Midnight Ghosts

                                                               M I D N I G H T
                                                           G  H  O  S  T  S 
                                                                ( C O M E D Y )
          Nothing human in this world can frighten Sakthivelu. A gigantic decimal tonne swarthy man. Almost everyone in the Dairy never dared to get into physical confrontation with him due to fear of  being thrashed. He worked in the Dairy as an Electrician and was also a proud owner of four dead old junk lorries which brought milk to the Dairy from far off places. Though fierce looking, due to his amiable nature he had lot of friends, most of them being villagers.
          He was also a villager. His village was a very remote one and did not have even bus stand, post office, stationery shops and the like. Only a small Muniappan temple and a school were the prestigious concrete buildings of that village. Thatched houses were very sparsely distributed. In some places, there won’t be any houses for miles. Buses frequented the village in long hours.
          Though basically a villager, he was fond of wearing jeans pants and sport shoes. He was a running champion at his school for five consequetive years. At that time, he was of average weight and figure. Now, he was very heavy and even had a little sumo wrestler belly. The free milk and butter of the Dairy made him so. And he won’t take ordinary looking bags to the Dairy. Only good looking ones. Though swarthy, everything of him would be clean.
          Everyday, he would board a certain bus and come to the Dairy. As he ran four milk lorries on contract basis inside the Dairy, he would often be seen completely pre-occupied. Never, could he concentrate in his electrician work totally. One of the lorries will always be in trouble. If the third becomes O.K., the fourth won’t run properly. And if the fourth becomes alright, the second would go out of order. Initially, he had a tough time with their maintenance but as years passed by, the breakdown of lorries became normal for him. He seldom had human problems – only ‘iron’ic problems.
          One day at sundown, the fourth lorry did not come on its usual time. Sakthivelu feared a breakdown. As he was waiting impatiently, his friends got into conversation with him. At first, he was bit reluctant but later on he could not avoid joining them. They started to talk about the people in the Dairy, various problems occuring in the machines and thenafter about various actors, actresses, movies, songs, TV serials, cricket and finally somehow they got into the topic of the ghosts.
          Our man felt very uncomfortable. He did not want to tell others that he was afraid of ghosts. As far as they were concerned he was a very brave man with no fear of fighting. The thought of missing the last bus to his village, walking on the road sighting the ghostly trees and going miles by foot to his village began to bother him. He tried to ignore their talk and kept his eyes focussed on the main gate and nervously waited for the last lorry. But still he could not avoid listening them.
          One of them was talking about the experiences of ghosts which his relative had during his works in his farm. Another told that ghosts do not like people turning their heads back all of a sudden. If somebody does so, they would slap them “nicely”. One man seriously informed the others that ghosts are very scared of “ beedis and bromsticks”. The watchman agreed with him and told that they are afraid of iron nails and old slippers too. For his share, he told that a lady did not like her neighbour. One day, the lady died and the very next day, the neighbour was found dead.
          One denied the existence of ghosts and told that he has never encountered any ghost in his lifetime and that he had only heard people telling stories about them. The man opposite to him did not agree with him and told that on one dark night, his grandfather had seen a white figure with no legs which passed near him. He also told that his grandfather never told lies. Another who had been sitting quietly all the time remembered something and told others that some ghosts sit on top of trees and wait for someone to come underneath the tree. When somebody comes underneath for a pee, they will get into their body.
          It seemed that this topic interested the lot, a lot and they did not deviate from the topic any further. Almost everyone seemed happy with their conversation.
          In the increasing darkness, two flashing headlights became visible in the road which led to the Dairy. A lorry turned and drove towards the main gate and made it very bright. The watchman took leave of  others and rushed to his gateroom. After recording the lorry’s time, he opened the gate and there came his lorry roaring into the compound.
          Sakthivelu felt relieved. The driver informed him that there was tyre puncture and that was the reason for being late. Sakthivelu then took leave of the driver and his friends and walked hurriedly to the bus stop. The time was 10:50 P.M. He had to get another bus after roughly one hour bus journey from there. He sent his prayers above to make the last bus to his village to come a little late on its scheduled time. A half empty bus slowly stopped near him. He got into it, sat near a window, bought the ticket and after sometime started to sleep.
          His fear for ghosts was well known by his family members. Only other outside people could be kept in the dark by him. Smalls and littles in his big family many a times have frightened him to the fullest possible whenever they came to his village on holidays. At midnight, they would frighten the dog and make it to howl. And sometimes slowly walk over the thatched roofing. They were so efficient and skillful in their tricks that he really had a feeling that during some nights of the year, the ghosts really walk and roam about their house. The smalls and littles administered by a clever teenage boy never told him of their various versatile tricks which they employed on him due to the chance of losing their next oppurtunity to frighten him.
          Sakthivelu woke up when the conductor pronounced the name of his bus stop and got down from the bus. The bus after dropping him, sped up and the two red tail lights became fainter and fainter and thenafter disappeared. He seriously inquired in a small shop whether the last bus has gone or not. The shop keeper gave him the startling information that the bus has passed by before few minutes. The shop keeper made arrangements to close his shop. Our man waited to see if any passing vehicle would lift him off to his village. The shop keeper after closing his shop, got on his bicycle and quietly left the place. There came a two wheeler but there were already 3 occupants on it. He looked around to find somebody to keep him company. There were none.
