This is from my recollection, which I might add, is quite good. I was a kid then. The most favorite part of this whole universe used to be my maternal granny's house in Naamti, a village in Assam.
So it was the winter vacation and my folks were just to busy with their professional commitments to take time off to visit their folks in the village. Moreover I have two little sisters who were babies back then. To cut a long story short, I was desperate to visit both my grans and was thus sent to visit my dad's mom first, with my uncle, my mom's brother. He dropped me at my granny's home, where I was stay for a day and then he was to come and pick up the next day to his mom's house, my favorite gran's house i.e his mom's house. I was to stay there for a two whole weeks, fishing, romping with the village cousins and generally being in heaven.
Both my grans lived in their villages, which were separated by a village in between. On this fateful day, my mama (uncle) comes to pick me up on the, all set to ride with me to his village by. He reached my dad's mom's village at around 2.00 in the afternoon. We were hoping to reach my mom's gran's house by 6.00 in the evening. I might mention here that winters in Assam are bone chilling cold and it gets dark by 4.00 in the afternoon. By 6.00 it is pitch dark, more so in the villages, where until then electricity was still not very well known.
Anyways my paternal gran was all emotional while letting go of me, fed us both a big fat Assamese meal, dolled me up in 3 layers sweaters and a monkey cap, while my uncle tied a neat pillow on the bicycle rod in between the handle and the frame of the cycle and made me sit astride on the pillow. He had two lanterns burning on either sides a stick which was tied to the back of the bicycle. I was holding the jumbo torch, it was supposed to act like a car's head light.
Our travel took off with my uncle's paddling. We were chatting the whole way through and as the fog descended it started getting colder. Mama asked me to sing my favorite song and I started off with "hind desh ke niwasi..." An hour and half later, as we neared a dark long stretch of road, I felt my uncle tense up. I asked him if he was scared of the dark and giggled. It sounded eerie, like the giggle of a small girl in the dark. Just then I heard it, loud and clear, the sounds of anklets. Assamese people don't wear them, but I had heard there sounds in the Hindi movies. I told mama "Mama, listen... Do you hear those bells... Like anklets."
He said, "Yes but you don't bother... Just sing, as loud as you can." And then I saw them. They were two ladies, aunties. I saw them in the light of the torch. It was a stretch of a dirt track, flanked on each side by thick bamboo farms, tightly fenced, in accessible and impossible to cross over from. Yet those aunties just floated out from left, came down on to the track, stayed afloat for a whole and then slowly floated to the right into the dark bamboo farm on the other side. I almost turned to look at them when my uncle said, "Don't."
He never stopped paddling hard and now I realize that though we were riding so fast in that dirt track why could we still not reach those ladies who were just in front. Seems like the distance between them and us remained the same no matter how fast my uncle's bicycle propelled towards them, never reaching them. I saw float on the road again, until the dirt track ended and opened up into a broader, uneven road.
We reached gran's house at 5.30 in the evening and for someone in the city the atmosphere would be like the one in the midnight on a week day. The moment we reach the gate, my uncle called out for his mother and my gran came running out with a lantern in hand. My uncle got me off the cycle and fainted, while sweating profusely.
Even today when we talk about it, my uncle refuses to comment on it and says that not everything in this world can be explained with a logic. But I still have my doubts about his fainting... I am sure he was so scared of what we saw, added to his exhausting bicycling... That he fainted