Hello friends, when we were younger, always game for the stories told by our visiting elders. As they were the days sans cable TV and bombardment of social media, kids always were eager to listen to the interesting events, as happened to their elders. They might be sometimes real, sometimes imaginary, nevertheless, the attention quotient of the children were always high.This particular story I’m going to tell you was told by the eldest maternal uncle of my husband, to his younger self. When I heard it from him, although not so young for a story time, decided instantly to tell you. Hope you find it engaging too!!
Our main protagonist is a confirmed bachelor Mr. Ganguly, well into his midd age. The events unfolding in the coming lines, took place about 30 – 35 years ago. In a small town of Bihar called Bhagalpur, where my husband grew up. Mr Ganguly lived in another town, Purnea. The twin towns were separated by the holy river, Ganges. At that time there was no bridge over the wide river. People had to travel in a zonga, a hardy vehicle on the sandy road upto the river banks then boarded motorised boat to cross the mighty river.
Whenever Mr Ganguli had some leisure, he liked to visit his sister and spend quality time with his nephews and nieces, which are total six in numbers, four boys and two girls. He used to dot on all of them. In between endless cups of tea prepared by one or the other kid (each tea was designated by the name of the person who prepared it), he would open the treasure trove of his stories.
Once, when he got down the boat at Barari Ghat, in Bhagalpur it was already 9 of the night and there was a power cut. At that time, it was felt more like a midnight. Very few passengers and rickshaws were seen to take them to their destination, autos had retired altogether for the night and cabs were literally non existent. On reaching the rickshaw stand, Mr Ganguly found that all the rickshaw were already taken up. It was a good 45 minutes to 1 hours ride on foot, yet he had no other option than take it up.
It was a dark night with no street lights due to power outage and very few vehicles were plying on the road. Suddenly he saw a vaccant rickshaw coming towards him. When Mr Ganguly called out, the rickshaw stopped near him, he hurriedly climbed it, but before he could give the address, the rickshaw started to move. He surmised that as he was quite regular on the route, the rickshaw puller might have recognized him and already knew, where he had to go.
Along the route, there was a small forest like enclosure called Sundarban, containing a graveyard beside the main road. His perplexity was heightened, when he found the rickshaw turning towards it, off the normal path. He enquired, “Why brother, you are taking this route?”
The person all covered in a large shawl and head gear to offset the wintry night his face imperceptible in the layers of drapes, replied something vaguely which implied, he had opted for the shortcut to reache quicker.
Mr Ganguly found it highly unusual and the lines of consternation started appearing on his forehead. Just to allay the uneasiness, he casually lighted a cigarette deep in his thoughts trying to comprehend the matter. He barely might have taken a few puffs in, the hand of the man pulling the rickshaw was raised towards him, asking in a feeble voice, “Give me a cigarette too, Sir.”
Mr Ganguly saw only the shawl raised towards him, but no hands, a void!! He couldn’t tell how much time had passed when some person approached the rickshaw from the other side. They had a hand held lantern along with them. On coming near, one of the person raised the lantern to enquire, “Why are you sitting like that, all alone in this desolate place?”
The voice of the man acted like a trigger to break the deep trance like condition of Mr Ganguly. He realised that the burning cigarette, held in his hand, had gone so short that it was about to burn his fingers. He hurriedly threw it away and then realised that he was sitting in a graveyard and the seat of the rickshaw puller was lying vacant. The cigarette case and the lighter held in his other hand was gone too!!
One of the strangers spoke with sympathy,” It seems that you too have been dragged by the ghost of the rickshaw puller who died a few years ago. His spirit has the propensity of grabbing any rickshaw whose attendant is not in sight at night time and carry unsuspecting passengers to this place. See, there is his grave!”
In the raised lantern light, Mr Ganguly could clearly see that his cigarette case and the lighter was lying beside the directed grave. One of the person offered, “We were returning after the burial of our relative. Come down, don’t worry we will take you safely to your home.”