Monday, June 5, 2017

The Ghost of Nest

Niharika embraced Neha affectionately. "I am going to miss you all... Keep in touch," she said as she kissed the little ones, all excited about moving to a new city.

Neha nodded. "I have left my house key with the manager to show the house to prospective tenants. Just keep an eye, though."


Niharika nodded vigorously, reassuringly, and walked with Neha to the cab to see them off. Neha paused before getting into the cab and hugged Niharika again. "You have been such a pillar, Rika." Tears overflowed. "I don't think I could have handled...it on my own..."

Niharika squeezed her Neha's arm. "Don't be stupid. It was nothing..."

"Vikram was in love with this place. His little nest, he called it. I wish..." She bent her head as emotions choked her.

Niharika patted her. "You have to be strong for your children. He wouldn't have wanted you to be weak and break down like this."

"I sometimes feel his spirit still lingers, that he is watching us," Neha looked up at her third floor flat and lingered.

"Leave now... It is getting late," Niharika gently nudged her into the cab and waved.

She looked up at the flat too and sighed. They were more or less the same age - early 30s. Neha's husband Vikram had been friendly and active. His sudden death due to a heart attack had left them all shocked. Needless to say, Neha had been devastated. Finally, disturbed by thoughts of Vikram's presence, sometimes as palpable as having him stand next to her, she had decided to move back to her mother's house in Delhi. "I feel he is still here..." Neha had said often. Truth be told, it always made Niharika feel uncomfortable. When she visited Neha, sometimes even she would get the feeling that there was some inexplicable presence.

Especially the swing in the drawing room - Vikram's favourite spot in the house. Sometimes, it would seem as if it were swinging on its own. It made her start.

She went home and started preparing dinner.

"Ma!" her 10 year old son Arav came shortly after playing downstairs. "Ma!" he called her again urgently. "Has Neha aunty left?"

"Yes, why?"

"That swing is swinging."

Niharika frowned and then laughed. "Stop trying to scare me. Freshen up."

"No, ma! You see for yourself," he insisted.

"Must be the breeze..." she said and dismissed him. She heard him repeat it to his father with the same excitement. Anup, her husband, played along, pretending to believe Arav. "Stop it," she admonished him.

She forgot all about it the next day. In the evening, Anup came home excited. "Did you see the swing? It is still rocking."

Niharika frowned, sure that Anup was teasing her. "As if I don't know!"

"No! Arav asked me to see and I did. The children are gathered in the ground floor watching the swing from the window. You can see it only at a particular angle... And it is swinging."

She waved him away.

"Why don't you see? Go down, see for yourself..."

Niharika went with trepidation. Initially, she was relieved when she could not see anything. But as she turned around the block, she caught sight of the rocking motion. As if someone were pensive, and rocking without thought. A steady, persistent motion.

She looked around to see if the wind were responsible, but the leaves too were motionless with her, watching the house.

Niharika swallowed in fear. "Aunty, did you see?" one of the young boys playing in the vicinity asked.

She jumped and then, feeling silly, nodded hastily.

"Scared, aren't you?" Anup teased her. "You believe in all this silly ghost business."

"As if you don't," she grimaced.

"It was eerie," Anup admitted. "It is eerie," he shivered.

She couldn't sleep, and from the way Anup tossed and turned, it seemed that he was disturbed too. "Do you think it is Vikram?" she asked softly.

He sat up swiftly. Just then, a bang rattled them both, making Niharika cling to Anup. It was just the terrace door, she realised, and the two giggled at their silliness. But it was not so silly. There were sounds, eerie sounds - a grating window, the sound of shuffling footsteps, rustling...

Without doubt, Vikram was trying to say something. She called Neha the next morning, hoping they had reached safely. "I was thinking of Vikram all night," Neha whispered so that the rest of her family wouldn't hear.

"We too..." she blurted out. Anup signaled for her to keep quiet and she changed the topic.

"Let's go and see if the swing is still rocking," she told Anup after Arav left for school. They went down to the spot from where the persistent rocking could be seen. They exchanged a glance. He started heading back home but she stopped him. "Let's get the key and go up."

Anup's eyes widened. "Are you mad!!! Do you want to get killed, or worse, possessed?"

"Vikram will not harm us, I am sure. I am sure his spirit was there all these days, with Neha. He must be missing them..."

Anup would not buy that theory and tried to dissuade her. But she was not going back. If Vikram needed something to get the final release, she was going to help him. The manager was reluctant when she asked for the key. "I have asked for an exorcist," he said hesitantly.

"Let's see if we need one," she said and strode out of the office with the key. Anup followed, begging her to reconsider. "You have a son... We have responsibilities." But already, she seemed possessed. The fixed look in her eyes, the powerful strides, the squared shoulders... When the lift doors closed, she remained silent, and his fear strengthened. It was with relief he stepped out of the lift.

At the door, she glanced at him, and he saw the fear reflected in her eyes. He grabbed her hand and made to leave, but with surprising strength, she swatted it away.

She unlocked the door and pushed it. It wouldn't open. Sweat broke on their foreheads. "Let's leave," Anup pleaded.

Neha pushed the door open with all her might.

They gasped as they saw the swing still moving up and down, up and down... Gently. Neha screamed as she saw the fan rotating in full speed, as if Vikram couldn't bear the heat. Neha's nails dug into Anup's forearm and he yelped in fear as torn paper swirled.

He turned to run, but Neha clasped his shoulder, whispering fiercely in a hoarse voice, "Wait!"

He froze and turned slowly. Her near normal appearance scared him more.

"Vikram..." she whispered but there was no sound. She cleared her throat and said again, "Vikram, let me know if you are here... Please, give some indication. Slow down... Stop swinging."

But the swinging continued unmindful of her presence. The two stood trembling on the threshold. Suddenly, Neha laughed. Anup felt himself trembling. She walked up boldly to the switchboard and switched the fan off. As the swing slowed down, she looked at Anup and laughed again.

"Idiot!" she said. "Arav and you! It was the fan that made the swing rock!"

Anup frowned in disbelief. "Come here, see the current flowing between the windows? With air from top strengthening this current, the swing swayed." She switched on the fan to demonstrate it. He saw she was right. The two went down laughing.

When the neighbours asked about the swing, Anup said, "Neha is a ghost buster. She drove it away!" And, as an aside, "You can imaging my plight. Even the ghost is scared of her!"

Of course, it took longer to find a tenant, but at least, the ghost had been put to rest.

4 comments:

  1. Good riveting suspense and humorous resolution. Kudos. You are a good story trller.👍👍👍.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh....Meera!!!! I was scared with the beginning and surprised at the end...Loved it...

    ReplyDelete

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