In the late eighties, my father was transferred from Mumbai to Lonavala, a Hill Station, around 120 Kms from Mumbai. I was in the 9th grade. My mom my elder brother and me would visit my father during our summer holidays.
My cousin Parag, who is a couple of years older than me stays in Lonavala and we used to have a great time roaming around and generally having a lot of fun. Our favourite pastime was to go at night to a nearby hill overlooking a school on our bicycles with a flask of coffee, chat, and enjoy the cool breeze and gaze at the stars. Two friends of Parag also used to come along on their bicycles.
One night we were at our rendezvous as usual, chatting and having coffee when we saw someone coming towards us. As the figure came near, we saw that it was frail old man. It seemed strange for someone to be there at such a late hour. Out of curiosity we asked the old man who he was and whether he needed any help. The man told us that he lived in one of the nearby villages and had to catch the late night train to Mumbai. He was going to Mumbai to visit his son and was on his way to the railway station. Taking pity on him and also due to the fact that he would miss his train Parag offered him a ride on his bicycle to the railway station. Me and my brother also went along with Parag on the other bikes which his friends. After dropping him off at the station, we again came back to our spot and again began chatting away.
Something then happened which still sends a shiver down my spine even after all these years. It must have been around half an hour after we dropped off the man at the station. We were feeling sleepy and were planning go back home. We suddenly saw a figure coming towards us in the darkness. Imagine our shock when we saw the same frail old man again coming towards us asking us for a lift to the railway station where we had dropped him a short while ago.
Everyone was shocked, we felt as if we were in a trance and unable to move. It was just impossible for the old man to trek back from the station and reach our place in 15 minutes. It had taken us around 30 minutes to drop him off to the station and come back on our bicycles. He surely could not do anything better that that on foot.
Somehow I gathered my composure, said a silent prayer which seemed to pull me out of the trance. I then quickly shook the others and we got on our bicycles and got out of that place as soon as possible never bothering to look back even once.
None of us slept that night.
A couple of days later we asked some of the locals about the old man but no one seemed to know anything about him nor had anyone come across him earlier. But we were advised to stay away from that place.
I have been to Lonavala many times after that but never had the courage to visit our old haunt even once.