This is a work of entertainment fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Rajesh prepares for his encounter with the Ghost of Gangaram
Rajesh abhorred ghost stories. The heated discussion over the Ghost of Gangaram didn’t make any sense to him. Was his acceptance of the challenge an unnecessary bravado to impress and intimidate the fellow staff members who in turn may have been intimidated by the entry of a fresh Engineer to manage the factory? They knew the inside out of the production technique. What would this novice guy unearth that our P.D. Saheb didn’t know? The signs were ominous and his own reaction was a harbinger of his own cocky career ahead?
Rajesh just wanted to be himself, not to fall in line with outdated thinking. Instead learning to assert himself whenever challenged.
He tried to sleep in the makeshift bedroom – the overheated walls now exuding damp and stale air. But the depraved and delighted mosquitoes wouldn’t let him. There were occasional flashes of lightning and possibly a light shower. He turned the table fan to full speed. The noise made by the squeaky old fan made the matters worse.
His mind went back to the disgusting discussion.
It seemed as if everyone secretly conspired to scare him. P D topped it all by dramatizing the entire situation like the conductor of a symphony orchestra.
Nothing made any sense – at least to Rajesh.
A sudden gush of breeze made his bedroom window crack open with a wild swing. The latch was missing. The window wouldn’t stop swaying.
Rajesh ambled out of his quarter and started pacing the verandah. To add to the misery the power went off.
Pitch dark all around. The flashes of lightning showed the line of quarters on one side and the spooky factory building a few hundred meters away. Is the Ghost of Gangaram there tonight? Was it?
Rajesh remembered his own irrational fears of ghosts and dead bodies during his childhood. It was hard to recall when exactly he got over all such fears.
Everyone in the colony was fast asleep.
On an impulse he fished out his little flashlight from the drawer and ventured out; towards the factory building.
There was no soul around. He could still hear some dogs barking far off.
The table was still laid out in the open space where the group had been chatting. Probably P D had missed out asking someone to shift it back in his verandah.
He went past the table and walked the dirt path that led to the back of the factory. Some wild bushes lined the path on both sides. He had to exercise great care to avoid stepping over the tiny branches.
As he approached the factory building from the back side he noticed a huge pipal tree (A fig tree native to India) hugging the wall of the factory building. The leaves made rustling sounds as the wind blew through them. He entered the open collapsible back door into the plant area. Suddenly, out of nowhere an emaciated dog appeared. It was the same dog that had been quietly resting near the table at the chat session. The dog, to his chagrin, started walking with him into the plant area.
Good company, friend! Rajesh detested dogs but presently it turned out to be a good company.
A basket of broken eggs lying at the entrance greeted Rajesh. Apparently the high winds had caused nest to fall from the Pipal tree. The dog made its obligatory check on the crashed nest with its nose and moved on as Rajesh skipped over it carefully.
Was the evidence of destruction around him an ominous sign of gory events to happen the next night or was it going to be this night itself?
The passing shower now had turned into a heavy downpour.
“Oh mine, this is unpardonable negligence! The Store keeper must be out of his mind to store the finished product bags in the western corner of the plant exposed to the elements”
Rain was threatening to lash out and spoil the bags stacked on pallets. He looked around with his flashlight – no one but the dog!
There it is! He chanced upon a huge sheet of tarpurlin (heavy water-proof cloth) close to the bags. There was no one to help to move it to cover the bags.
“Hey doggy, can you help?”
The dog merely wagged his tail.
Rajesh started pulling the heavy tarpurlin sheets over the stacked bags, holding the flashlight in his mouth. It took him almost 20 minutes to cover the pallets.
His hands were dirty and smelly, his legs were aching but he took a round of the ground floor of the plant and checked each and every corner with his flashlight on.
“Everything safe now!” he muttered
“Let’s go back doggy. The job is done. No ghost here tonight but may be tomorrow!”
The dog followed him all the way to his quarter and quietly curled up in the verandah. Rajesh took a shower and got into his bed.
He slept like a log all night. In his dream he saw P. D. and his staff mocking at him, patting each other on the back. No one came to his rescue except that dog who started barking at the group menacingly.
The next morning:
“Garmaa garam (refreshingly hot) chai. Baarnu kholo, Rajesh bhai” (Please open the door). It was the voice of a young girl.
Rajesh sprang out of his bed and opened the door to find the young daughter of P. D. with a cup of tea and some biscuits in a tray.
“Papa asked me to give you this breakfast. Enjoy the hot breakfast. Garma garam chhe (It is refreshingly hot )”
“Oh thanks er.. what is your name?”
“Hema” replied the girl lowering her head a bit
“Like Hema Malini?” (Hema Malini – the name of a gorgeous movie actress)
“Oooo , no.” The giggling girl ran back and disappeared in the house next door.
“So what could be this? A new strategy to ward off evil spirits “ Rajesh chuckled
After shaving and shower he decided to get out and take a round of the plant area.
The area had turned into a muddy field with the overnight rain. He made straight to the security gate where Chamanlal was quietly smoking away his beedi. ( local cigarette made with a dry leaf stuffed with tobacco)
On seeing Rajesh he hurriedly threw the beedi away and saluted.
“It is ok, Chaman. But you are not allowed to smoke in this area. Do you know that?”
“But the factory is closed, Saheb” argued Chaman
“Are maraa bhai, (my good old brother) there are all sorts of inflammable materials around. They could catch fire. Get it?”
