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The Ghost and the Darkness

Like I said earlier, my time in hostel was one of infinite fun and frolic. Every night would invariably be spruced up by somebody’s tale. Unlike in classrooms where Lecturers somewhat inhibited your display of talents, the hostel fostered individuals who had the panache of telling a story or among superior mortals, to create one.
IV Block was one of the grandest of blocks. It was precariously constructed on a land that was awfully uneven. Even then it safely reverberated with all the pandemonium that took place inside it. For all that I am perpetually reminded of one story that’ll always rank high among the memorable incidents of my life.
I vividly recall that cold and rainy night one August. Circa 1997 A.D. We all were trudging along towards our block from the mess. Having joined the Veg Mess made it necessary to walk quite some distance from our rooms. And fun it was to huddle close in 2s, 3s in a single umbrella or under a jacket.
I was trying my best to walk without stepping onto the water poodles on the road. Landu was next to me.(He had gained this nickname on account of his unbridled usage of the term.) He was of the kind who’d never stop chattering a single minute. Today too, he was in form. His short stature and a long tongue were a hit and effortlessly he had become the comedian par excellence in the block. His humor was of a different kind…..the kind that never stopped regaling even the strictest of guys.
Our rooms were supposed to accommodate 3 . Landu’s room-mate was Maam(Konkani for Uncle,he had gained this nickname because he was one.),his distant cousin and soon-to-be his best friend. They instantly made up a pair, finding a lot of common interests and common dislikes. Seldom could you see one without the other. Though comity warns me of restraining but I’ll confide that they even went to answer Nature’s calls together !! Yes !! How they configured themselves to each other’s bio-rhythms or whatever I don’t know !! .
The third person who was supposed to have joined them hadn’t yet come. But one fine morning, we did manage to see a new face coming out of their room, a curious look that smacked of innocence and fear blending unmistakably. And when curiosity got the better of us , we ( me and my room-mate ) went over to Landu’s room to find out about their new roomie. Landu and Maam were fast asleep in a pile of clothes, books, magazines and some rough sheets that looked like some old manuscripts. But they were quickly awake…and started their story interspersed with free flowing expletives, about Mr.Alva, the new kid on the block. We quickly surmised the character of Alva was just like what we thought of him, a poor soul who had questions about each and every thing in the Universe. He had merely spoken to them a few words apparently.
But Landu didn’t stop short even a little of cursing his luck !! “ Bhagwan ye kaisa room-mate diya hai tumne???” Sure enough Alva became a continual dart-board for Landu’s and Maam’s jeers and tantrums.
Let us now go back to the scene of the action…. …………We all were trudging along towards our block from the mess. “The past few days and nights haven’t been much fun” , thought Landu ..
“Kuch karte hai yaar,aaj !!”…“Hmmm….ek kaam karte hai aaj Alva ko daraate hai…”
Even though it was a bit dark out there we could all sense in each other’s eyes that Landu had some devious plan in mind. Maam was nodding his head in some vague support of his master’s masterplan.
“Kya karte hai?” I asked him.
Landu started to let out the details of the plan. “Alva bahut darta hai….aaj usko bhoot dikhate hai” !!
By the way Landu’s room faced the valley. For the uninitiated our Block was on an inclination with the wide open valley on the hind, a gorge sort of that could be a hill-trek to some school kids. You cannot find a living human for the next 1-3 kms. Which also means that it is pitch dark in the nights. Which also means that it is news if you hear or something unusual there. Obviously there were numerous stories about some students seeing humans outside the window, but….but err rrrr they weren’t of the living variety, apparently !
“Bhoot !! Kya karne waale hai be???” I couldn’t stop myself from getting involved.
Those days the excuse of rain and thunder had the Electricity Board taking off the power very often. But…but we were scarcely affected by this nuisance since we had the Generator Power that came on in a matter of 4 –5 minutes. So we never experienced blackouts though the city did.
There’s seldom been enough reason for me not to be involved in pranks that have some secretiveness or a dose of detectivism thrown in. And this time, it very much appealed to my baser instincts. The plan was simple.
To shut off the power supply to the entire block and let out whimsical cries from the adjoining rooms and force Alva out and we all would start laughing. This plan quickly found unstinted support from all those present and we all started planning out the logistics for the smooth execution of the idea. It hit me then why not place a lit candle in front of his room. I felt it’ll add more terror to Alva’s face on coming out. Landu gave his approval. I quickly ran to my room and brought a candle and a matchbox.

