TRohini first narrated this incident to me in June 2002 who was a volunteer for the same group that I have mentioned in "Padma's experience". When she told me this on phone for the first time she was very badly disturbed and we thought it wise not to bring the topic up for a while before she recovers. Later on the further inquiries unveiled a rather interesting experience, which would be a good brainstorming topic for experts in this area. Hence narrating it here.
Rohini came from a village near Dicholi, Goa. She stayed in Panji, which is a capital of Goa for 2 years where she finished her junior college. She was staying with her uncle and aunt who were childless and owned a medium sized house near Panji Gymkhana. They were a relation from her mother's side and had really very few relatives as such. They were an interesting couple. Her uncle was a retired teacher who had many friends. They lived comfortably with his pension and income from some land they had in Northern Goa. The uncle was a very active man and also founder of the laughing club in the area. He spent most of his time in one activity or another and kept himself busy.
The Aunt on the other hand was very quiet. Basically she was a good-natured women and an excellent cook. She was childless and society at that time had a tendency to look down upon women without children as if it was their own fault. They were not invited to any ceremonies and often shunted down from groups and other activities. Outwardly Rohini's Aunt did not react to this much but she suffered and after crossing fifty her mental health was not really good. She never underwent any formal psychiatric check-up as such but it was apparent that she was schizophrenic. She was happy in her limited ambit where for days only people she would speak with were her husband and her maid. She would walk in the morning only to the nearby shop for grocery when absolutely necessary and would rush back to the "safety" of her home as quickly as possible. She insisted that her uncle should lock the house from outside when he went out in the evening and leave the key with the neighbours. This ensured that no "enemy" could enter the house when she was alone...
The old couple was very happy during Rohini's stay in their house. In a way it changed their life. They went out of their way to make her happy. Even her Aunt started to show some signs of improvement and accompanied Rohini to central markets a few times which she had never done for the last few years. Rohini was pampered and she loved it a lot. She would leave for the college in the morning and came back early evening. She had her own set of keys and entered the house. She would chat with her Aunt, tidy up the house, make her aunt watch selective TV soaps and helped in cooking. But finally a day came when her junior college education completed and she had to move to Bombay for engineering. Her uncle and mother were worried that her aunt would create a scene but she took this reasonably well. Rohini herself was also very attached to the old dears and promised to rush back in every long weekend and vacation. This promise she kept.
At the same time her Aunt's health started to deteriorate gradually. She lost weight, her eyesight was affected, her attacks became more prominent and slowly she had started to drift into her own world of whims and voices in her head. Still during earlier parts of the first year she became a bit of her original self when Rohini visited them and looked cheerful. Rohini is not one of the best observers and it took some time before it dawned onto her that all was not well with her Aunt. Still she could do very little but insisted that her Uncle should take her to the hospital and get the full check-up done. It was already happening and apart from occasional high blood pressure her Aunt showed no signs of any physical problems during the first six months.
However, in the second term of the first year, Rohini got really busy in her studies. At the same time all of a sudden the health of her Aunt went from bad to worse. She had almost stopped eating and did not perform any daily chores. Her uncle had hired a cook but her aunt fired her and one fine day she also told the maid that was with her for the last fifteen years not to come to her house anymore. She said she had proof that the maid was sent by her unknown enemy to spy on her. This was the last straw as the aunt herself was so weak that she could barely walk.
Rohini's uncle suffered a lot in this period but he was a fit man for his age and did what he could to keep the house running. Her aunt tried to hide her illness as much as possible in the fear that she would be moved to a hospital from the safety of her house. There her imaginary enemies would reach her finally. One day an inevitable happened.
Her aunt could not get up anymore. She was too weak. An ambulance was brought in and she was rushed to the hospital. There it was detected that it was a severe blood and urine infection and situation was really bad. The doctors were surprised how she had endured all this without any medication. Her aunt died after a brief but painful fight against the illness after four days. Her uncle went to that house only once during her illness when he understood that she would not recover. He cleaned as much as he could, threw away rotting food, packed his own bag and returned to the hospital.
The body was taken directly from the cremation, as there were hardly any relatives. Some of his students helped him in the last rites. Her uncle directly moved to another house near the farm where he decided to spend a few weeks before coming back to Panji.
Rohini was not informed about all this. Her exams were about to start and if she had known she would have definitely skipped the exam to come back and be with her Aunt. She was told that her Aunt was not well and was hospitalized but was given to understand that she will be well soon as it was a minor problem.
When Rohini came back to Goa no one was aware of her visit. This is because her practical exams and viva were postponed by two days. She forgot to inform her mother and since it was not a tourist season (first year engineering exams finish sometime in end June), she easily got a bus reservation. It was around three to four weeks since her aunt passed away. She had taken early morning bus and reached Panji at 6.30 PM. She did not know that her uncle was not there and had gone north to close some deal related to land. He was not planning to return soon either.
Rohini came home, saw the lock and simply opened it with her keys that she still carried with her. Here, we must remember that she was under the impression that her Aunt had returned from the hospital and would be at home. The rest of the incident I have reconstructed from somewhat incoherent account given by Rohini when she called immediately after she understood what had happened and detailed discussions later.
She did find her Aunt at home. Her assumption must have been that she has been discharged. The house was stinking but initially Rohini could not find out the reason for it. She found her aunt resting in the bedroom looking very weak. When Rohini first saw her she was in deep slumber. Rohini obviously was not surprised initially and did not sense anything wrong. First of all she was excited to be back after so many days and was full of news from the college. Also it was quite natural for someone who has recently been discharged from the hospital to be taking bed rest. She decided not to wake her Aunt up and went and reclined in her favourite armchair. That is when she got her first shock.
