Disclaimer: All characters and events described in this story are a work of imagination, and any resemblance to any person, event, or place is purely coincidental.
Rushing in the Rain
“Rush, run fast,” I was telling my body again and again as I dashed across the Circle road and then Street No 17, which was right near my apartment. The 15-hour break-less days at the office had made each part of my body ache. I had to force myself to rush.
“If only I had my car fixed!”
My car had broken down a few days back, and the mechanic had listed a lot of things to be repaired. Apart from the cost, it was the loss of my car for four days that was making my life miserable.
At the professional front too, I was having a few days of hectic and virtually breakless 14 to 15 hour days. I had been forced to take lunch at my desk many times, and a few times, I had to skip it altogether.
Not to mention my bullying manager and a few uncooperative colleagues.
In such situations, people sometimes find solace in their homes. Yet it had been almost 15 days that my wife, Sarita, had gone to her parents’ house and was still angry with me.
Or perhaps, she wanted a break from a boring husband, who was virtually away at work for more than half a day, and spent the rest of the time just sleeping, and getting ready for work.
I wondered who would put up with such a bore.
Finally, after running for 15 minutes in the heavy rain, I was at home, almost entirely exhausted, but expecting to get some rest for my fatigued body and mind.
The Unexpected Late Night Call
The hot shower was nice. It soothed my body to some extent. I looked at the watch- it was 10:30: time to watch some EPL football action and have coffee with my favorite Bourbon biscuits.
Within a few minutes, I started sipping the coffee along with the biscuits, and what a heavenly feeling that was to enjoy something instead of disliking my other activities.
It had been a few minutes that seemed like an eternity when my mobile rang.
“Aniket, how are you?”
“Oh, Sameer, what a surprise. Nice to have a call from you after so long. But what made you call so late in the night?”
“Aniket, I was in the town for a two-day visit and just booked a room at Hotel City Delight.
The rooms and the restaurant are beautiful, but it’s so dull here.
I wondered if I could come and spend a night with you?”
“Since Sarita is not at home, it won’t be much of an issue.”
“How far is it to your place? How much time will the cab ride take?”
“It’s around 20 km, so it’s about an hour and a half ordeal during the day, but at this hour, it should only be about 45 minutes.
“Ok, Aniket, wait for me, and you know what flavors I like. Don’t you?”
“Sure, Sameer. Waiting for you.”
I said bye to him and ended the call.
“Oh, at least a few things in my life are not so bad,” I thought as I finished my coffee and got up to get things ready for Sameer’s favorite red wine.
The Visitor at Last?
I looked at the green and brown colored wall clock on the drawing-room wall. It was 12:30, and it was more than an hour and a half since Sameer’s call. He was not picking up his phone either. It shouldn’t have taken him this long to get here, and I wondered what caused the delay.
I stepped out on the balcony, and the slight drizzle gave me concerns for Sameer. Could he have been in an accident on the wet roads?
I chanted a few mantras and went back, hoping that all is well with Sameer.
Thirty minutes passed by, yet it seemed like ages. The rain had stopped.
It was getting late enough to be worried. I once again stepped into the balcony and looked down. Except for a drenched street dog that was lying down miserably near the gate, there was not a soul anywhere. Rainwater had puddled under the lamp post. A breeze ruffled the mango tree in the courtyard, and a few twigs fell down and broke. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Did I hear a soft knock at the door? I turned back…
I opened the main door, but there was no one there.
I closed the door and went back inside. I also closed the balcony door, and the windows.
“Maybe a rat somewhere.”, I thought out.
I tried to ring Sameer once more, but no luck. He was still not picking the phone.
“Has he changed his mind, or something urgent came up that has made him cancel the visit altogether?”
I was feeling exhausted, so I lay down on the sofa and set the mobile’s alarm to go off after one hour.
Now I had decided that if Sameer does not come in an hour, I will check out his hotel in the morning.
I had slept for around half an hour when suddenly the lights went off. I heard the sound of a spray somewhere.
