Malathi's husband had a transferable job and was posted once in three years to different cities. Invariably he left for the new place first, found an accommodation and then took her.Malathi had a grouse that in the choice of an apartment, he never paid enough attention to her comfort especially the size of kitchen, the space for keeping grocery, vessels, sink with water connection, power points for operating different gadgets etc.It was enough for him if the house had a good view and spacious living and bed rooms. The rest never entered in his radar.
Luckily this time she was very happy with the apartment he had chosen. It was in a housing complex and in first floor. It was spacious, granite tiled and the kitchen was perfect. The balcony gave a good view of the park with plenty of breeze. It had built in cup boards in all rooms. The kitchen was very comfortable. This was possibly the best house, she thought. The rent was also not much considering the going rates. Water was in plenty and the complex had security. In two days she had arranged everything but could not introduce herself to the ladies of her age in the complex as they were working.
It was a week later when she was working in the kitchen she found something strange. She had taken out the vegetable cutting board and the knife outside and kept them on the counter for cutting vegetables. When she came back fetching the vegetables from the fridge, she found the knife missing. Surprised she looked for it in the drawer where she kept knives. It was there. But she was certain she took it out as the knife was at the rear of the drawer and needed an effort to locate. The domestic help had gone long back. How could this happen, the wondered?
In the afternoon at 4pm she was watching TV in the living room after switching on the coffee maker and the aqua guard for filling the water. It generally took 15 minutes to fill up. When she went in she found the aqua guard container full to the brim and the switch switched off. Something really amiss and she went to all the rooms to see if anyone else is present. She looked beneath the bed, curtains, bathrooms and balcony. There was no evidence of any stranger. She was worried and even imagined she heard the rustling of clothes when someone walks close by. There was always a feeling of unseen presence of someone around her. She drew the curtains open and the balcony doors for she felt afraid to be alone.
In the night while they were in bed she broached the subject to her husband Madhavan Nair. He heard her patiently and finally said “You need good sleep and you are hallucinating letting your mind run wild. I will give you a tranquilizer and you should feel better. There is no such experience felt by me even though I sit late hours working. Please do not worry. I will be back by 6pm daily”
“May be you think I am imagining. Have you come across my telling such things earlier? Anyway I feel better with you around” she said and put her arm around him snuggling close to him. She felt fresh when she woke up. She made quick breakfast and lunch for her husband. When he was gone the maid came for work
“Have you worked in this apartment earlier?”Malathi asked her
“No, this remained locked for long time”
“Why, any idea?”
“I don’t know. I have heard others telling the owner wanted to come here and so kept it locked. Why do you ask, amma?”
“Just like that. Go and attend to your work” Malathi said
After she left, Malathi went to kitchen to see whether the maid had done all the work and left the place clean. She came to living room and started reading the daily about the rape of a young girl being locked up in police station. After sometime she heard the noise of running water. She went to the kitchen and found to her shock the tap open and water running. Just .a while ago she had checked. How it could open on its own, she wondered. She lingered in the kitchen and strained her ears to hear any sound. As she came out, she felt a tug at her sari and turned to see none except hear a muffled giggle.Malathi had goose bumps in fear and sweated profusely as she ran to the hall.
Madhavan Nair agreed that something strange was happening but did not wish to vacate considering the several advantages without exploring other options. The second day one Kesavan Namboothiri, a tantric, was brought home. He sat in the puja room lighted the lamps and put incense. He took out a small hand held rattle like drum that made loud noise. He requested Madhavan and Malathi to sit in the hall and that he would call at the appropriate time.
He started chanting some mantra amidst the brisk rattle noise and threw ashes now and then on a black cloth. In a while the couple heard him talking to someone.
“You must not stay here. You must quit and join your kindred spirits. I will help you. It is better for your liberation” There was silence and again they heard him “If you do not go on your own volition, I will drive you away. That will be painful. You are a young girl obviously wronged. Please go. I will help you reach the ethereal world”
This was followed by brisk chanting and louder rattle noise and more spraying of ashes.”I am glad you have agreed to quit. To show to the residents here that you are leaving, blow out the lamp as you leave after taking the red thread I am leaving on the lamp. That will protect you.”
The Namboothiri called the couple and asked them to open the front door and stand away from the passage. You can watch from the distance the lamp and the red thread and see the lamp go out with the thread missing”
As the rattle sounded amidst the chant of mantras the couple saw from safe distance the lamp that was burning brightly was put out all on a sudden by the spirit with the red thread missing. There was a squeaky howl of a young girl as it sped past.
Namboothiri cleaned the place and asked Malathi and Madhvan to have a shower and light the god’s lamps.”You will no more be troubled and the ghost of a girl who had committed suicide has been exorcised. She was an innocent playful girl and liked the comfort of the maternal company here”
Malathi wiped the trickling tears from her eyes as Madhavan put his arm around to comfort her even as the thought where the young spirit would go tormented her..