THE GHOST OF GANGARAM

Originally Posted on May 31, 2019

Silhouette of Person in Front of Fireworks

EPISODE 1:

The evening had just about turned a bit chilly in the AMTS (Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Services) bus. Rajesh, on his way back from Ahmedabad city to the colony at Odahv, adjusted the collar of his winter coat a bit to protect his face from the unfamiliar blast of cold wind blowing through the broken window of the bus.

Mumbai was always warm, in fact too hot and sultry most of the year. His mind went back to the travels in the BEST bus that he was used to, the perspiring, smelly men seated next to him and the cacophony of sounds that always seemed to surround him.

He had joined this small chemical company a few days back. D. S. Patel, the enigmatic, Old, quirky Managing Director had interviewed him at Mumbai and promptly appointed him to head the chemical plant at Odhav.

The promise of providing accommodation seemed like a good attractive proposition. At the first sight of the ‘quarter’ allotted to him it looked like a horse stable that reeked of stale air.

Anyhow, now that he had accepted the post there was no going back, at least for some time. The thought of sharing this quarter as the first home with his fiancée was exciting in spite of the terrible experience that he would have to go through as a single man till they actually got married two months later.

The thrill of being the head of a chemical unit began to evaporate quickly as he sized up the enormity of managing a wide array of personalities that could scarcely be labeled as a ‘team’ in the lingo of business management.

P. D. Rajkotia, the incumbent chief of operations, was surprisingly cordial. His sweet talk sometimes made Rajesh wonder if it concealed a well-guarded animosity towards a young rookie Engineer who might upstage him.

“ઓઢવ આઈ ગયું, ઓઢવ આઈ ગયું; શેઠાણીઓ – મારી માં – બધા હેંડો હવે ” ( Hey you all masters of your trade get down from the bus – we have reached Odhav – your destination) the bearded ever smiling, fun loving conductor of the bus shouted at the group of trader-women who had stacked their wares in the gangway in the bus.

The last destination of the bus was Kathwada – a good 5 kms from Odhav village. Rajesh’s colony lay in a desolate open space at the next bus stop. The only structure anyone could see was the chemical plant with its office building in the front and the residential colony at the other end of the area.

“Monsoon may break in any day now” Rajesh thought as he sighted a few dark clouds hovering oh the horizon. One of his buddies at Bombay had joked in a lighter vein that Rajesh would never have to buy an umbrella in Ahmedabad. Will this season be different?

“Aastey..” (Slow down) he requested the bus conductor aloud and alighted at the Mayur Chemicals bus stop carefully as the bus kept rolling on before he could even set his foot on the ground. That is how the AMTS buses were, never really halting completely at the bust stop. They merely slowed down at the stop.

Dhiren Dave, the storekeeper of the company got into the same bus from the front entrances as it gathered speed.

“Why did the store keeper have to hang around in the office so late?” Rajesh had left the workplace a bit early today. There were murmurs of the plant being temporarily shut down on account of impending shortage of Caustic Soda.

Rajesh neared his ‘quarter’ and saw Rajkotia and other neighbors seated around a table in the open near the entrance of the quarters.

“Arrey, Rajesh bhai you are back? Have you had your dinner?”

“Yes, P.D. Saheb, thank you. But why is the factory building unlit. Why is there no activity”?

“Arrey, this happens every couple of weeks. There is an acute shortage of caustic soda in the market. The consignment did not arrive today!” P. D. announced nonchalantly. And then added “, good break from routine, Rajesh bhai. Come join us for a cup of chai”

Very intriguing!

Rajesh took his seat facing everyone seated around sipping strong, sweet (કડક અને મીઠી)” chai.

“So when are you going for your wedding?”

“Oh, sometime in March, P.D. Saheb”

The flashes of lightning alternately showed the entire area and the factory with remarkable clarity in the blinding light.

Suddenly the dogs started howling in the distance near the factory building. The collective howling added a sense of foreboding to the atmosphere.

P. D. turned to the group and declared “Isn’t that the sign of that ઝંડ (Ghost ), out to create trouble again?”

Rajesh’ eyes narrowed. What ghost? And then raised his hand in the gesture of questioning.

Harshad Patel, who was watching Rajesh with undue attention, told P. D., waving his hand at Rajesh, “This young saheb doesn’t know about this ghost”

“What ghosts? I don’t believe in ghosts” Rajesh smiled

There was a hushed silence.

‘Rajesh bhai. The factory frequently shuts down like this and stays shut for a week to ten days. Every night the ghost of Gangaram visits the factory and causes trouble in the plant.

“Who is Gangaram?”

“Gangaram was an electrician of the factory who died in mysterious circumstances during one such shut down. He used to come from Varsana village nearby. They say his ghost visits the factory during the shutdowns to cause some troubles to the operating staff” P. D. explained as everyone listened to him in rapt attention.