“Maybe, I imagine too much. And it looks like Sameer has canceled his plans.”
I tried to reach to the MCB switch near the main door, to check whether some phase had gone down. I had just taken a few steps when suddenly the lights came back.
Who’s Behind Me?
There at one of the dining table’s chairs was a person dressed in a shirt with a tie and khaki-colored trousers. He was wearing spectacles and cutting an apple that he obviously got from my fridge!
I went near him and saw that he was drenched, and smelled like my deodorant.
It made me angry.
“You are definitely not my friend Sameer. So who you are? How did you enter my house without my permission, and eat my fruits and use my deodorant.”
“You are right, sir; I am not Sameer, I am Sridhar Goswami.”
“How did you get into my house?”
“Well, the likes of us can go inside houses or buildings even if they are closed.”
“Likes of us? What do you mean?”
“Well, I am not a living being anymore. I officially died of a Heart attack three months back.”
“Not a living person…… WHHHHATTTT ?”
“Yes- what you call a dead person; I’m technically a ghost.”
I felt the blood drain from my face when I heard the ghost word and decided I needed to lie down again.
The Post-midnight Conversation Continues
I can’t recall whether I went to sleep or not, but it looked as if there was no activity for quite a long time. Then, I saw a glass of water in front of me. Remembering everything and especially that mysterious person (whether ghost or human), I suddenly stood up from the sofa.
The ghost was offering me a glass of water!
I felt scared and started sweating.
“Here, sir, have a glass of water. Don’t worry, I am a harmless ghost, and I’m not like those pale white or blood-sucking ones shown in many of the movies. What was the name of the film- well Shadows of Road 80 – I or II or well it could have been part V or VI as well.
I am a pretty powerless ghost!”
With an astonished look, I could not resist asking, “Powerless ghost?”
“Well, sir, first have the glass of water, and then I can narrate my story.”
I felt relieved that he was a friendly ghost, though it seemed like I was transported to either a movie set or inside a story.
Hesitantly, I took a sip of water and began listening to his narrative.
“Sir, In the late summer of 1966, in a town named Samaskanagar on the outskirts of Secunderabad, a child was born named Sridhar Goswami His mother was a university professor and his dad a local municipality officer.
They had a modest house, and though far from luxuries, had some comforts like ceiling fans and table fans, and discounted rations, and some friendly school principals, who granted them some liberal school fee cuts.
The boy was an average kid, and so ordinary that his marks would come out to be some mean or median of a mathematical computation across the whole class.
His parents were not very happy with his academic results, but as he sometimes scored an 80 here, or a 75 there, they could not get too angry.
Luckily he cleared the school with a 70+, and after graduation got into a good enough job.
Then, as happens with an average guy, he married and had two kids.
It was all average, nothing spectacular, nothing tear-filled or tragic, but uniformly dull.”
“Yet now he was married, and marriage is a different ballgame altogether. In certain things, the law of averages failed or merely flopped.
This guy Sridhar started struggling. He did make efforts, but the years of being average somehow had made him a kind of a stagnant river.
His happiness dipped, and so that of his family members. Somehow, he put on considerable weight, and unable to cope, he developed heart trouble.”
Interested in this Sridhar guy, I asked, “So did the situation improve, or go bad?”
“Well, it did improve in some respects, but Sridhar also took to drinking, and one day, the calamity struck. He had just finished work on something spectacular, but as if the fate did not want him to go beyond average, there came the fatal heart attack. He was away on a trip to a hilly place, and could not survive.”
“And then you became the ghost?”
“Well, I did go to a place after I died- It was something written in a language I could not understand. Yet someone whispered- “Its the official registration place of people going to Hell.”
The people in front of me didn’t seem to know what to do, either, and everyone was talking and no one listening.
I tried to touch a few, but they had no substance; they just moved forward in the line. Finally, my turn came.”
“So why were you not admitted to Hell?”
