“No, I don’t agree. There is no such thing as a ghost.”
“But ghosts are for real, they exist.”
“You make it sound as if you have met one.”
“Well, let me tell you a story. When…”
“I am not interested in your stories; they are more funny than scary. Just tell me, did you ever see a ghost? Have you ever met a ghost?”
“You will have to listen to my story and then decide for yourself.”
“If that is what you want, go ahead,” he said and nodded with his eyes. I began my story.
When I was in first year of my college, our Principal was known for his love for discipline. He would not hesitate even to thrash a student who bunked his classes. Professors and lecturers were as scared of him as the students. My first year in college was worse than my last year in school; it was all work and no play.
But second year was the best year of my student life. Our dreaded Principal had left the college. New Principal was eagerly looking forward to a peaceful retired life in his native village. There were to be no university regulated examinations. It was free for all, more so for the second year students.
That year we had all the fun; we took part in games and extracurricular activities, went out for picnics and hiking trips. And one of our trips was to a beautiful lake in Pir Panjal range; it was unforgettable experience and for many reasons.
We were a group of five friends. We reached Aharbal by bus and stayed in a guest house facing the famous falls. Actually when we reached Aharbal it was already dark. We could not see the falls; we could only hear and feel them. But when we came out of our rooms early next morning we were overawed by the beauty of the falls. Falls were just magnificent.
But to cut a long story short, we started our climb early in the morning. We knew that in six to seven hours we would reach a beautiful meadow where we could stay overnight in a forest hut.
“When will your ghost make an entry?” he asked. I admonished him and instructed him not to interrupt and continued with my story.
The trek proved rather difficult for us, more so because weather suddenly changed for worse. We were not even half way through when light showers welcomed us. What followed was a bit terrifying. Showers became heavy and sky was covered by thick and dark clouds.
When we reached the meadow it was four in the afternoon. Rain had stopped. But sun was already behind the peaks. Forest hut was the only structure visible in the fading light. But to our dismay it was locked. There was no one around who could help us in that uninhabited meadow.
We were tired and dispirited and did not know what we could do. We laid ourselves in the open veranda of forest hut and, before long, all of us were dozing.
We may not have dozed for more than ten minutes when a strange noise woke us up. We saw an old man near the hut. He was making some strange sounds. There was something eerie about him and in the dim evening light he seemed more of a ghost than a man. The meadow was totally silent and appeared frightening rather than beautiful.
The old man turned and looked at us for few moments. Slowly he walked towards us and smiled sheepishly.
‘My goat has gone missing. I am calling her,’ old man said.
‘Would you know where the forest guard has gone? We intend to stay overnight in this hut, but the hut is locked and no one is around,’ I said
‘Are you planning to go to Konsar Nag Lake? You will have to start early so that you are back before sunset.’
‘Yes, that is what we intend to do, but where is the guard?’
‘I think he is sick. Yes, he is sick. He left for his village a few days back. He was not expecting any guests.’
‘What should we do? We can’t stay and sleep in the open?’
‘Break open the door.’
‘No, that would be criminal,’ Haroon said. He was stickler for rules.
‘You can come and stay with me in my hut, but you will have to pay.’
‘How much?’ asked Timmy. He was the brash one in our group
‘Just give me one hundred rupees. But if you want food it would be two hundreds. ’
‘This is thieving. We won’t pay more than fifty for everything,’ Timmy almost shouted.
‘And we want rice with mutton curry,’ Haroon said but politely.
‘Two hundred and not even a rupee less.’
‘But where is your hut?’ I asked for I could not see any hut nearby.‘It is over there, behind that grove.’ He pointed towards a grove which was on the west side of forest hut. I looked carefully but could see no hut behind that grove.
(to be continued)
© i b arora