Believe it or Not

Subhash Chandra

- Subhash Chandra 

It happened around 1994 or thereabouts in Balgarha village (Bihar).

When Bhupad reached his village he found it in the grip of despair.  People moved about with worried faces, shifty eyes. The two elders he passed by, on the trek home from the bus stop, had looked lost. A lively and hearty people were throttled – they talked in whispers even when in a group. Some of them appeared visibly shaken. Fear stalked the village; an abnormal hush shrouded it.

Balgarha is a small village in Saran district with a population of about 1100. He had come home for a week for his gauna, (to bring the bride from her parents’ home).
“Bitwa, now that you are a permanent sarkari babu, take your wife along to Delhi,” Baba had written in a postcard.

At home, the scene was no different. Baba, Mai, Dada (grandfather) and his nine year old sister were terrified.
“What’s wrong, Baba,” Bhuped asked?
“Bitwa, our village is already infested with ghosts. And now this!”

Bhupad recalled the haandis (earthen vessel), covered with a piece of black cloth, hanging from the branches of many trees. The village Ojha had imprisoned in them the spirits which entered living bodies and tormented them. Those trees were avoided by the grownups who admonished the children not to go near them.

“What do you mean?”

“Remember, before you left, Ram Khilawan had suddenly vanished without a trace. Actually, his elder brother, Bintia, had murdered him to misappropriate his field. He buried the corpse on the outskirts of the village and sowed a guava seed there. A tree sprouted on the spot, but remained stunted and fruitless. Now it walks around in the dark lanes at midnight. We’ve heard the footsteps in our lane too.

Bhupad’s four year stay in the city had made him rational. He questioned his Baba.
“Has anyone seen it?”
“Yes, two rowdy boys, Jitu, and Baher have. They used to go out at night to steal mangoes from the Zamindar’s orchard.  Jitu has lost his mind since and Baher has gone absolutely quiet.
The next day, Bhupad visited their homes. Baba’s information was correct. However, he remained sceptical.
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He brought his wife, Parul, home. The same night all of them heard footsteps. Bhupad got up to check it out for himself. But as he moved towards the door, Parul caught hold of his arm. “Please don’t. He is the dead Ram Khilawan.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“One night, I peeped through a chink in our door. It was a tree with feet wearing the new pair of chappals he had bought from the haat the previous week.”
“How did you recognise the chappals?”
“He visited us during the week he bought them.”

The next day, Bhupad’s Baba told them to leave for Delhi.
“A few days back, two haandis fell down and shattered. The spirits are roaming free and nobody knows who they might get into. These are bad times for Balgarha.”

Bhupad looked at Parul; the veiled head nodded. 

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