“Well, they checked two things:
a)I was not in the approval list of Heaven.
b)I could not be admitted as the data operator for Heaven and Hell since I was an average guy, and they either hired a total fool for such entries or a very brilliant person.
c)I was too soft-spoken to be sent to Hell, where some conmen and con-artists and chatterboxes would keep on talking all day long and will get angry if I sat quiet, as I used to do.
So here I was sent, as a ghost with limited powers.”
“But being invisible at times, you can do a lot of what you like?”
“Well, it is no pleasure. I cannot take a bath. Imagine not bathing for years- that was my motive for using your deodorant, else, you would have died of suffocation on coming near me.
Secondly, If I get wet, I won’t dry for at least four days.”
“You can eat whatever you like?”
“Sir, not everything- I can eat from the fridge, or have stored foods and drinks. I can’t eat freshly cooked as it will make me visible to many, and my annual appraisal will be hurt.”
“Annual appraisal- so we do get them up there as well?”
“Yes sir, and if I do well, I can get 20 bonus points on the way to 100 bonus points to make it to Hell.”
“Interesting, and I used to think Heaven and Hell were pretty boring!”
Lessons from the Ghost
“So Mr. Sridhar, how do you manage your time here on earth now?”, I asked wearily.
“Well, it is pretty bad. Sometimes, I get to stay at a ‘homely’ house like yours. At other times, I have to sleep under the open sky. I have been to deserts and hills.
Once I got a booster speed of 500 kilometers and even visited the European Space agency premises. But I got so wet in the rain and snow, that it took me almost ten days to get dry.”
“Yes sir, I will tell you a straightforward thing- enjoy each moment of your life- be it good times like getting a big house or car, or excellent promotion, and even bad ones like your wife asking you to wash dishes twice a day on some Sundays, or your kids not listening to you.
At least, you get to sleep in a place of your choice, and you get dry, and you can bathe.
Perhaps, contentment is something that can at least make our lives fulfilling, because you never know….”
The Wake-up Call and the News Story
The mobile must have been ringing for a long time, but it could not wake me up. I looked out of the window, then checked my mobile.
Eleven o’clock and 7 missed calls from Sameer.
I rang him up immediately. He picked the phone this time, and I told him what I had encountered the previous night.
“I will shortly come to your place Aniket.”
In around 2 hours, I was up serving Sameer’s favorite wine.
“I am very sorry, Aniket, for last night. Just after your call, I had got a call to collect some documents from one of my colleagues. I collected the papers, but on the way back, the vehicle broke down. The driver could not repair the things himself, and there wasn’t a repair person nearby or a garage open, so he took me to a cottage nearby.
I was a bit afraid, but the people there- a family of six, with two old aged uncles and an aunt looked to be genuine. Also, as it was raining heavily, I had little option but to stay there.
I tried to call you and then fell asleep and didn’t wake up until eight this morning. I couldn’t call you then as I’d left my mobile in the cab, but the driver brought it to me and brought me back to the hotel. Then I called you.
“Oh, I was so worried, Sameer. But what do you make of my experience.”
“Well, Aniket, I won’t disbelieve you, but can’t make out much- there are so many things unexplained even by science.”
“Aniket, by the way, I got hold of this magazine- ‘The India People chronicles,’ and this compelling short story enthuses me- have a look, please.”
And as I looked, the story was “The chronicles of an ‘Average’ Ghost” by S.Goswami – Jan 2016.
Inside, I could not help feeling even more astonished and happy at the same time…
Peeush Trikha is an Information Technology professional with over 16+ years of experience. A keen enthusiast of writing thrillers, mysteries and action stories, Peeush has also been a regular at sites like Wikinut, Forumcoin and a few more.
He was a regular contributor to Write India Series 2.
He has also tried his hands at drama, memoir writing, short comic stuff and has Online blogs and articles on sports- especially cricket, business, politics.
He is keen about writing diverse stuff like children’s stories and poetry as well as becoming a more versatile writer.