Monday, October 6, 2008

Debt discharged

by KParthasarathi 06 Oct 2008

Ramu passed through the lone stretch of road daily to his village in the late evenings after his business was over in the town. It was just two kilometers to the village. The bus route was longer and the buses stopped plying after 7pm as the passengers were very few. Some days it got late for him as much as 10pm or even more. Normally a brave man he was not afraid of darkness. But the road abutted a large burial ground and he had frequently seen bodies burning in low ember. The man in charge of the ground was never seen as he usually got drunk and lay in his hut. There were also no street lights on the kutcha road except moonlight whenever it was there. Ramu would not turn towards the burial ground side and would keep walking fast reciting some prayers. On rare days where there was company, he felt no fear.

On many days he had the feeling of someone walking behind very close to him .He had heard as a young boy never to look back or answer voices. With acute palpitation in the heart and heavy sweating, he would virtually be running along with the heavy load he usually carried. Never would he stop chanting the god’s name as he believed it alone provided a protective ring around him. He carried a book containing the thousand names of God in his pocket as a mascot.

On the few occasions he would give a sideward glance towards the burial ground whenever he heard noises, he would see shadowy figures in human form without clear features either stationary or gliding in the space with the portion under the knees unclear. Most of them were covered from head to foot in a blanket like cloth. He had also seen on a couple of occasions a female form in white flowing dress. Though they were never violent nor came near him, he always wished he had left for village much earlier.

It had rained heavily in the evening that day. When Ramu left at 7pm for his village, the sky was dark and gloomy, accompanied by a very light drizzle. The pathway was muddy and slippery and he could not walk fast. His prayer to God for his safety was intense. It was then that he saw what appeared to be the apparition of his neighbour Govind who had died in a tragic road accident a few months back. Ramu froze there and his eyes were fixed on the paranormal figure. He was a jolly fellow and had been very friendly with Ramu since his childhood days. Many days they have walked back together on this stretch comforting each other in the dark and threatening passage. In fact, Ramu had lent him Rs 5000, just a few days before the accident. They used to help each other like this in times of need. After Govind’s sad demise under tragic circumstances, Ramu chose to keep quiet about the loan, although a few others recovered the money they had lent Govind, from his grieving widow.

There was a narrow wooden bridge across a deep creek overflowing with water and one had to walk across it to reach the village. As Ramu approached the bridge, the apparition of Govind, looking very much like him, stood across the entrance to the bridge and was seen gesticulating to Ramu to go back. He could hear the voice that was not intelligible. Though Ramu was scared bone-stiff initially, he overcame his fear when he could discern the figure of his friend. When he tried to move forward, the spirit jumped violently blocking the way and shaking its hands as signal for him to turn back. Ramu stood mesmerized and laid the bundle on a culvert by the side even as he looked closely at the specter and asked ”Govind, why are you stopping me? I miss you very much. Your wife and children miss you sorely and have not stopped crying. The whole village talks about you often.”

The apparition was silent and stood still. After some minutes of uncomfortable silence, the figure resumed its movement of hands, clearly meant to instruct Ramu to turn back. Ramu by some unknown feeling which he could not explain even later, was compelled to obey the caution.

When Ramu lifted the bundle to keep it on his head, he heard a deafening noise and saw the wooden bridge collapse completely into the overflowing creek. His immediate thought went to the apparition even as he saw it fade into oblivion without any further gesture. What a big tragedy it would have been, had he not been prevented by Govind in his present form! He waited in vain for long for Govind to re-appear, before turning back to reach his village by a longer route. Narrating the strange incident to his worried wife, he said “What a noble friend Govind was! He has paid back the debt several times more than the amount due. How do I repay him my debt of gratitude?”

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