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Monday, 17 September 2012

THAT NIGHT (Part 28)

After a gap of nearly 2 weeks this is the 28th episode of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's acclaimed ghost story set in rural India. If you missed any part, or wish to catch up, all episodes are still available on this blog.
Blog on, Dudes!

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                                                                THAT NIGHT (Part 28)

The smile made me feel encouraged me to speak to her. I was not at all comfortable inside and did not know what would happen in the next moment but I decided to speak to her. So I looked at the portrai
t and began talking to her.

‘Are you Sonali?’
‘Sonali? Yes I was Sonali in one of my births, the birth when you and I were together in the University,’ a voice seemed to say from somewhere behind me.
‘Why did you come in my dreams so often?’
‘I need your help.’
‘I will do anything for you, Sonali.’
‘I am not Sonali anymore. Spirits must forget what they were. The spirit that cannot forget has to undergo a lot of pain. My circumstances have been unfortunate because of which I still have to remember my past.’
‘How terrible! I am indeed sorry for you Sonali. What kind of feelings did you have for me?’
‘I do not remember too well. But I think I did not dislike you. But that is beside the point because you were not like the person you knew as Manoj. My soul has been wedded to the spirit that was once named Manoj. All other spirits are no more than names for me.’
‘Why did you always come in my dreams, Sonali? You were never like Pran who could venture out of dreams and move about freely?’
‘I have been law abiding. He has done something for which he must suffer and burn in flames that seem to emanate from sulphur. He did everything wrong and continues to do so even till now. Do not remind me of him. He has tortured me so much.’
'Okay, please continue with your tale.'
'Please don't call it a tale, it is the reality.'
‘Okay. Let me know the reality.’
‘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 in the portrait 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.

When I awoke I found Manoj/Pratap sitting near me. He looked genuinely concerned about my plight. He said that he was extremely sorry for the way Pran/Gokul had spoken to me. He had used all his ghastly strength to set the fellow right. They had fought for hours and given each other ghastly pain while I was lying unconscious. Finally Pran had to leave as he was getting seriously wounded.

‘But do spirits also get wounded?’ I asked in surprise.
‘They very much do if the one inflicting the wound is also a spirit. It is people like you, not belonging to our domain that cannot wound us physically. You can, of course, wound us emotionally.’
‘O, really? Okay, now please tell me why you wanted me here, in Gaipura.’
‘Yes. That is the most important thing for you to understand. You may find it difficult to accept what Sonali and I want from you, but you will have to help us because if you do not, we might keep suffering birth after birth as we have been doing.’
‘Me? How can I help you?’
‘You were the learned one in Gaipura in your last birth. You were Gokul’s father. He is an ungrateful wretch and so does not give you sufficient respect. He does not treat you as a father ought to. He has changed now as you have taken another birth. You have to first realize that there is no one with as much wisdom as you and then you have to tame him with your wisdom. Only you can make him see sense.’
‘I doubt if I can ever do that. I am so scared of him. I fainted when he showed me his angry eyes.’
‘But you will have to do this for us and for yourself when you have turned into a spirit because you are intrinsically connected with us. If you do not help now we will all probably keep taking birth after birth in which we will come together in similar relationships, to suffer, till such time as the basic conflict is resolved.’

I decided that I would have to gather the courage to settle matters with Pran, who had been a son to me once. I had to agree after realizing the significant role I was playing in the whole affair. I would suffer silently and reform Pran. He was after all connected to me so closely. If he was full of pride and obstinacy he had inherited some part of his negativity from me. I made up my mind that I would spend the remainder of my life according to a spiritual plan. I would even die to save the world of the spirits.

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