‘Ghost? “, Rajesh laughed “, Sorry, you all seem to be prey to some old-fashioned stories about ghosts. Don’t believe in such ghosts”

“Even I used to advise these people otherwise but then I experienced it with my own eyes, Rajeshbhai”

“Oh, come on, P. D. Saheb. We are all educated well trained experts”

“Don’t laugh it off. Once I started walking up to the factory in the dead of night during one such shutdowns and as I neared the factory building the strangely scary voice of Gangaram accosted me and started a small fire quite close to where I wanted to go. I got scared and bolted back to the colony”

“Arrey it happened to me too ….” Motilal, the gardener cum watchman added.

‘Bakwaas…” Rajesh couldn’t help blurting out.

It was P.D.’s turn to challenge Rajesh now “, All right, let us see if you can stand up to the ghost tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night, precisely at mid night, walk up to the factory and get on the second floor, switch on the lights there three times and come back. “

“Done, P. D.”

EPISODE 2:

monster illustration

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”

“Then?”

“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.

Now what?

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 furor 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 newcomers 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 off evil) silently for Rajesh.

EPISODE 3:

Ghost stories are always intriguing. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts you can’t resist the temptation to read what happens next. Put together worthless beliefs corroborated by unverified sources, with hallucinations to spice it up and you have a potent story about ghosts. Invariably, there is a great design or motive in spreading such stories. Hearing ghost voices relies on pseudoscience and fallibility of human perception

The Ghost of Gangaram was a typical case that made Rajesh scratch his head. What could be the motive?

He loved to go cracking at the unsolved mysteries.

Did P. D. and neighbors detest his entry so much that they cooked up ghost stories to scare him?

Or that they really secretly believed in such stories to add spice to their mundane existence as the employees of a small company tucked away in a far corner of Ahmedabad?

Rajesh concluded it was a mix of both. He had devised an ingenious plan to bust the myth. This was his first job so he could not think of throwing it away even if he was not scared. Resistance to the entry of a new young guy who might question their manufacturing methods and their policies was understandable. Safely ensconced in their age-old processes and policies why would they take a chance to let the new guy firmly entrench himself amongst them?

It turned out to be just the night for perpetuating ghost stories. He gathered his stuff he had brought into a mid-sized bag; had an early dinner and set out to conquer the ghost of Gangaram. The motley group had already gathered at the usual table to watch Rajesh fling himself to be devoured by the ghost. A strange sense of foreboding was writ large on their faces. Why, some people even started praying for the well-being of this young man. Why should the life of a young Engineer be sacrificed at the altar of mysterious ghost?

No human being is completely black or white. It is always a shade of grey – and that shade too is not constant. No wonder a few had turned sympathizers to Rajesh, the vivacious Hema included for an entirely different reason. “Stay away, no need to engage with the dreaded ghost “, was her silent prayer.

P.D. too had mixed feelings. He wondered if there was a way to dissuade Rajesh from committing the hara-kiri but now it was too late as Rajesh emerged from his quarter with a bag in his hand. Hema, watching from her window let out a sigh. P.D.’s wife could never understand why Rajesh had to prove something that couldn’t be. “E to maraa vaalaa ne je gamyu ee haachun” was her solace (Whatever the Lord desires will happen anyway) and went about her daily chores stoically.

People watched aghast at this distorted sense of misplaced bravado.

“Arey Rajesh bhai, why so early? And what is in that bag you are carrying with you?” The timekeeper, unshaven, clad in his customary flowing kurta pyjama and chewing gutkhaa, (Tobacco) Harshad bhai fired the first salvo.

“Look Kaka, I need some weapons and implements to fight the ghost, don’t I? I am going early to wait for the ghost rather than your ghost waiting for me. The ghost doesn’t know that I am going to challenge it but I know I am going to have an encounter with him” Clarified the cocky Rajesh as he went past the group.

It was only 10:30 PM. The sky was awash with flashes of lightning. One could hear the thunders far away. They saw Rajesh wearing military type of rough leather shoes, with nails embedded on the soles to walk in the muddy path.

“The guy has done his homework, hasn’t he” Someone in the group commented.

“At least he would be able to run back with those shoes on sighting the ghost” theorized Motillal – the gardener-security guard for the colony.

Everyone watched in astonishment as the lone dog joined him till both disappeared in the darkness. The tiny speck of light from the flashlight too disappeared.

“Saalo marvaano chhe aaje (The crazy nut is going to die today)” P. D. thought.

The ladies stopped watching the ghastly event to unfold and scurried back into their houses, instructing their husbands not to hang around in open till late. What if the ghost runs back to the colony after slaying Rajesh?

“Whatever happens to Rajesh bhai is going to happen” a local version of ‘Que sera sera’ by P. D‘s better half.

