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Monday, June 27, 2016

A ghostly pickup..


In Mumbai, not only some film studios, some hotels, burnt-down Mills, old buildings, dilapidated structures and houses, but even some roads appear to be haunted by ghosts. It also appears that ghosts can move about from their dwellings to which they will lure their victims. This is a story about a driver who escaped death by the skin of his teeth on the night between 18th and 19th June, 2009. No, he was not involved in any traffic accident but in a mysterious encounter about which I heard directly from him.

Many Call Centres have sprung up all over the city of Mumbai. Almost all of them work round the clock. There are morning shifts, afternoon shifts and night shifts in which employees are rotated. For those who finish their job late nights, Companies make arrangements to drop their employees near their residence. For this, they hire transport vehicles that are manned by the drivers of the company offering transportation Services. Bhootnath (name changed) works as a driver for a Call Centre that is located in the heart of the Mumbai – Mumbai Central to be exact. It is his duty to pick up employees at 1 A.M., every night and then drop them near their respective homes.

On the fateful night, he left the office at 1 A.M. with his “drops”. He made the last drop near the Bandra Railway Station. All alone, he took off for his home which is located in a populous suburban area, just outside the city limit. Thanks to the many flyovers in the city, the flow of traffic has comparatively improved on the Highways. He used the Andheri Link Road. It was almost 3 A.M., and the unearthly hours had reduced the vehicular traffic considerably on the main road. Bhootnath had been recently married to a young, pretty girl and he was very eager to reach home.

While he was on his way via the Andheri Link Road, he came to a place where there is a famous Mall. There he swerved into a bye-lane which is generally deserted at late nights. This was not the first time that he had used this lane, this being the shortest route to his home. To his surprise, he saw a man ahead who was signalling for a lift. Bhootnath stopped the car near him. The stranger asked Bhootnath whether he could drive him to a building which was located on the way. The man appeared to be normal. Taking a pity on his plight, Bhootnath asked him to step into the rear seat of the car. Without a word, the stranger got into the car and did not speak a word.

After some time, the car reached a place where that man told him to stop the car. Then he got down near a building which appeared to be at the rear of some company (name suppressed). There was an eerie silence around the area. The man then suggested why not have a cup of tea with him at his home. Bhootnath was dead tired but maybe due to some hypnosis he welcomed the suggestion of the stranger. A cuppa was what he needed then. This building looked like a co-operative housing society, but there were no security guards. Nor there was any elevator to go up. This man lived on the third floor as that was what he told him. They took the stairs, the man leading him. On and on they went up the stairs and Bhootnath was surprised that climbing up to the third floor could take up so much time. He was panting for breath. At last they came to what appeared to be the terrace of the building.

The man got on to the terrace, inviting him. Bhootnath told him that this was no apartment but just a terrace. Thereafter he noticed a distinct change in the voice of that man who now commanded him to step on the terrace. But by this time, Bhootnath had sensed that all was not right. He realized that there were no lights on the stairs. He was awfully frightened. Without losing any time, he turned his back and began running downstairs. On and on he ran downstairs, wishing that he could reach the ground-floor soon. To his horror, he found that he was being chased by the dogs who had appeared out of nowhere. Fortunately, they did not harm him. At last he reached the ground floor, and dashed towards his car. Before that, he had one last fleeting look at the building. He was shocked to notice that it was not some residential premises that he had seen while entering the compound but some dilapidated and deserted structure. The dogs were staring at him from building compound. Fumbling with his keys, he started his car and took off with a great speed. Heaving a sigh of relief, he soon made his way back home.

By the time he got home, he was shivering with cold and fever.
Yes, that was a night which Bhootnath will always remember all his life. He had given a ride to a ghost and if he had stepped on the terrace he himself would have never made his way back home. And who knows whether there was a terrace at all! No more pickups or drops, for it could have been just a dead drop!

NASIR