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Monday, September 13, 2010

STORIES OF MYSTERIOUS ENCOUNTERS-4: Phantom of the Bungalow, Part 2.


Based on Real life incidents:


STORIES OF MYSTERIOUS ENCOUNTERS - 4: PHANTOM OF THE BUNGALOW.
Part 2: Continued:


By the time our story unfolds further, some of the rooms on the 2nd floor (attic) were given on rent to a couple of tenants. Room No.6 was given to one Aslam whose employees made leather bags and ladies’ purses there during the day. At night, Aslam was left alone with his assistant-cum servant, Babu – a lad of eighteen. Then there was a Saree-wallah, who had rented several rooms where he installed huge tables for his saree-printing business. I don’t remember his name. He was of a bachelor of medium height and used to wear Khaki shorts while working. He had female employees working for him and they used to print the Sarees. After a day’s hard work, he used to drink sometimes. There was one particular female who used to be in his company the most. However, I was not concerned with his personal life as long he was a good tenant.


Adjacent to Room No.6, in the southern corner, was Room No.9, where I began sleeping alone at night, though we had a house on the first floor too. Qaasam continued to sleep wherever he found an empty space in the attic. His presence and absence were one and the same since no one knew the time of his arrival and departure.


However, Qaasam turned up one fine morning and informed me of an incident that involved the Saree-wallah. He told me that the night before, he had been sleeping between the joists at the regular place on the 2nd floor where the room had not been constructed. The Saree-wallah had chosen to sleep in the open air on the terrace. According to him, all of a sudden sometimes during the night something brushed his feet when he found the Saree-wallah lying prostrate. The latter got up, all shaken up, and began to cry like a child at his feet. Qaasam was nonplussed. He asked him what had happened. The Saree-wallah told him that he had been flung from the terrace right through the small entrance to inside of the attic by someone.


“Gaind kee tarah phaink diyaa.”  


The amazing thing was that the entrance to the terrace was small, and as stated before, one had to crawl on all fours.  Yet he was thrown like a ball right through that opening.   


“Shaayad naapaak soyaa hogaa,” Qaasam explained it to me.


What he meant was that after a sexual intercourse he had not cleansed himself and must have slept on the terrace in the state of impurity. This, perhaps, was not to the liking of the invisible phantom who must have visited the terrace too during  his rounds in the building premises.


“Thank Heavens!” I exclaimed. “He was not flung down from the terrace to the ground below.”


“Yes,” agreed Qaasam.  “That would have surely killed him!”


Now all this was getting on my nerves.   Since I wanted to divert my attention, I made it a point to visit Aslam every night before I went to bed.  I would chit-chat with Aslam,  discussing inanities sometimes,  and sometimes discussing about the phantom.


"So what do you think?" I asked Aslam.
"Regarding what?" countered Aslam.
"Regarding both the incidents." I explained.
Aslam looked at me with a mischief in his eye. 
"Tell me," he said.  "You didn't happen to hammer the bootlegger in the dark, did you?  Both of you had a quarrel the previous day!"
"Good Heavens, no!" I exclaimed.   
Brooding a little bit, Aslam answered:  "In that case, there's a pattern in these incidents."
Being curious, I asked him,  "How do you mean?"
Clearing his throat, Aslam replied:  "I think that whoever he is, he doesn't like people who sleep in his path in the state of impurity!"  


The drift of the conversation always ended up with the Phantom.  When I found myself being overwhlemed by slumber, I would wish him goodnight and just dump myself on the bed in Room No.9 which was adjacent to his room.  This was my way of keeping the fright at bay.


Now as days passed, even Aslam began to tell me that he heard noises at night on the second floor. He said that sometimes he heard someone walking past his room. At times he heard someone pulling the trunk. He was referring to an old discarded junk that had somehow remained in a remote corner. He emphasized that this was happening quite frequently.


One night,   I went to Aslam’s as usual.   I told him that thenceforth I would be sleeping in his room if he did not mind. Of course, he didn’t! There was no bed but only a plain mat spread out in the entire room. Tucked away near the wall were sets  of instruments that the employees used for making leather bags and ladies’ purses. On this particular night, my uncle too came to see Aslam and they both began a friendly game of card.  I felt reassured and soon dozed off there after some time.  I even dreamt that both were playing cards and that everything was fine.  I had not realized that it was too late in the night and my uncle had already gone away without waking me up. Perhaps he did not want to disturb me. Suddenly, I found someone pulling my toe.  I opened my eyes. It was only Aslam. I heaved a sigh of relief! Aslam quietly pointed out to Babu who was sitting cross-legged on the mat. He seemed to be pressing his abdomen with both his fists while his elbows jutted out at an angle from his body. As he continually stared at the wall in front of him, it looked as if his eyes would pop out. The whiteness of his wide, staring eyes contrasted sharply with his darkish complexion.  He sat absolutely still, as if in a trance. In the stillness of the night, it was a scary sight.


