Married against your wishes to a ghost? Unbelievable? Well, it’s true, And even more startling, the person who is married to a ghost against her wishes happens to be a lawyer practicing at one of the district courts in Delhi. Her family are at their wits’ end because even though they know what could and should be done,  they’re caught in a catch-22 situation. “We’re damned if we do something about it and we’re damned if we don’t,” laments her brother who too is a lawyer.

It all began after Rani and Rajesh — not their real names obviously —after they’d completed their internships and began practicing as lawyers and earning fairly decent amounts. Their combined earning was enough to allow them to move out of the cramped rented barsati they shared with other migrant relatives and rent more spacious accommodation for themselves. It was one of their many dreams fulfilled and quickly followed by the fulfillment of another dream: they were able to persuade their parents to leave a remote village in Uttar Pradesh and move in with them.

For the parents too, it was a dream fulfilled. Years ago, Rani and Rajesh’s father, a humble, illiterate farmer, had decided that his children should not face, like he had, the uncertainties of farming for a livelihood. So he’d sold bits and pieces as required of his limited farm land to fund their education in a good city school. And when, after completing college, they opted to do law, he had no hesitation in parting with a prime portion of his ancestral land holding.

“My sister and I became lawyers because of the sacrifices of our parents”, Rajesh explained, “and when they  joined us in our independently rented rooms, it was not only a dream fulfilled but also a small way of paying back a debt that can never be fully repaid.” After just a few months together, the parents raised the subject of finding a suitable match for Rani. That very night, Rani was awakened by a gruff voice. A tall, strangely luminous man was towering over her. He had a hooked nose, stubble on his chin and his eyes were blood shot.

“This is my house you’re living in”, he told her brusquely. “This is where my wife died, this is where I died grief-stricken. My wife has been reborn but I still live here. I will not trouble any of you if you do as I say. You will be my wife and if you stay married to me and share your bed with me whenever I need you, I will ensure that you never lack cases in court. Otherwise I will ruin all of you. You and I will remain married till you’re alive and when you die we’ll both be together in the true sense”. Rani had no choice. It’s been more than ten years since Rani became his wife. He shares her bed three or four times a week but in all these years, she’s actually seen his ghostly form only four or five times. The “sensing” however, is very strong.

And true to his word, he has ensured that a string of “fat” cases keeping coming to her. “It’s quite remarkable”, comments Rajesh. “She’s not really a good lawyer yet clients seek her out because they’ve heard that she wins all her cases. The strangest thing is there isn’t much strength in her arguments as she doesn’t prepare well and neither does she have much of a personality or looks but the judge gets swayed and rules in her client’s favour. Within a year she was able to buy a car with her own finances and can purchase a house if she wants and I can do neither yet. I have to struggle for cases.”  

Has anybody tried to communicate with the ghost? “We’re too scared to try it”, answered Rajesh. What will be the consequences? Beatings, a drastic reduction in cases and income, perhaps something worse. But if the ghost can be persuaded to end the current arrangement, perhaps not. 

Rani herself while enjoying her success finds it quite obnoxious to be the wife of a ghost. A priest her family consulted suggested she should not sleep alone and she began sleeping in her parents’ room. Within two months, there was a huge dip in income. New cases began drying up, there were adverse rulings in ongoing cases. The magic wand that seemed to be working for her seemed to have lost its magic. And Rani had to go back to her own room and to “him” — to be beaten, berated and taunted.  

“We were and are in a bind”, relates Rajesh. “She’s 38 years old now and as it is finding a groom at that age is a challenge. Where will we find one for a lawyer who is a failure? And who knows what else the ghost will do to ruin her and us”. How about moving out of the rented accommodation? “We decided to do that”, responded Rajesh, “ but he got to know — he can read our thoughts— and I and my wife were beaten up too and warned of dire consequences if we left. Mercifully, he spared my two young children and aged parents.” 

But for how long can this go on? “The biggest problem,” admits Rajesh “is that both my sister and the rest of us in the family have got used to the big and steady amount of easy money that Rani is able to bring in. And though we know the situation should end, we want the situation to end so that Rani can get married and live a normal married life, we also know that the consequences of ending the relationship with the ghost will be unpalatable at both known and unknown levels. For example, I’m telling you all this right now in the chamber here in court, but when I reach home, I’ll find that he’s told Rani all about this conversation and probably pulled her up for it”.  

Has anybody tried to communicate with the ghost? “We’re too scared to try it”, answered Rajesh. What will be the consequences? Beatings, a drastic reduction in cases and income, perhaps something worse. But if the ghost can be persuaded to end the current arrangement, perhaps not. Perhaps the bizarre situation can be sorted out beneficially for everyone. But before an attempt can be made to persuade the ghost, Rani and Rajesh and others in the family have to be convinced about breaking out of their catch-22 fix and that’s what we’re working on right now.

 

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