Nature has a strange way of balancing everything. Just as bright days are followed by dark nights, bloomy summers are followed by biting dead winters and happiness makes way for sorrow, sanctity too crosses path with evil sometimes.
Hailing from a humble, God-fearing family, I firmly believe in this and attempt with the best of my ability not to interfere in the 'other world'. Hoping not to be disturbed by 'them' either! However, the two worlds do entwine at times.
Before I narrate this tale, allow me to briefly give you a background. Post my father's untimely demise, my young mom moved to her hometown Allahabad to her parents' place. It's an ancient Hindu holy town, also known as 'Prayag', situated on the banks of the great Ganges and host to the world's largest religious gathering 'Maha Kumbh'.
While my younger sister, 16, moved with mom I, as a 17 year old, was packed off for college to another city. Now, my grandpa's home is a sprawling old style 'kothi' (mansion) built during the British colonial era. It's a quintessential old school villa with extensive backyard, filled with thick woody trees and a large open air veranda in the centre of the house. Any South Asian will know how 'Kothis' built around those times look like. Picture a donut, a large open air veranda in the centre and rooms built around it in a circle. In fact, the entire neighbourhood had similar homes. The typical cozy North Indian 'mohhallas' (neihbourhood) with backyards full of thick Neem, Banyan, Mango and Tamarind trees where everyone knows just everyone else.
An elderly and lonely Bengali couple lived in the adjacent house that had backyard trees so thick that it remained dark and shadowy even in hot afternoons. The couple had an enchantingly beautiful daughter who died a tragic death years ago and a son who migrated to the states soon after. This girl, let's call her Mishtee, sang like a Nightingale and had dark hair touching her knees. My mother and Mishtee were contemporaries and spent their childhood playing and swinging on those trees in her backyard.
Mom tells reveals that Mishtee fell in love with a guy much to her folks' disapproval who in turn wanted her to marry in a wealthy Calcutta based clan. Weary and heart-broken of continues pestering, she torched herself to death one fateful evening right in her backyard. Those thick trees stood witness to her painful growls and screams.
Many in the neighbourhood had began sighting Mishtee's apparition post-dusk among the trees, on terraces of the nearby houses soon after. Some even saw her swinging in the backyard and singing as sweetly as she did always.
On my visit to Allahabad in vacations as a child all these years, I remember visiting Mishtee's parents' with Mom and looking at living room walls covered with her breathtaking pictures. Large kohl-ed eyes and long locks! It somehow brought chills to me.
Coming back to the account. It was a hot summer night and my mom had settled well in grandpa's household. North Indian summers are scorching and the nights are still and humid. It was almost midnight and everyone had retired to their respective rooms. Mom and my sister were too settling in the beds. Their room's door faced the open veranda, remember the donut style architecture? It being awfully humid they left the door and windows all open and began falling asleep.
After a few hours, my sis woke up to a breeze. Half conscious, she spotted a shadow right on end of the bed. On focusing more what she saw was nerve-wrecking. A girl with long flowing hair, blazing eyes and canine like pointed teeth stood there. Wearing a black ankle length gown sorts, she in fact floated in air. Her long hair flowed everywhere and sharp teeth sparkled as she laughed.
My sis was unable to move, speak or even wake mom up. The girl kept laughing creepily. Suddenly, mom opened her eyes to this frightful sight. My mom was emotionally weak already post my dad's recent demise and this scared her so much that she almost fainted. The worst happened when the girl began coming closer. Drenched in cold sweat my sis began praying to Lord Hanuman, who the Hindus believe draws away evil. She closed her eyes and began reciting verses of the Hanuman Chalisa. After a few moments the apparition disappeared. Hearing groans and murmurs, grandpa walked in from the next room and switched on the lights only to find these two in a bad shape.
The next morning, my grandmom said that it has been two decades that Mishtee died, she still haunts the entire neighbourhood. And no matter how rough the summers get, people don't leave the doors and windows open before sleeping. Throughout the night, some hear the swings screech in her backyard.