It was a whirlwind romance. Ishita and Hemant (not their real names) met each other at a gym sometime in September. The attraction and rapport between them was so strong that less than a month later, in October, they decided to get married. When they brought their families into the picture, elders expressed their reservations and suggested an engagement followed in time by a wedding. But Ishita and Hemant were not prepared to accept any delay and ‘threatened’ to get married on their own, leaving their families with no choice but to arrange an early wedding. And in November, less than three months after they’d first met, Ishita and Hemant were on their honeymoon.
Hemant’s family was very well off and while the newly weds were on honeymoon took pains to renovate the second floor of their home in an upmarket locality as a ‘welcome home’ gift for the couple. Both Ishita and Hemant were thrilled with their new home and greatly touched by such a welcome from a family virtually bulldozed into accepting a wedding for which they were not prepared. But within the first week itself clouds began drifting into the marriage and Ishita’s happiness began evaporating as she realised she had started this new chapter in her life in a haunted home.
Come evening, and there would be the sound of ghungroos (ankle bells) in the living room, as if someone was dancing. At night, Ishita’s pillow would get roughly and rudely pulled from under her head. The tap in the bathroom or the kitchen would get turned on and in the stillness of the night, even under the quilt, the sound of running water would wake up Ishita and Hemant. There would be the sound of a cupboard or drawer being opened. At times, Ishita would get the whiff of a fragrance, and it was always the same fragrance, somewhat like someone’s favourite perfume.
There were other manifestations as well. But no less than four things soon became clear to an increasingly nervous Ishita. One, the ghost was a female – there was no mistaking a girl’s laughter. Two, the ghost was targeting her directly and Hemant only indirectly. Three, Hemant’s reactions were strange. He would avoid discussing the subject, or looking her in the eye each time she raised it, almost as if he knew something but wanted to hide it. Four, Hemant’s parents, who lived on the ground floor seemed to be aware of the haunting as they questioned her closely but went silent when she began questioning them. The feeling that everyone in the house knew something but were hiding it from her grew over the next couple of weeks. Ishita’s fear of the ghost grew too, and she told Hemant and his family that till the ghost was ‘evicted’, she would stay with her parents.
Intensely disturbed by what they regarded as extreme insensitivity and an inexplicable reluctance to do something about the haunting, Ishita’s parents began making inquiries at multiple levels which included people who knew Hemant or his family, priests, paranormal experts. What they discovered shocked them. Before he met Ishita and their whirlwind romance, Hemant had been going steady for more than three years with a girl who had been with him in college. He dumped her abruptly, unceremoniously and quite cruelly after meeting Ishita, without giving her any reason for his actions.
However the girl soon found out through common friends that Hemant was dating a new girl. Immeasurably hurt, her trust and heart broken, she threatened to commit suicide but no amount of imploring had any effect on Hemant. A fortnight before Hemant’s wedding, she was found hanging from the ceiling fan in her room. No suicide note was found but her parents blamed Hemant for her death. However, Hemant’s family was influential and in the absence of any concrete evidence the matter was hushed up. Ishita and her family also learnt that apart from marrying Hemant it had been the girl’s dream to become an accomplished multi-discipline classical dancer and this accounted for the sound of ghungroos which had first alerted Ishita to the presence of a ghost.
Once the facts became known, puzzling aspects of Hemant and his family’s reactions began falling into place. When confronted, they were contrite but defended not revealing the information on the ground that it was in the past and they had considered it wiser to move on. They also maintained that yes, what happened was a great injustice to the girl but her death could not be undone.
Ishita was furious. “ I was kept in the dark,” she fumed “yet the least that can be done now is to ensure peace for her soul. I will never be able to return to my married home and live there knowing there is a wronged spirit sharing that space”. But what if the girl’s spirit demands that you leave Hemant, I asked when she sought my help. “Very simple”, Ishita replied. “I won’t be at peace as long as the girl’s spirit is not at peace, and if separating from Hemant is the price that has to be paid, I’m prepared. In the separation he’ll be paying a price too, but that’s the only way to escape from the past, from more days of being haunted”.
So it was that a link was established to open negotiations with the girl’s spirit, but little did Ishita realise how prophetic her words were going to be. The girl’s spirit clarified in response that she bore no ill will towards Ishita. Though she still loved Hemant she would extract her price on her own terms, in her own time, she said. With considerable experience in such matters, I had an inkling of what the girl’s spirit was planning and I warned Ishita’s family and suggested certain time honoured measures as penance.
Perhaps they thought the warning was too far fatched and didn’t take it seriously. Perhaps it was meant to happen that way. In the first week of January, the water pump at Hemant’s home stopped working. He went to check it without ensuring it was switched off and was electrocuted on the spot. Its now a little over a month since his death and his grieving parents tell me the haunting ceased the day Hemant died. And I wonder: will it be a case of reunification in the spirit world? Will it be a case of revenge? The girl’s spirit will be at peace, but will Hemant’s spirit be at peace? Time alone will provide the answers.