Fiction: Footsteps

Santosh Bakaya

Santosh Bakaya

One cold December day saw me driving from Delhi to my ancestral home in Anantnag, Kashmir , after, what seemed ages. John Denver sang on in my mind, “Country roads, take me home” as my car passed through breathtaking meadows, and rows and rows of pine trees, swaying merrily.
There it was, the once insanely riotous house, crouching before me, as though petrified, with the air of an accomplished singer, who had lost her voice. All the familiar throbbing sounds were missing, all notes lost.
 I picked my way through knotted undergrowth, avoiding the vicious nettles, rearing to sting me.
The door was a crisscross of lines, which spoke of loss and no reclamation. With quivering fingers, I opened it with the key that my deceased parents had kept in an alcove in our new house in Delhi.
Gingerly, I entered the house, heading straight for my room.  In a forgotten corner still stood my willow bat, bruised and battered, and my study table still hosted a few dusty books, some even with bookmarks. Tufts of fog followed me into the house and frolicked with a reckless abandon.
On what quest was I here?
Despite being clad in a tweed pheran, I was shivering, so I covered myself up with a blanket I was carrying with me and sat near the latticed window.  I do not know, for how long, I sat there.   The low, overhanging vines reminded me of ropes hanging limply from an empty gallows. From a neighboring house, a pressure cooker hissed, and the smell of Rogan josh, assaulted my olfactory senses.
 Hours went by, slowly night fell, and my ears pricked to the susurration of cicadas, the hooting of owls and the sloughing of trees.  Everything looked eerie. My poetic mind went into a tizzy.
‘Footsteps heard on a dark country lane
tapping some long forgotten, sad refrain’.
Suddenly, I heard my name being called.
“Sameer, eer …..eer ….. eer.”
“ Is that you Shagufta?”
 “Yes, yes, yes.”

“I am here …here, can’t you see?”
 Did I see a figure silhouetted in the window, or was it my hyperactive imagination again up to its own games?  I got up, as though in a somnambulistic trance, groped my way forward, and was out into the open. Suddenly a figure jumped at me and tinkling laughter resounded in the air.
“Ha Ha, once again, I frightened you!”
“Is that you, Shagufta?”
“Forgotten, so soon?”
Soon, the laughter died, and I saw a wraith like figure disappearing behind the shrubbery.
 The next morning, I headed back.  One had to move on, to experience the collateral damage of living, while the dead lived on too – in memories.
It was raining, I plodded on, towards my car, squelching down the footprints of memories. As I switched on the ignition, I saw something in the rear view mirror, and gasped.
There was a wraith like figure sitting in the back seat.

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