The ghostly presence

The ghostly presence

We all sat in the brightly lit play room and someone started telling ghost stories.

From the time I can remember, I have been afraid of ghosts. It was not my parents’ fault. Ghost stories were forbidden in our house. We were brought up on puranic stories and fairy tales. May be, I eavesdropped on some tales servants tell each other. And my mother, who knew of my fear of darkness and ghosts, tried her best to eliminate both.

 

She would tell me to go upstairs  when there was no one there and bring something. It would be twilight and  rather darkish. In passing, she would tell me that if I repeat “Kali, kali, mahakali,” I would not be afraid of the dark. Off I would go saying the prayer under my breath. But as I proceeded, the prayer would become louder and louder, and by the time I would have the thing in hand and start downstairs, I would practically be shouting it! Amma would congratulate me and give me a pat and a hug. I think it helped a little.

Years passed and I went to a boarding school where many of the girls were English. One Sunday night, we all sat in the brightly lit play room and told stories. Someone started telling ghost stories and fool that I was, I listened.

Later, at night, I felt a little uneasy but fell asleep in a while. But soon, I opened my eyes to find two girls shaking me and telling me to wake up. It seems I had started shouting “Ammai, Ammai” loudly! For the next two days, I was teased mercilessly and was asked what “Ammai, Ammai” meant. I told them that is the way one called one’s mother. I had dreamt I was being chased by a ghost.

More years passed and I got married to a police officer. As a junior officer, it was part of his duty to enquire into details of murder cases and on these days he would reach home very late. I hated those nights. There was a maid and a cook besides the police orderly, in the house. But, I was scared after the landlady’s grandchild gratuitously told me one night that the room we used as our bedroom was the room in which her grandmother had died! And that was a night I knew my husband would be late. 

Hurriedly, I collected all the prayer books we had at home and lined them under my pillow! I put on all the lights in the bedroom and said my prayers.  Then, I picked up a really funny P G Wodehouse novel and tried to read. But it was no good; PGW failed me!
Minutes stretched into hours and, finally, my husband came home! The next morning he saw the prayer books. “Why is there a mini library under your pillow?” he asked and roared with laughter when I reluctantly told him. “What kind of a police officer’s wife
are you?” he teased.

Even now, ever so many years later, I try not to work on the computer after nightfall! I often get the eerie feeling that there is someone behind me watching and smiling as only a ghost can smile.



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