I whispered to Aslam. “What is it? Why is he staring at the void?”


“I don’t know. He has been sitting in that position for half an hour at least,” said Aslam.


“Should I call my dad,” I asked him.”


Aslam shook his head. It then occurred to me that I should talk to Babu. I went near him and began asking him lots of questions. He neither looked at me nor gave me a reply. All of a sudden he pounced upon me.  I quickly moved away from him. Thereafter, Babu broke down completely. He began to wail.  I was at my wits’ end. Mustering courage, I tried to reassure him that everything was alright. After a while he stopped crying.  I then told Aslam that we should make him sleep in the midst, with both of us on either side. That was soon done. Babu was soon fast asleep. As for me, the sleep was far away from my eyes. My strategy of sleeping in Aslam’s room had been a mistake. Not only the safety that I had sought was absent, but it was also worse here! What if Babu suddenly did something rash? What if he just throttled me in my sleep or assaulted me with a sharp-edged weapon? Such whisperings of the devil were racing through my mind. Sleepless was the night!  When it was morning I went home on the first floor, resolving never to sleep in Aslam’s room.  Soon, my family and every tenant knew about the Babu’s incident. After that day we never saw Babu for he had left the employment and gone back to his native place.


Since I had resolved that I would sleep in my own room, i.e. Room No.9, come what may, I carried a “Rampuri” knife with me,  which I placed under my pillow at the time of going to bed.  I had heard the old Indian tales, that placing something made of iron or steel  under the pillow was effective in driving away the evil spirits.  I also recited certain  verses such as the Aayutul Kursi, and Surah Nos.113 and 114  of the Holy Quran at least.


I may point out here that keeping of the knife under the pillow was the brainchild of Qaasam who said that he had once used the knife against a malignant genie.  I know that the Jinn have been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. In fact, there is a vast literature about the types of Jinn and their haunts. They are in fact another creation. I have no reason to doubt their existence.   In some circles it is believed that the term "pret-atma" or "Bhoot" or even "ChuDail" are just the variant names of  the Jinn or Jinniya (female Jinn), depending on the culture of the geographical regions.  But let's not digress from our story!


The question that confronted me was,  how could I be sure whether Qaasam was not spinning a yarn.   “It’s not a yarn, is it?” I  asked Qaasam.  


“Of course not! Remember  that some truths are stranger than fiction. That’s not just an idle axiom!” he had said with a smile.


I wanted to know about that incident, and what he told me then is worth mentioning here. This happened to him many years before he came to us in the Bungalow.  Recounting the story, he began:  “There used to be a hotel called Mayfair,  right opposite the Alexander Docks. " (The docks were later named as Indira Docks) 


“That can’t be,” I cut in.
“There’s Rex Cinema there, and in fact I’ve even watched the first movie that was released there. It was called ‘World Without End’,” I said triumphantly.


“Yes, I know,” he continued calmly. “That movie-hall  was built after the Mayfair Hotel was demolished.”


“Demolished! Why?” I asked incredulously.


“The owner of the hotel was a friend of mine,” continued Qaasam.   


“He would often invite me to his hotel. Even your dad knew him. Once he invited me and said I could stay as long as I liked in his hotel without paying anything for meals or lodging. I had no money, no home and no one to look upto. I found the offer tempting and I lapped it up. I was given the keys to Room No.707 which was located at the far-end of the 7th floor corridor. It was a standard double-room and well-furnished. I was happy that I could stay here as long as I could.  The windows offered a panoramic view of the Arabian Sea.  However, the strong breeze and the swishing curtains compelled me to latch the windows from the inside. Dinner was brought to my room at about 9 p.m., so that I had no need of going down to the restaurant section.  The waiter knew that I was the honorary guest of his employer so he left hurriedly without bothering about the tips.”


Qaasam paused for a while. Taking a deep breath, he looked at me pensively.  He continued:


“Since I had nothing else to do, I went to bed early. I had switched off the light. I don’t know how long I must have slept. I woke up because of the strong gust of breeze that was blowing from the windows into the room.  It was chilly.  The curtains were going haywire. The lights were switched on. I immediately got up from the bed and quickly latched all the windows from the inside. Wondering why I had not shut the windows before, I switched off the lights and went to bed. When this incident recurred on the second night, I was alarmed because before going to bed I had made doubly sure that the windows were latched from the inside and the curtains drawn. The next day, the hotel’s owner did inquire about my well-being but I did not reveal to him anything about the sinister incident. However, I was in a dilemma. To leave or not to leave the hotel was the question.”


