as I tried to walk I couldn’t move, my legs seemed as if they were nailed to the ground. Slowly my whole body froze in a icy chill. I couldn’t move my hands, legs, head, nothing. Every part of my body was as if immobilized by some unearthly and alien force. The train dragged itself on gaining momentum as it left leaving behind an echo that kept fading into the void of irrecoverable distances. And as the silence spread, I felt a strange eerie feeling creep into the air. I also noticed that what ever had taken control of my body had by now left. I walked a few steps and looked around but there was no one to be seen. The station was empty and then I noticed something move to my left. I turned around and saw an apparition floating in the air. She wore a red Ghagra and pink Tshirt. Her hair was neatly tied backwards in a purple scarf. She had two thick stacks of white ivory kanganas on her right hand.

There was something dead and wooden about her. Her face was dark, almost a mix of purple and blue with shades of green and teal. Her gaze was heavy and dreadful. She looked torn and broken, I have never seen anything so frightening and so dreadful ever in my life. I began to run. I ran for the exit but she kept coming close, I could almost feel her icy breath on the back of my neck, and then as I turned and ran up the stairs, I noticed she had stopped following me. In fact she had vanished.

I was frightened and trembling all over.. I saw a bunch of boys go down the stairs, but I was not going down there. I was not even going to my hotel at Mall Road. Instead, I called an old friend of mine who lived in Lajpat Nagar and asked him to pick me up. Back in his house he offered me some whiskey but I could not drink …and as I snuggled myself under the thick razai of his bed, I noticed how my body was shaking with fear. The bed rattled as I tried to sleep.

I woke up with the telephone still ringing in my head. It was already 9.15 in the morning. My friend gently shook my shoulder. “Its Somu” he said. “He wants to talk to you.”
Somu sounded nervous. “Come to AIIMS as fast as you can. I will meet you at the main gates.” and hung up the phone.
I reached AIIMS by 10.00. Somu guided me to the morgue.
On the table was a badly crushed body of a girl.
“Do you remember her?”
“No” I said. “Who is she?”
He stared at me with wide eyes, “You don’t remember Aruni”.
I felt the blood in me turn cold, my lungs struggled for breath, slowly the world receded away into a dark bilious cloud, the walls were spinning, and I blacked out. When I awoke, I noticed that the nurse was reading my pulse.

“Somu” I whispered nervously.
“I am here.” he said taking my hand in his.
“Aruni, Arundhati” I kept repeating. There she lay lonely and abandoned, her face torn and cracked. It was then I noticed that she was wearing a red Ghagra, her blood stained Tshirt was pink.
I turned to the table where they had kept her belongings, a purple scarf, a Gandhi bag, a silver payal and pieces of ivory kanganas. Besides the payal was an old brown leather diary which looked just like the one I used to keep in my college days. Then one day it had mysteriously disappeared.

I touched her blood stained face; her torn skin looked so frail, so fragile, so soft.
He later told me that she had jumped in front of the metro train around 8.30 in the morning.
Her body was released in our custody, thanks to Somu’s influence.
We called her parents in Trichur. They couldn’t come and left the matter in our hands.
We gave her a traditional farewell. She went into flames that evening.




notes:

CP: Connaught Place, the heart of New Delhi

IPS: Indian Police Service

Chandni: A popular hindi movie

Sridevi:A beautiful actor of Indian Cinema

Regal:Theatre in Connaught place, New Delhi

Thullas: Policemen

Jamun: The rose-apple, a kind of black plum.

Amavasya: Moonless night

Rajasthani Ghagra : A beautifully embroidered traditional skirt of Rajasthan

Kangans: An ornament for the wrist

Payal: An ornament for the ankles

Maharajas: Kings

Bhoot: Ghost

Bhopal: Capital of Madhya Pradesh

Lajpat Nagar: A place in Delhi

Razai: Traditional Cotton Quilt

AIIMS: All India Institute of Medical Sciences

Trichur: The cultural capital of Kerala, a state that lies on the south west corner of India.