There was a layer of dust on the chair and Rohini had a sneezing bout. When it stopped she started to look around the house. It was in shambles. All the furniture had dust on it; the kitchen had some old food still left which was stinking. This was the smell she had noticed. The refrigerator was still functioning but was empty. There was no cable on the TV and the connection had been cut by the operator. In the bathroom she could see her Aunt's old gown lying on the floor. The water in the buckets was stale and had greenish tinge on it. The balconies were full of pigeon waste. Fortunately even though the light bill for the month was not paid the electricity and the landline phone was working fine. It was twilight now and even that was fading so she switched on the lights in the hall and the kitchen. Even now Rohini was not afraid and she had not really understood why the house was in such a bad shape. She was confused that's all.
In a dazed sort of manner she entered the bedroom again. This was the only room, which was clean. It had been maintained well and there was no dust anywhere. This time her aunt was sitting in her bed. She seemed to have already switched on a dim light. On her wrist there were puncture marks from where the intravenous injections and glucose must have been given. Her nails were dirty and long. She was wearing a gown, which Rohini had not seen before and was looking extremely dirty. It was as if she had not taken a bath for ages.
First feeling that something has gone horribly wrong came to Rohini when she heard her aunt's voice. It had changed beyond recognition. It had a deep resonant type of quality and seemed to be coming from deep down within the throat with some effort. It was accompanied by wheezing sound and it seemed her aunt was struggling for breath. At first it seemed as if her aunt did not recognize her and her vacant eyes were suddenly filled with anger. But the next moment that anger subsided, as it seemed her aunt had finally placed her. At the same time once Rohini recovered from the shock of sight of her aunt and the changed voice, she realized she was being addressed as Shubha. This she could not understand but at the same time she had finally sensed that this was unnatural and she was afraid. Very afraid indeed.
Her aunt seemed to be thinking loudly. She commented that Shubha (Rohini) was wearing rather odd clothes. Very similar to the ones that were worn by a leading actress from the new movie "Roti, Kapda aur Makan" which she had seen in the cinema hall last week. From there she started talking about a lot of hard tiring work that she had to do at home. She was getting very angry intermittently. Her anger was directed towards her husband and mother in law. In a very unladylike manner she claimed that her husband was almost impotent and she could not conceive because of that. All this was happening because of her mother in law who did not want to let her become a mother. Once she had been pregnant but her mother in law gave her some medicine that caused a miscarriage. With this she again became illogical and claimed that the current illness and weakness was because she was suffering from the after effects of the abortion. If only she had the weapon she had now she would have taught her mother in law a lesson. Just like she did to an agent that was sent by the enemy in the form of dog from the adjacent house yesterday.
With this she extracted from the quilt on her bed a fairly large but harmless looking cricket bat like equipment, which is generally used to wash the clothes in old-fashioned way. There was definitely some dried blood and grey hairs at the end of that wooden bat. Rohini so far had been sitting there transfixed but came to whatever senses that were left. She was too confused to understand what was happening but instinct of physical safety was there with every human being. Her Aunt's mood had started to turn for the worse. She also started wondering if Shubha had sympathy with her mother in law but then her eyes cleared again and she decided against it. All of a sudden she went to sleep. Rohini got up still shaking, switched off all the lights, locked the house somehow and left for her hometown.
She came to the bus stand then went to her village. There she almost collapsed. She never really was ill as such for the first day but the mental trauma was very intense. She told her mother what had happened next morning. Not knowing what to make of it and worried about her daughter's health first, she kept quiet. Sensibly enough she tried to divert her attention by taking Rohini with her in the market. But when they came back in the evening Rohini for first time saw the photograph of her aunt near her mother's dressing table, with flower garland around it. Rohini was an intelligent girl. She could put two and two together.
That night she did not sleep and called me in the morning. I heard the whole incident and told her to go back to Bombay and spend at least first few weeks of the vacation with her friends. It did not happen. She asked her mother for full details and her mother really could not hide anything.
That night Rohini had fever that increased overnight. The doctor had to be brought for the house visit. Rohini finally recovered from it in a few days. She stayed with her mother two weeks more until the weakness was gone. Her uncle did come to visit her but she refused to meet him. Finally when she had fully recovered she came to Bombay where we met and I got to hear the experience in detail.
I had made few notes after that. When I went with my family to Goa later on, I made it a point to meet her uncle who was still visibly upset about his niece for not meeting him the other day. I along with my friends also made some indirect inquires around the house.
First of all we managed to resolve the mystery of name Shubha. It was her mother's pet name before marriage. There is a striking resemblance between Rohini and her mother. And with weak eyesight whatever it was in the house mistook Rohini for her mother. The movie that her aunt mentioned was released sometime in 1974 so I presume her Aunt was logically in that period.
When I met Rohini's uncle, he confirmed that his wife had a miscarriage at four months the same year but point blank refused that his mother had anything to do with it. He also flatly defined that he suffered from impotency of any kind. A pet dog had indeed gone missing during the days when Rohini had this experience.
Rohini's uncle later on took some hired help with him to clean the house. His plan was to sell it he got a good offer from a builder. The house was bulldozed sometime in 2004.
In my opinion whatever was in the house had memory only until the post abortion period when all the hopes in the life was lost.
Twilight is the period that is not considered to be good and hence the presence could manifest itself so strongly. The cremation had been done in a hurry so that might be one more reason for the soul to be unhappy.
Last but not the least it is not easy imagine what it must be to be a childless women in small city at that time. It was a trauma that would impact one for life and make it miserable for every. Rohini's Aunt was one of these victims.