That Night (Part 27)
Part 27 of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's acclaimed ghost story set in India.
THAT NIGHT (Part 27)
‘In my birth before this last one I was the daughter of the raja of Sipra in the then township of Jigna. Jigna and Gaipura were neighbouring areas. Then I was Suneeti, a young princess, and I was betrothed to be married to the Rajput prince of Gaipura, the kindly and handsome Kunwar Pratap Singh Chauhan. He was reborn as Manoj as you knew him. However, the son of the pujari of our estate, Gokul, who often accompanied his father to our prayer meetings was very disturbed by my engagement with Pratap. His father was the renowned pandit of this area and in matters of spiritual learning, considered the most accomplished among the priests of seven districts of the United Provinces, the then name of Uttar Pradesh. Gokul’s father was proud of his achievement and Gokul inherited his pride. He thought himself no less than a prince. He had been seeing me from the time of our childhood and began to nurture thoughts for me that were not proper for one of another caste as inter-caste marriages were not socially permissible. He would tell me about his love for me and that he would kill himself rather than see someone else marry me. Kunwar Pratap also visited us frequently with his family. We fell in love and our families decided that we would marry each other. I never responded to Gokul’s gestures of friendship as he was of a lower status though he himself thought that he was much higher. I only advised him to keep away from me. But that advice only made him furious and he created a great deal of tension for me and my family. When Pratap learned about Gokul he met him and told him to be careful lest he got into trouble. But Gokul dared to continue his antics. Their differences grew into hostility and that then changed into enmity.’
‘It became rather embarrassing for me to be the centre of attention for two males. I loved Pratap but I knew Gokul equally well because I had grown up with him. The problem with Gokul was that he was very jealous. He could not see anyone else prospering if he had not prospered himself. He was becoming destructive. In those days caste and social status were important considerations. If ignored, one was ousted from one’s community and boycotted. Only tragic heroes and heroines jumped into inter-caste marriages. I may sound very self-centered but then I was mortally scared of tragedy and tragedy for me lay in the arms of Gokul because I could never imagine how I would ever survive without Pratap. It was the same situation in my next birth when Gokul was born as Pran and began to vie for my attention. Every birth seems to be sealed off from the rest and complete in itself. But now as a spirit I can clearly see how the same soul enters different bodies and yet retains its basic nature,’ said the spirit that was once Suneeti and then Sonali.
‘O, I see now. But so much still remains for me to understand.’
‘Please don’t ask me too much. And, look at me; I am talking to you as if you were a fellow spirit. We are not supposed to interact with you and when we do we are faced with such harrowing experience, which would be something like soul-shredding, like a hacking up of the soul. Let me leave before that Gokul, or Pran as you knew him, turns and begins my mental torture.’
‘I am here, my sweetheart. And I have been listening to you since some time. I am indeed pained,’ said Pran.
‘O! I must leave immediately,’ said Sonali and disappeared. Her earrings were back in place and so were her payals. I was now left in the more unpleasant company of the disgruntled Pran.
‘You are playing the same role for us that you played when we were in Allahabad. How stubborn you are. I think you need some rough treatment from me! Should I show you what it is to interfere with spirits? I can teach you a real lesson in two minutes.’
‘First teach yourself to be sensible. And stop making those terrible eyes at me. They will burn my eyesight,’ I said as I began to faint.