No way. I’m not going to marry him. I don’t want to marry him. How can I marry this person you’ve chosen when my heart is already with someone I really, truly love and who loves me just as much. This was the constant agonised refrain from twenty three year old Vaani who was being pressurised by her family to marry a boy of their choice and forget the twenty five year old software engineer with whom she’d been going steady ( for almost three years ) . Pretty, ebullient and talented, Vaani belonged to a rich family with influential connections and extensive business interests carefully nurtured over several generations.

Our choice, her family argued, is infinitely better than yours, looks-wise, family-wise, income-wise, assets-wise, every-wise. And the family went ahead with preparations for the wedding despite Vaani’s angry and often pitiful protestations. Although she grew up amid an abundance of luxuries, riches didn’t really matter to Vaani. She was very sensitive and feelings, others as much as her own, mattered to her and were a major guiding force. How little they know me, Vaani thought ruefully, how little my own family cares for my feelings. Steeped in riches, they’re so hung on material considerations and money power; perhaps they’ve never experienced and therefore don’t understand true love.

Vaani and Sreejesh had met at a multi media workshop and the bonding had been almost instantaneous. Their relationship blossomed and reached an envious level of mutual understanding and caring. And then came the bolt from Vaani’s parents : she must marry the person they had chosen. But with all her sensitivity, Vaani was also a fighter, often dubbed “headstrong” by her father and elder brother. She hadn’t even hesitated to create a furore by calling up the person her family had chosen for her and informing him in no uncertain terms that she would never be his wife because she loved someone else. 

Which is why her family was somewhat surprised when Vaani stopped protesting as the wedding date drew closer. Perhaps she’s seen reason, perhaps she’s realised she can’t thwart our wishes. After all, we want the best for her and this software person she’s mentioned certainly can’t provide her with the kind of lifestyle she’s known all her life. Forget the fact that he’s not from our community or caste, his family doesn’t even own a decent house.

Vaani’s family heaved a sigh of relief at her apparent change of heart. How wrong they were but as Vaani had thought ruefully, how little they knew her. They weren’t very observant either. Happy that Vaani was getting married to a person of their choice and busy and fussing around with all the preparations for what was billed as a “fairytale wedding”, they failed to see that Vaani wasn’t happy. Or perhaps they did notice but assumed with their business-like approach to everything that happiness would come after the wedding.

Our world of the living and the other world of the dead and spirits overlap and as a link between the two, do I have a right to parry what could be a life-and-death request?

Elaborate wedding arrangements were made at a five star hotel and the newlywed couple were to spend their first night together in the lavish hotel before flying out to an exotic honeymoon destination, bringing the curtain down as planned on the fairy tale wedding. During the wedding ceremonies, many people commented with some surprise on how detached Vaani seemed and how mechanically she was going through the motions, almost like a robot. After the guests had left, the family escorted the newly married couple to the bridal suite and someone said, half in jest, that the hotel had promised the first night sojourn would be an unforgettable experience. Those words turned out to be prophetic.

The groom woke up in the morning to discover his “wife” had run away, and in her bridal attire at that, as the CCTV footage later confirmed. Seething with rage, the groom revealed how, when they were finally alone in the bridal suite, Vaani told him curtly not to come near her or touch her as she would never be his wife and she’d told him that before, she reminded him. It was his fault for going ahead with the wedding despite her warning. The CCTV footage revealed Vaani had left the bridal suite at 3.45 am. Both Vaani’s family and the groom’s family registered a police complaint and both swore to kill Vaani and her software engineer boyfriend.

Since both had a strong motive, and her boyfriend can’t be found either, it is, at the time of writing this, making it difficult for the police to establish who killed Vaani. Her battered body was found three days after she ran away, lying in a bushy ditch flanking a busy highway. But Vaani hasn’t died, not for the groom anyway. Her spirit is tormenting him, threatening him. She whispers to him several times during the day and night to be prepared to die at a time of her choosing and she follows it up with a laugh. He’s willing to pay any amount, he sent a frantic message through a chain of friends, to get rid of her spirit. My interest in the occult is not linked to monetary considerations was one part of my reply. Moreover there are several unanswered questions.

Why is Vaani’s spirit tormenting and threatening only the groom? Is it a pointer to his hand in her murder? Maybe, maybe not. Let the police complete their investigations, track down Vaani’s missing boyfriend, it could be he too has been killed, and then I’ll decide whether to establish contact with Vaani’s spirit was the second part of my reply. But even as I sent back these messages, I wondered and still wonder whether I’m doing the right thing. 

Our world of the living and the other world of the dead and spirits overlap and as a link between the two, do I have a right to parry what could be a life-and-death request? What if Vaani kills the groom while I wait for the police investigations to be completed? But the other options too are riddled with question marks, just one of the many dilemmas that need to be resolved when you are an intermediary between two worlds.

 

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