“Haaji saheb. (Absolutely Sir) Sorry saheb. Havethi nahi” (Never again)
“Saheb, ek vaat kahun?” ( Sir, may I tell you something) Chaman almost begged to say something
“What is it now, Chaman?”
“Saheb I saw that ghost in the plant last night”
“Oh really. Where? And you are still alive” Rajesh mocked at him.
“Yes, I swear to God. I was here sitting on my chair near the gate…..”
“You must have dozed off on that chair, Chaman” Rajesh playfully cut him off.
“No sir, I was wide awake, it was cold so I decided to shift my chair to the open cabin and covered myself with a blanket”
“Right around midnight, I heard someone walking around the dark, ground floor area with a tiny fanas ( hand held lamp) . I heard some strange noise of rustling of some leaves or sheets and got so scared…”
“Why didn’t you go inside and check it out for yourself”
“How can I saheb. I have a family to look after, What if the ghost attacked me? Haven’t you heard the ghost stories from the staff?”
“You are worthless as a security. What about the salary you get to protect the factory?”
“No saheb, I got too scared and promptly ducked my head under the large blanket further. How can one fight with a ghost?”
“Shut up, you irresponsible guy” Rajesh threw a final glance at the embarrassed security guard and walked off. The ghost story had circulated among the staff deeply enough to label any abnormal sighting as Ghost.
Everything else appeared all right, unaffected by the pre monsoon shower last night. Some puddles had formed inside the plant building by water leaking through the roof at some places. He made a mental note of instructing the overseer to fix them. The tarpurlin he had pulled over the finished product bags held on well to the onslaught of the wind that swept through the area at night.
Rajesh didn’t want to waste the entire day sitting at home. Some big time shopping for essentials had been pending for long. He took out a large bag, locked his door and gingerly walked towards the bust stop outside the plant gate.
He noticed P. D. ‘s daughter Hema watching him in astonishment.
Soon he was on his way to Ahmedabad city.
Back at the colony:
A big furore ensued there. P D. went around the quarters breaking the news what Hema had seen with her own eyes – poor Rajesh leaving home – hopefully for good!
“Oh the guy must have got mortally scared, hearing about the ghost that he would have to encounter at night.” Harshadbhai wryly suggested.
“You mean Rajesh bhai has fled?” Asked the demure wife of P.D. while Hema stood there – her eyes full of concern for Rajesh
“I knew all along.
Good riddance. The man has no guts and keeps showing off his fearlessness. Arey it is question of standing up to a real ghost of Gangaram. “ P. D. smiled at the small group of his loyal supporters gathered around their Saheb.
“Time to celebrate!” Harshadbhai the timekeeper raised his hands
“Arey saambhale chhe? (Hey listen) “ P. D. alerted his wife “ Aaje to varsaadi maahol chhe. Badhaa maate bhajiyya bajiyaa banav jaraa” ( hey listen, perfect time to devour some hot bhajiyaas – a hot fried savoury dumpling)
Everyone was in a celebratory mood – except perhaps the dog that missed Rajesh for some inexplicable reason and Hema.
The whole day passed off quietly. P. D. took a quick formal round of the plant the operation of which now belonged to him and no one else; no new Rajesh, no new comers to usurp his position. It did rain intermittently during the day, making the atmosphere unusually pleasant.
Come the evening. The loyal gossip group gathered around the table once again in time before the rains lash once again. Tea was served
Motilal’s eyes narrowed. “Who is this character coming this way with a big bag in his hand?”
Everyone turned his head in the direction of the gate.
Sure enough! Rajesh was walking towards them with a big bag that seemed heavier than what Hema had seen in the morning.
“Oh ho ho ho“ Rajesh bhai? Shun thayun? ( Oh Rajesh what a surprise? What happened?)” It was Harshad bhai who took the lead
“What the hell? Why are you so surprised? No tea for me today?”
“Arey naa naa. We are happy to see you again. Here, arey ek cup chaa mokaljo….(Hey, get one cup of tea for Rajesh) ” A flustered P. D. ordered to no one in particular. Hema ran into the house and returned with a steaming cup of tea – for Rajesh. Wow! What a crush Rajesh was for the young girl!
Rajesh opened the door of his house, set his bag in the verandah and rushed back to join the group.
“Wow, a hot cup of tea sounds so refreshing in this rainy weather, isn’t it?” he asked the befuddled group.
“So, Rajesh bhai it seems you did a lot of shopping for your wedding!” Someone asked meekly. Hema frowned.
“Well, as I said the wedding is quite far away. This shopping is for my comfortable stay in the quarter that lacks the basic furniture” Rajesh replied nonchalantly.
My goodness; so he is not running away! P. D. thought.
“Very good Rajeshbhai. So are you ready for your factory visit tonight to see the ghost of Gangaram?”
“Why not? I am looking forward to it, dosto (friends)” Rajesh raised his feet and rested them on the small stool.
Saalo kharo maanas chhe – Raate bhoot malshe etle khabar padshe, mahaashayne – (The guy is a real nut. Let him meet the ghost at night for the lesson of his life)
Everyone wondered what the night had in store for the poor young man. Hema in particular started reciting Hanuman Chalisaa ( a collection of verses dedicated to the deity Hanuman, recited to ward of evil) silently for Rajesh.
The Final Encounter with the Ghost of Gangaram – in the next and final episode of the story.