It wasn’t a dream come true. It was more like a miracle. Though he had been working in Delhi for almost ten years, Ranveer, a poor migrant from Bihar had never ever dared to dream of owning a house in the country’s capital. “As a mason, it is my kismat (luck) to build houses for others but not for myself”, he often pointed out. Even in his Bihar village, his ancestral house was a kutcha mud and brick structure  and not a pucca cement and brick one.

But now good fortune seemed to be smiling on him. Another mason from Bihar who had done well in life and constructed a house for himself on the Delhi-Haryana border was now in a hurry to sell that house and return to Bihar and he asked Ranveer if he was interested in buying it. Ranveer couldn’t quite believe it. The house was going for a song and he quickly calculated that by borrowing so much from here and so much from there, he could actually own that house.

When Ranveer and his wife Swati  went to see the house, they were impressed. It was just two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom but one of the two rooms had a beautifully tiled floor. When they moved in, that room became the master bedroom. Ranveer’s wife Swati loved walking barefeet on the smooth tiles of the room and she and Ranveer offered special prayers to the gods before going to sleep. It was their first night in the house and suddenly Ranveer was woken up by Swati screaming chor, chor ( thief, thief).

The  house had two doors and two windows and all were still bolted from inside Ranveer discovered. Swati must have had a nightmare he concluded. But she insisted she had seen a thin young fellow standing by the bed and averred that his features were so clear she could recognise him again. That convinced Ranveer it must have been a nightmare, because with the lights off it had been dark in the room. So how could she have seen so clearly? They fell asleep arguing.

The next night was a repeat of the previous night. But this time, their two children too said they had seen someone. Swati also complained of feeling uneasy during the daytime when she was alone in the house, as if someone was watching her. When this strange feeling and strange happening continued day after day and night after night right through the first week, Ranveer checked with neighbours. No, they had never known of any problem with the house though they had been surprised at the sudden sale.

In the weeks ahead, Ranveer too ocassionally saw the thin young fellow Swati had first seen. Most times he would just be looking at them but sometimes he seemed to be pointing to something under their bed. They checked everytime he pointed under the bed but there would be nothing there. It became obvious that the house was haunted and they began discussing what they could and should do about it.  But whose ghost was it? 

The answer came just a few months later when a police team arrived at Ranveer’s house.  They needed to dig up one of the room’s, they said — the one with tiles — because they believed a murdered man lay buried there. Sure enough, a body was exhumed and Swati fainted at the sight.

The answer came just a few months later when a police team arrived at Ranveer’s house.  They needed to dig up one of the room’s they said — the one with tiles — because they believed a murdered man lay buried there. Sure enough, a body was exhumed and Swati fainted at the sight. She fainted again when the police showed her photographs of the murdered man — it was the same thin young fellow she and Ranveer had been seeing.

It seems the mason from Bihar who had sold the house to Ranveer ran a garment selling  partnership with the thin young man. Both partners  had been making a tidy monthly sum from it. But a dispute arose between them over the division of profits. The thin young man felt he should be getting more as he was doing all the running around while the mason was just a sleeping partner and in any case had his mason’s income as well. But the mason felt he had provided the bulk of the money and the contacts for the business initially and was therefore entitled to an equal share.

Before long, the inevitable happened. The mason began suspecting his partner of fudging the accounts and misleading him.  He found this infuriating and decided to end everything for ever. He invited his partner home on the pretext of celebrating his son getting good marks in school back in the Bihar village where his family stayed. He plied the partner with drink after drink till he slumped on the floor. The mason then dragged him out of the room to the next room where he had already dug a pit. Though his partner was still alive, the mason, blinded by rage and a sense of being cheated, had no compunctions about placing him in the pit. It took the mason’s practised hands just a short while to lay a new cement floor over the entire room in which the pit had been dug. For good measure,  so that there was no chance whatsoever of any foul smell emanating, he tiled it as well over the next few days.

He then offered to sell the house to Ranveer who he knew was a simpleton. The crime would never have come to light if the mason himself, in an inebriated state, had not blabbered about his own cleverness to another mason who informed the police. Under pressure, the mason confessed. The thin young man’s family was as shocked as Ranveer’s family, as they had thought he was, as happened often, busy and therefore not in touch. Its been several years since the body was exhumed but there are no takers for the house of ill repute which now lies vacant and locked. Whether it is still haunted is not known.  Ranveer keeps shaking his head and repeating just one line in anguish: “Kya kismat. Woh hamare ko bhi gaddhe mein ley gayi.” (What luck. It took us too into a pit.) 


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