          The complete stillness of the night and utter solitude made things to look both ghostly and ghastly to him. The midnight was very black and the trees around the entire surroundings stood up ghost-like against the sky.  As he was waiting underneath the huge deadly looking tamarind tree, a white haired lady with bent posture was walking with a stick and towards him.  He stood  aghast at the sight of the old lady, wide eyed with fear – his body fully prepared to start the running. Could she be a ghost – thought he. No! She had legs. What a relief !! The old lady crossed him and walked in another road.
         He decided to walk rather than stay for staying underneath the huge deadly looking tamarind tree was even more ghastly than walking through the road surrounded by ghostly trees. As he was walking, he could even hear sound of his shoes and leg rubbing of pants distinctly. Around him, the insects were screetching and the frog were croacking. Apart from this, everything human was silent.
          He tried to remember the “handling procedure” of the ghosts and dared not turn back his head. The mantras which his grandma told to keep the ghosts away came instantly to his mind. He began to chant them hoping that as long as he continues chanting, he would not get caught by anything.
          The wind blew stronger, the mantras came out faster. The leaves and branches of the trees began to move violently as if they were trying to inform him about the arrival of something. Up in the sky, the clouds covered the moon and made the Earth around him a little more darker. From a faraway place, a dog began to howl and sent a shudder up his spine. Fear Maximus made the entire hair of his body – porcupined.
          Now the mantras were not coming out from his mouth. Instead they went reverberating inside his skull. His heartbeat continued to increase and so did the pace of walking. He really felt that something was coming behind him and began to walk still faster. But alas! a coconut fell from its tree right over a place of stagnant water with a loud ‘splash’.
          Perspiring, Trembling, Nervous he began to run as fast as his legs could carry him. So fast that a Carl Lewis would have envied his speed. When he was at his top gear, a little faraway there laid a human body exactly perpendicular to the middle of the road. Before the retina and the optic nerve could send their impulses to the brain, he stepped over the body. To his horror, the body neither moved nor made any sound. Panic blasted his speed much further.
          At yonder, the drowsy members of  his family in their house had a strange feeling that something very heavy was coming towards them. As if a baby tyrannosaurus – rex dinosaur was dashing towards their house at high speed. Later on they saw him running towards their house at zero gravity.  After sighting the thatched house and others, his pace slowed down and came to a sudden halt. His face appeared to have been struck by a Vethal. He was fully shortwinded and could not even talk. All of them laughed knowing well what had happened to him. They asked if he had missed the last bus. Our man nodded his head. His youngest sister was full of smile.
         After sometime, things started to become normal for him. He narrated others about the road journey in full. Food was served to him and he began to eat. After his eating, all engaged in a chit-chat. They began to talk about the various problems which their family faced and things that must be done to remove the problems. As minutes passed by, one by one broke off to sleep. In the end, only he and his mother were talking. After a long tittle-tattle his mother felt sleepy too and told him that they can talk about the things that has to be done the next day.
         There was one room in their thatched house which had no windows and electric light. Even in daytime, it will be dark. In night time, it will be very dark. The room was intentionally built less airy to store inside fresh cotton from farmland. Our man changed his clothes to a lungi. When about to enter inside the dark room for sleeping his mother asked him not to sleep over there as he might get frightened.
          Wanting to establish the fact that he is a brave man, he ignored his mother and went inside to sleep. As it was dark, he could not search his blanket. One by one, he brought the clothes outside and checked them in a small light. Thenafter having found his blanket, he went inside and spread it over the bed. He then kept a pillow and stretched himself on the cot. As it was bit warm, he did not want to cover himself with a blanket.
          Everything was silent in their house. Almost everyone outside the room were beginning to start their sleep. Sakthivelu closed his eyes.
         “Meeaaaawww” mewed the cat from the top of the attali.
         “ Maa “ came out a very inquisitive tone to check out whether others are present outside or not.
         “ennada sathi” replied the fat mother
         The thin grandfather whose cot was laid near the front of the entrance to the dark room, immediately got up from his bed and sat on the extreme corner of the cot farthest away from the dark room entrance. He always had a subconscious fear that one day the heavy body would fall on his lean body and break his thin bones.
          The cat in complete darkness inside the room perhaps didn’t know that a dark body was lying underneath it and made a soft landing on his little sumo bare belly. The cot inside the room screeched and there came Sakthivelu, running for dear life, piercing out of the room and fell right over the cot.
         The thin grandfather appeared pleased having “effectively” saved his body of wreckage. The crashing of  Sakthivelu woke every body up and the merry laughter continued again inside the house. Our bewildered man wrapped his loose lungi to his hip and not willing to take any dire chances brought his belongings outside and started to sleep.
         The next day, the grandfather who had left the house before sunrise to attend an important matter with a person, came back with the news that he had seen a drunkard lying exactly perpendicular to the middle of the road. And that before the first morning bus to their village could ‘wake him’ up, he did so and to the satisfaction of our man told that he had scolded the drunkard for having frightened his grandson last night.

Written by Gokula Anand                                            Year: 2000

No comments:

Post a Comment