The people from the adjacent room-mates came up with further more innovative ideas. The cylindrical box used to keep our Drawing Sheets, it turned out, could make great sound if blown from one side…. They also felt that they needed a break from studies. All of them found the idea a must-do.
The plan was set.
Meanwhile Landu had figured out the switch to the electricity to his room.Now the idea was to shut off the power to only this room and not the entire block as decided earlier.
We ran a trial version.
Switch Off…..The lone tube in their room went out..
Switch On….the light was back.
Now the people in both the adjacent rooms were waiting for the signal to come to start exercising their vocal chords.
I was ready just near the room with the candle in my hand.
I could see that a small audience had gathered to see what was happening.
They were only answered back in SSSssssshhhhhhh !! Landu switched off the light.
I walked stealthily and stuck the candle in front of their room and quickly retraced my steps.
Alva was there inside. We knew he would be waiting for the generator to come on. But it wasn’t to. It was dark in his room and he was alone.
Landu gave the thumbs up signal to the sound boys.
“Ooooooooooaaaahhhaaahahah” “Bhoooooosshhhhhhhh” “Grrrrrrrr…..ombaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…Aieyyeeeee Aieyyeeeeehhhhhhh”
I could not stop controlling my laughter even a second !! No one could… The sounds defied our own expectations of it !! It could scare the hell out of anyone in that kind of scenario.
But still no sign of Alva !!!!! This, for a moment, seemed more dangerous.The sounds became a bit louder….
Next we heard the sound of the door crashing open……
Alva was standing with one hand on his face…and the other on his waist.Only a blind person could not see the tremble on his hands.
Then he saw the candle blowing in the wind !!!
“Lllllllaaaaaannnddddduuuuuuuuu” Alva let out a cry that could have pulled out Tarzan from his hideout. It was one howl that did seem like containing a sob or two !
We all scurried along there nonchalantly. Everyone was out of their rooms. Landu rushed in….first. He did not show a speck of knowledge as to what was happening. He dared to go close to Alva who was now eyeing him like a bloodhound.
“What….err happened????” Landu asked like a innocent bystander. Alva was now ….I only wonder there was any fire smoke coming from his ears.
“Fuck You Landu…..Fuck You.”
“You Bastard !!!!” He continued. “ What is (sob) alllll….. (sob)…this ???
The poor soul had tears running down his cheeks.
Landu was looking around…still no sign of him giving up. He looked like looking out for the thief who did this and had just escaped!!!
“Wait a minute…why are you crying”? Landu was asking Alva.
“Why are you…..crrr crying??” .He persisted. Alva was now just controlling his hands and legs… He said something that made us ( who were watching the drama from the other wing ) burst into laughter further more.
“I am not crying because I am afraid but I am crying because I am angry”
Alva said this with a conviction that we had never seen him before in. Landu this time did manage to let out a controlled gasp of laughter. He was now trying to put an arm across his shoulder.
Alva was weeping inconsolably. But we still managed to hear some words he was blabberring….death, candle…funeral..Oh God !!
The entire gang of perpetrators was now around the scene of action laughing like hyenas.
I don’t know what struck me then but I managed to rush in there to put off the candle that was flickering gloriously despite the wind and threw it out of the window.
The plan was a success though I must say it did scare us a bit as to what Alva was going to do next.
But he had swallowed, albeit forcibly, one more incident played out on him.
The next morning, again, we did manage to see a face, not new this time, coming out of their room, with a curious look that smacked of innocence and fear blending unmistakably.

Boy !! That was loads of

The picture you see above is but from a different context and from a different more of our queer antics in getting ourselves pictured like this. Well in this, apart from myself, Maam appears on the extreme right and of course ! Alva is there too...peering over my shoulder with those fearful eyes.

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