Motilal walked up to Chamanlal guarding the factory gate. Chaman’s story of a ghost loitering in the factory on the previous night confirmed the existence of the ghost. A scared Motilal rushed back to the colony, viewing in the direction of the haunted factory building with a million anxieties.

Rajesh kept walking through the muddy path, past the bushes with the faithful dog in the tow.

The sound of thunders grew louder now.

He strode into the factory building though the collapsible door at the back and quickly made his way to the second floor near the switchboard.

“What is the matter tonight? No ghost tonight? Good. Rajesh is lucky. But I must say he has the guts to enter that haunted factory building – ghost or no ghost” Someone in the group prompted

“It will be our bad luck if he is lucky” winked P.D.

“But by now he should have reached the second floor. What is taking so long?”

“The ghost must have cornered him. That’s what he deserves”

Speculations were rife in the group.

“Arey baba but why is there no noise?”

After a full half an hour they saw the lights being switched on and off again and on .. Three times!

“Oh my goodness. So, Rajesh made it!”

“Shut up you …” It was P D’s turn to get irritated now.

Then they heard. Someone rushing into the factory building, the dog barking continuously and then the sound of a blow! The dog shrieked in pain and then all quiet.

“At least there is some hope. The ghost is there.” P. D’s expectations heightened up, his pulse racing.

The group fell silent. What must be happening there? Where is Rajesh? Has the ghost finally caught him?

Then they heard someone run out of the plant, shouting ‘bhoot, bhoot, mari gayo re baapaliya’ but no one had any clue as to what it was? “Was that the voice of Chaman lal? Why did the fool rush into the spooky building? Now you suffer” Motilal cursed

They heard some grunts, moans and a frightening laughter; then the sound of someone falling to the ground with a huge thud in the puddle. All quiet then.

It must be the Ghost of Gangaram.

Was Rajesh dead? Poor guy. Why is it so quiet out there? Has the Ghost disappeared after teaching the cocky man a lesson?

What they would not know was that it was the guard Chamanlal at the gate, chastised by Rajesh in the morning, who had a rush of blood on seeing someone switch on the lights on the second floor. Now his duty beckoned him and he gathered all his courage and ran to towards the plant building with a big stick in his hand. The dog, for some inexplicable reasons, ran menacingly towards him, Chaman threw his stick at the dog in exasperation that made the dog cry out in pain. Poor Chamanlal was sure that Gangaram’s ghost had transformed itself into that little dog he had seen chasing him and he ran for his life, shouting ‘bhoot, bhoot, mari gayo re baapaliya’; (Ghost, ghost, I am doomed now,), took out his bicycle and took off.

Back at the colony:

What if the ghost ran this way? Fear was writ large on their faces.

A few of the people in the group decided to leave and get back to safety in their homes. Only the three guys remained to witness the event till the end. Motilal held the large stick a bit more firmly in his hand. Harshadbhai and P. D. got up from their chairs.

They waited and waited for full one hour. No sign of Rajesh, no sign of the Ghost causing any more trouble.

There was no end to questions.

Was it safe now? What happened to Rajesh? Why has he not returned if he is unhurt? Shouldn’t we go and check? If Rajesh is indeed injured or dead P. D. will be answerable to the management, wouldn’t he be?

But who will go and check? They followed the maxim “Unity is strength” and together slowly trudged towards the back of the plant door, watching out at each step for signs of ghost.

Motilal had a huge torch in his hand. The occasional flashes of lightning made the whole scene eerie. Still Rajesh was nowhere to be seen. No ghost either.

The group of men neared the back door where Harshadbhai suddenly slipped in the mud and landed right inside the plant building ahead of others. The other two ran after him where he lay in pain.

And then they spotted the ghost.

It was Gangaram’s ghost, clad in the same kurta pyjama that he used to wear, the worn-out shoes were also easily identifiable. Gangaram’s disembodied soul was right there in front of them, fully clothed, as they had known him. The ghost had a funny headgear, it had a hoarse, scary rumbling voice, letting out booming growl –

“Ha Ha Ha, so you are all here. You are going to die, just like this cocky Rajesh..” the apparition pointed to a body, covered with a tarpurlin sheet, lying in mud next to the pipal tree, The military shoes that Rajesh wore were visible, peeping out of the sheet. He lay motionless. Was he dead?

“Ha Ha Ha. So are you ready to die? Don’t you try to run back. I will kill all of you.”

The three men just stood there, frozen with fear. The injured dog was lying nearby, moaning, licking its wounds.

“Gangaram please let us ggggoooo. Wh…at do you want, ?” P. D. barely managed to speak in quivering voice

 “This damned Rajesh lost his life. He could not give me what I want” – the ghost boomed.

“Sssssso wh….at is it that you want?”

