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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Graveyard

In early 2009, I changed my job and joined an Organization which had its Head Quarters in Bangalore (India). Though I was based out of Pune, I was called to Bangalore for an Induction session and meetings with the Company's Senior Management. The whole schedule was for around 5 days. After I reached Bangalore I found out that there were around eight others who had recently joined the Organization at the same time as me. We were all housed at the Company's guest house a short distance away from the office. The induction sessions were from 9.00 am in the morning to 5.30 pm in the evening. Past that all of us had a lot of free time on our hands and used it to get to know each other better.

For this particular story, I would like to mention the names of three colleagues out of the eight who were to play an important role in the incidents to follow.

I struck a great rapport with Ajay, Shailesh and Navin. It's not that I was unfriendly with the rest but I got along with these guys like a house on fire. Ajay was a Punjabi from Northern India, very talkative and always ready to take up a challenge. Shailesh was from Mumbai, quick witted but generally quiet. Navin was a resident of Bangalore whose personality was similar to Shailesh but he had a great sense of humor and his one liners kept us entertained all throughout. We had a great time together during this period and got to know each other really well.

During one of our conversations after dinner, Navin told us that there was a graveyard near to the guest house. Our housekeeper Sri had also told him of strange happenings there. The road leading to the graveyard was lonely and generally avoided by people especially at night. He had asked Navin to inform everyone not to venture out on that particular stretch. Ajay was a total non believer and scoffed at the very idea of ghosts and the paranormal. The rest of us were intrigued by this story and wanted to know more but Navin himself had limited knowledge. Sri wouldn't tell us anything more so we let the matter rest there.

Soon it was our final day in Bangalore. After the induction sessions were over, our seniors had arranged for a dinner at a nearby hotel. We had a great time and were treated to a lavish dinner. Ajay in particular enjoyed the most and had one drink too many. Once we were back at the guest house after dinner, all of us started packing our bags since we had to leave early the next morning. After packing our bags we sat down reminiscing the great time we had spent in the last couple of days. The topic of the old graveyard was again brought up by Navin. Seeing Ajay scoff again, he was a bit irritated and dared Ajay to go to the graveyard and spend an hour over there alone. Ajay was a bit high and in the spur of the moment immediately accepted the dare. He stood up and immediately began to walk out of the guest house. We tried to restrain him but to no avail. Being a teetotaler and in full control of my senses, I reluctantly decided to accompany him in his nocturnal adventure.

Ajay was in high spirits as we walked towards the graveyard. The road leading towards the same was very lonely without any signs of habitation. It must have been one km away from the guest house and it was 12. 30 am by the time we reached there. It was an old cemetery not used frequently by the locals. It somehow had an air of nostalgia about it. It was particularly cold that night since it was winter and nights in Bangalore in winter can be quite cold. We reached the gate and were stopped by an old man who introduced himself as the security guard, Abu Chacha. He suspiciously asked us the reason for coming there at such an unearthly hour. Ajay immediately jumped in and told Abu Chacha that one of his relatives was buried there and he had to visit him that night itself as he had come to Bangalore for a short visit and was to fly off to London the coming morning. Abu Chacha sympathized with us and told us to make it quick.

We slowly made our way inside the graveyard. It seemed like a normal cemetery. There was a cemented path in the center with graves lying on either sides of the road. There was eerie silence except for the occasional howling of the strays who roamed freely in the area around the cemetery. There was a bench at a short distance away. Ajay, still high told me that he wanted to sit there and spend a couple of minutes and enjoy the solitude. I was feeling uncomfortable but relented to Ajay's persistent request. We sat down and Ajay immediately put his hand in his pocket, taking out a cigarette. I tried to dissuade him against doing so as it would disturb the sanctity of the place. He was in no mood to listen and had his way. After spending a few more uncomfortable minutes on the bench, Ajay told me that he wanted to move further inside and check out the rest of the place. We had hardly walked a couple of paces ahead when he told me that he suddenly had this overwhelming urge to pee. I told him to immediately refrain from doing so and that it was high time that we left the place. But stubborn as he was, Ajay did not listen to my advice. Winking slyly at me, he went off to some nearby bushes a little away from the place where we were sitting, promising to return quickly. The bushes were thick and I could not see him at all from my current location. Suddenly I felt weak and found it very difficult to breathe as if someone was trying to squeeze the life out of me. I dropped to my knees on the road below. As my gaze turned ahead further down the road, I could see a shadowy form slowly move away from me. It seemed to stop for a moment as if to cast an eerie glance at me before slowly melting away into nothingness.

My head started spinning and a feeling of horror took over me affecting my ability to think clearly. With great difficulty I regained my composure and then it dawned on me that Ajay still hadn't returned. I called out to him but there was no response. I slowly made my way towards the bushes where Ajay had gone a short while ago. I was horrified by what I saw. Ajay was lying senseless on the ground. Not knowing what to expect I got down and shook him vigorously. This fortunately worked and Ajay slowly regained consciousness.

Once Ajay was full conscious he told me he heard some movement near the bushes where he was peeing and suddenly felt as if someone was standing behind him. He instantly experienced the same feeling of weakness and breathlessness as me. Before he could call out to me, he felt a stinging blow on his back which rendered him unconscious until the time I shook him awake. He was still feeling pain near the shoulder. (Later when I had a look at it, I saw a clear imprint of five fingers clearly visible on his upper back and the whole area had become blue due to the clotting of blood). Not wanting to spend another minute over there we proceeded towards the gate of the cemetery. We were suddenly stopped by a young man who asked us sternly as to what we were doing in the cemetery at such a late hour. We quickly told him that we had taken permission from the old man, Abu Chacha and also told us our ordeal. He was surprised at the mention of the name Abu Chacha and told us that no one except him had stood guard at the cemetery for the last 5 years. Some people had earlier told him of an old man being seen around the cemetery especially late in the evening. He had never come across Abu Chacha or whoever the old man was. This was too much for Ajay to bear and he fainted at the gate itself. We carried him slowly to the guard's cabin at the entrance after which I immediately called my colleagues to rush there with a vehicle and get us back to the guest house. It was close to 3.30am by the time we were at the guest house.

On relating the incident to our caretaker Sri, he cursed us for our folly and told us that we were very lucky to get away unharmed. Ajay was down with high fever for the next couple of days and had to stay back in Bangalore. Being a religious person, I promised myself never to be a part of such activities in future. When I met Ajay a couple of months later, I found that he had mellowed down quite a bit. He was also wearing a "Taaviz" (a locket) given to him by one of the priests at a temple in his hometown.

This sure was an amazing transition from a skeptic to a believer.

By- Rahul Banerjee