That Old Man
Pratap was now a proud owner of a house in the Blue Lake area. Some of his friends had warned him against buying that house. They had told him that the house was haunted. But Pratap had just laughed at these warnings. In fact he made fun of his friends who tried to scare him.
“There is no thing such as a ghost,” he insisted. He was unable to convince Ranjeet who was his friend from school days and who kept arguing.
“Then why was no one willing to buy that house? It has been lying vacant for many years. No one bought it even at half the price,” Ranjeet said forcefully.
“I don’t believe in ghosts and I am going to buy that house,” Pratap had almost shouted at his friend.
“You are a fool and you will regret your decision,” Ranjeet said in irritation.
Pratap had been dreaming of buying a house in the Blue Lake area for many years. Incidentally, there was no blue lake anywhere in that area. But it was the part of city where anyone and everyone worth something wanted to be.
The houses in that area were expensive and beyond his reach. But this house was available at a price which he could afford. It was a golden opportunity and he was not going to miss it; silly rumours were not going to deter him. He brushed aside all objections and suggestions of his friends and well-wishers and decided to go ahead with the deal.
He returned to his flat at around six in the evening after completing the deal with Ajay Lal, the owner of the house. His joy knew no bounds. But he felt irritated when he had to himself open the door. His wife had left for Delhi previous night to look up her father who was not keeping well.
No sooner had he entered his flat than he had an unexpected visitor.
“Can I come in?” asked the visitor.
Pratap had never met that man. There was something strange about him. He was wearing faded, worn out clothes. His face was full of wrinkles and his eyes were pale, almost sad. He looked as if he was sick for many days.
“Do I know you?” asked Pratap.
“You shouldn’t have bought that house in the Blue Lake area,” the visitor spoke in a listless voice.
“Why?’ Pratap almost shouted.
“It is a haunted house.”
“I have heard that crap. I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“But I am the ghost; I am the ghost of that house. And now I would be rendered homeless since you have bought that house.”
Pratap was taken aback. He looked at the old man with piercing angry eyes. He was sure that old man was trying to make fool of him. Or was there something else behind the rumour?
“Please tell me honestly, were you planning to buy that house?” Pratap was getting suspicious of the old man.
“Why would I want to buy that house? It already belongs to me. I live there. I have been living there for years, no decades.”
“I hope it is not some kind of a silly joke.” Pratap said in an irritated tone.
“I know that you have bought that house from Ajay Lal. He is my grandson, but he does not know that I am still living in that house.” Old man was talking in a mild tone, as if he was just whispering his words.
“I just can’t understand; I have twice inspected that house. There was no one there. It was totally vacant. In fact it has been lying vacant for years. Now you come and tell me that you are living in that house. What should I make of it?”
Old man just did not respond kept quiet. His silence unnerved Pratap.
“And if I am not mistaken Ajay Lal’s parents and grandparents are not alive.” Pratap looked at him with suspicion. He was getting unnerved. Something about the old man disturbed him.
“That is true. I died many years ago. In fact I was poisoned by the person I totally trusted. On one found out and the man was never punished. But I know I was poisoned,” old man said in an emotionless voice.
Pratap lost his cool, “Will you please leave right now? I can’t bear this nonsense any more. If you think you can fool me then you are totally mistaken. I have bought that house. It now belongs to me. No one can trick me out of this deal.”The old man looked at Pratap with unblinking eyes for quite some time. Then he left abruptly without uttering a word. Pratap closed the door and unknowingly locked from inside. He had never done that before. In fact, even during night the door was rarely locked from inside.
(to be continued)
© i b arora