“Did you leave?” I asked.


Qaasam smiled at me. “Well, who would like to lose free meals and lodging at  a  plush hotel?” he asked rhetorically.


“Besides,” he continued, “Shutting the windows one more time during the night was no big deal. I even thought of a strategy.  I bought a long Rampuri knife from the Chor Bazaar where things are sold cheap. I reasoned that if I remained brave enough and faced the situation suitably I would be doing the owner a favour and could continue with my free meals and lodging as long as I could.”


Qaasam pulled out a cigarette from a crumpled packet. It was a cheap brand. Taking a deep puff, he continued:


“It was my third night at the hotel. I clicked open the knife and placed it under the pillow. Then, without changing my dress and not even removing my shoes, I cautiously lay supine on the bed. But I did not shut my eyes. I wanted to know who or what had opened the window-latches from the inside. At about midnight, when I had nearly dozed off, I heard some sound. The lights were on. I saw that one window was open and gust of air was flowing inside the room.  While I was looking at it, the second and then the third and then all the windows opened one after the other as the latches came off automatically. No one was visible though. Perspiration ran down my spine. I was still lying on the bed. I pulled out the knife from underneath the pillow and held it in the state of readiness. Suddenly, at that moment, a hand came down on my throat. That hand was huge. I could not see anything beyond it. The hair on the hand, as I could see, bristled with coir-like fibres strings and the nails were like the talons. I was about to be throttled. Instantly, I raised my hand. Shouting ‘Ya Ali,’ with all my might, I struck the knife on that huge hand.  The hand disappeared and I ran out of the room with all haste.  My loud shrieks woke up others…”


Wiping off the perspiration from his forhead, Qaasam commented: “Nothing is dearer than life! There and then I left the hotel and resolved never to go back.”


So that was Qaasam’s story which initially I had taken with a pinch of salt. However, many years later, Qaasam’s story was corroborated by my Dad who revealed to me he had declined the offer for a free stay in the hotel because rumours about the hotel being haunted were rife. That was the reason I believed Qaasam’s story. No doubt, that hotel was pulled down because of that factor. I remember that even decades later when I was serving in the Gulf,  I had seen a huge building in the heart of Bahrain, right at the busy thoroughfare. Ever since that building was constructed, it had remained deserted.  As my friend Abdul Rahman pointed out, the building was occupied by the Jinn and no human being dared to tread into that territory.
                                                                                                                       The Wooden Plank





As I was saying, it was Qaasam’s story that inspired me to carry the knife to my bed that night in Room No.9. I don’t know for how long I lay on the bed and must have finally dozed off when I heard a sharp sounds of tock, tock, tock . Someone was on the wooden plank that had been placed on the joists temporarily.


                                                                                                                                                                                                          
It seemed as if someone was approaching in the directions of the rooms. My room would be the first one, as it was at right angle of the floor entrance. Chilling were the moments that crawled by in the ominous night.  As I lay still with the sense of foreboding, my body was sweating profusely. The sound of steps were drawing nearer with each moment. However, I did not lose the presence of mind. The fleeting thoughts in my mind were reduced to the thought of fighting or fleeing. Fleeing was out of question since whatever it was had been approaching towards my door. I was now ready to face the intruder. Holding the knife in my hand and uttering the name of Allah, I jumped out of the bed. I dashed towards the door and in a moment was out of the room. The sounds stopped suddenly. Simultaneously, at that moment I also saw the Saree-wallah peeping from over the partitioned wall. Aslam too had come out of the room by then. All of us had heard the sound of steps very clearly. However, we saw no one around. Shaken up as we were, all of us sat together in Aslam’s discussing about the incident till the streak of dawn.


Thereafter I did not deem it desirable to sleep alone in Room No.9 during the night.  Qaasam continued to sleep there as usual until the time many more rooms were constructed and the place was fully occupied by tenants. As he had no place to sleep, he bid us goodbye. Even the Saree-wallah left the premises after a year. Aslam continued to stay there and brought his family to live with from Uttar Pradesh. No more did we hear those eerie sounds. Nor was there any new incident involving any entity or apparition. Human beings had usurped the place of the phantom. Gangaram had  also left the job.   After my father’s death, I too moved away from the place. The property changed hands. Today, a skyscraper stands tall at the site of the Bungalow that was once the haunt of a phantom.


Concluded: NASIR


Note: Thanks are kindly given to the internet sources for the photographs used in both the posts, but which are not related to the story

3 comments:

  1. Oh my....I would have disappeared a long time ago! I can't say I am a believer or not, but I have witnessed some pretty earie stuff in Malaysia myself; all with no logical explaination!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. How about recounting that experience Veen?

    ReplyDelete