“Ha Ha Ha. ,” the ghost moaned and rambled on “P. D. why haven’t you paid my salary for three months? Why? Why haven’t you paid my gratuity yet? I slogged and died in the service of this blessed company. Who cares?” The white kurta pyjama that the ghost wore started fluttering in the breeze, adding to the grimness.

“Saheb….,, Arey Gangaram, I I, I, pro…mise that your dues will be paid but let us go, please” beseeched P. D.

“You P. D?  I will come again and kill all of you in your homes tomorrow night; Ha Ha Ha” the ghost laughed his heart out uncontrollably.

“I give you my word, Gangaram. Spare us. Jai Bajarang Bali, Jai Bajarang bali…” P. D raised his voice and signaled everyone to run without looking back. That is what they had been taught. Never look back at the ghost. Or it will get you.

The three men took a deep breath and bolted towards the quarters. The Ghost kept letting out threatening screams.

They all sneaked back in their homes and everything was quiet. Not a soul had the courage to look out of their window, much less stirring out in the open.

The three gullible mortals witnessed what they had imagined. So, what if they were terrified? The ghost drama was over and so was the nature’s drama of unseasonal rains. When they finally woke up to a new morning the sky was clear with only a couple of fluffy white clouds floating around.

P. D. got out of the house a bit nervous, with a sense of trepidation. He had no gumption to describe to his wife what happened last night. What would he say? That they saw the ghost of Gangaram and they were all scared out of their wits? That Rajesh had been killed by the Ghost for defying its existence?

The other two guys Harshad bhai and Motilal too stepped out timidly and saw P. D. in deep thoughts.

“So, what do we do now? Retrieve the body of Rajesh and break the news to the office? “ Harshadbhai raised crucial issues

“And arrange to clear the dues of Gangaram today? P. D. saheb please talk to the accountant Shah bhai. Let us not delay it. It is a question of complying with the Ghost’s wishes. I don’t want to die” said the wise old Motilal

Hema emerged with a tea and one look at Rajesh’s verandah virtually shrieked out in ecstasy. “Rajesh bhai is safe!”

They all turned to witness the miracle! Rajesh had just come out and was going through the mild stretching routine in the verandah.

“Oh my God. Look! “, Motilal’s voice cracked; his heart was in his mouth

“Are we witnessing the ghost of Rajesh now? In broad daylight?” Harshadbhai’s jaws dropped even lower

P. D. just had no idea how to react. He just continued to stare.

“Kem chho badhaa?” Rajesh called out from his verandah

“Joyun ne? Koi bhoot boot n hatu. Tame joyu ne sharat mujab me tran vaar light chaalu bandh kari aapi?” (How are you all? Did you see how I alternately switched the lights on and off three times just like what the challenge given by you)

He continued “that Chaman character got so scared, viewing the lights come on and off, he threw his stick at the poor doggy – hurting him. I checked and found he was safe so I went around the main gate that Chamanlal had abandoned out of fear; closed the gate, locked it and then came back and slept like a log. I thought you all had gone back to sleep;

“Are you so disappointed that I won the challenge? Hey you did not have the courtesy to congratulate me on my return? “

Shaking off his fear, it was P. D. who mustered up to say “Arey ame to Gangaram nu bhoot joyun?” (We actually saw ghost of Gangaram) and then narrated the entire episode to the visibly amused Rajesh who steadfastly refused to believe all that nonsense.

“You are all out of your mind. I saw no ghost. It is all in your mind, friends”

The trio had the shock of their lives. They persuaded Rajesh to go with them to the backside of the factory to corroborate their version of sighting the ghost but there was nothing. It was as if nothing had happened. Except that the dog looked all right now.

Rajesh just stood there, with a mix of disbelief and amusement.

Epilogue:

Rajesh had successfully master-managed the entire drama. He smelt something was fishy about their version of Gangaram. That day he located Gangaram’s house at versana, spoke to his family and learned about the non-payment of dues. He promised them that dues would be cleared soon but wanted some of the stuff that Gangaram used to wear to work.

At the factory he donned the Gangaram’s outfit, stuffed some small empty drums and covered them with tarpurlin to look like his own body, complete with his own shoes at one end, to make it look real, cultivated his voice like a ghost would and confronted the trio who he was sure would come as soon as they lost track of him after the 3 signals.

Rajesh had to dramatize his avatar as Gangaram’s ghost to teach these guys a lesson.

P. D. and the two guys could never fathom the story. They were all stupefied to decide what to believe!

Gangaram’s dues were paid on the very day.

Rajesh resumed work as if nothing had happened

Hema could not stop singing some of her favorite garbas.(A form of folk dance popular in the state of Gujarat), her dream man was alive!

The ghost story lived on except that it would not be Gangaram’s ghost any more


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