I know you wouldn’t believe me, no matter how hard I tried to convince you that what I am going to say really happened. So, I am not even going to try. Go ahead and read this as a figment of imagination of a crazy, inebriated mind.
My house is a few minutes walking distance from a place called Ganeshguri Chariali, Assam, India. Let me give you a description of the place so that I won’t have to come back to it later. It is basically a busy crossroad with four roads leading off in four different directions- one towards my house, one towards Chandmari, and the other two towards Khanapara and Ulubari respectively. There is a small by-lane, on the road to my house, that leads to the venerable Guwahati Medical College. There is also a daily bazaar near the by-lane. So there. Now, my state is pretty well known when it comes to tea and insurgency, especially the latter. Anything related to terrorism- extortion, kidnapping, bomb blasts, political assassinations- you name it, you got it. Things have changed for the better now, though. Anyways, Ganeshguri again is famous for bomb blasts. Someone once told me that the place holds a name in the Guinness Book of World Records for the maximum number of terror attacks at a single place- nineteen. I could never find anything to substantiate that snippet of information, but I hold it to be true simply out of pride and love for my place of birth.
That’s enough of background information. Let’s get on with the episode. I had been to a friend’s place that evening for a party; the reason for the party being that his parents had gone to visit his uncle, who was ill, in another city. Before leaving for his place, I had asked my mom whether I could stay over at his house. Her reply was “Yes you can. But you may not”. I took that as a simple “No” and left. The party was great. Booze flowed like water, and there was no end to plates of pork cooked in the Naga style. I didn’t drink much since I was the only one who would be going back home that night. I started to strum on my friend’s guitar and the guys started to sing along. It reminded me of Cacophonix of Asterix fame, as well as of my good friend Nepu.
Before long it was ten at night, and I wished the guys goodnight and got ready to leave. The guys started to harass me with comments like “Sissy”, “Yeah li’l kid, go on home. Your mommy must be waiting to change your diaper”, “Suck on this nigga’, yo”, and many more things to that effect. I decided to make a final rally and called up mom. Peer pressure, you know. Bad for health. This time I inquired if I may stay over and she replied, “Yes, you may”. I was elated when she added after a pause, “But you don’t have to come back home ever again”. Mothers are smart, they are. So I told her I would come home but it would be late since I was going to have my dinner with my friends. Compromise, you know! “You should have told me you would be eating there. I wouldn’t have cooked for you. There are so many people in this world who don’t get to eat two square meals a day, and you don’t care if any food is wasted just because you have never faced that problem. By the way, since when is 1030 at night early?” she retorted. I mumbled something incomprehensible into the phone and disconnected.
The four bottles of whiskey my friend had bought were already empty before midnight, and two of them went to get some more from a place nearby which sells the stuff in black- Hotel Prince it is called. I decided it was time for me to have my dinner and be off, if I were to be in any condition to go home that night. The pork was awesome and I had more of it than the burnt rice. I was wishing them guys a very good night, when one of them spoke up in a slightly slurred voice:
“Let me drop you home on my bike, bro.”
“No, thank you. I am too young to die, and so are you,” I said.
“What the fuck do you mean? Just because you can’t drive a bike even when you are sober doesn’t mean that I can’t even when I am drunk. Now I will drop you home. Otherwise this is the end of our friendship,” said he and stood up unsteadily and looked around for his keys.
I sighed inwardly. Never argue with a drunken man, believe me you won’t get anywhere. It’s like arguing with a woman, only a tad bit less worse. I thumped my mate on the back and said, “Hey chill it bro, I was just joking. I want to walk home to get some fresh air and talk to someone over the phone.”
“A girl, eh?” he asked with a wink and a lecherous smile.
“Yeah. A girl.” I smiled too.
“Okay then bro, have fun,” he said and thumped me on my back. I took their leave and started walking back home.
It was almost midnight then. It was a full moon night and only a few stars sprinkled the clear sky. I called up this girl who I flirted with shamelessly. Yes, she flirted back too. She picked up on the second ring and we started talking. Walk while you talk. What an idea, Sirjee! I was almost heedless to the world by the time I reached Ganeshguri market. The market was a very busy place during the evenings. (It was near that very market that a powerful bomb had went off a few months back, killing a lot of people and injuring lots more.) Of course all the shops were closed at that time. The roads were deserted too. My city didn’t boast of much of a night life then. A red auto-van was parked in the by-lane. I passed it by and walked on, crooning a ballad to my newest love-interest over the phone. A few pegs do tend to make one romantic, yes? I had finished the song and there was silence at the other end. She must have been busy searching for an appropriate response, I thought. At that very moment, I heard a voice from behind me.
“Hey, brother!” he called out.
I turned around and a saw a young man of about ten standing a foot behind me. He seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. He was dressed in a pair of clean jeans, a polo-neck tee, and loafers. I raised an enquiring eyebrow.
“Hey you there”, he said again.
My girl was saying something over the phone, but I was too intrigued by the situation to listen to her. A well dressed boy in the middle of the night in a deserted place, and that too alone? I asked her to hold the line. She was so full of questions. I ignored the questions and asked her to hold the line once again. I walked up to him.
“Yes, kid?” I asked
“They are calling you to come and meet them.”
I was a little confused. I thought by ‘they’ he meant my friends whom I had taken my leave of a few moments back. But then I wondered why they would send a kid to get me when we all have this wonderful invention called the mobile phone. And I would have known had one of them called because my call waiting was on.
“Who they?” I asked, “and what are you doing alone so late in the night?”
“Nothing. They just want you to come and meet them. They say they want you to come away with them. With me.”
“What are u rambling about, kid? Tell me where you live.”
He pointed towards the direction of my house. “I live that way too. Look, I will walk you home. It’s not good to be out so late at this young an age, even if you had a fight with your mom. Right? So walk on ahead. I will be right behind you.” I gave him a little nudge and he started to walk. I was telling the girl over the phone about the strange thing and had barely taken ten steps when I heard his voice from behind me again. I was kind of surprised, since he had not passed me after I had nudged him forwards. And trust me, I would have noticed him pass as there was not another soul around. I told my girl I will call her later, disconnected the phone, turned around and said, “You like playing games, eh kid?”
“I can’t go home. My parents won’t believe it’s me. And anyways I belong with them now,” he gestured over his shoulder. “They want you to come and join us too. Come on we will have lots of fun.”
I lost it. “Fun, eh, you little dickface. You want fun? You will have lots of it when I spank your teeny little bottom,” I said running towards him. He turned and ran into the by-lane. I followed only to find no sign of him. I tried the doors of the auto-van. It was locked. I walked around it and peeped under the chassis. Nothing. I looked around for another probable hiding place for some for time. Zilch. Only the silence of the night and the eerie light shed by the moon. “Wait till I meet you the next time, you little fuck!” I shouted into the silence. I was huffing with anger. I took some deep breaths and tried to cool down. Then I took out my phone again to call the girl. She was full of questions again but I managed to evade almost all of them. I got back to the ‘walking while talking’ adage. By the time I reached home, I had forgotten all about the boy and was laughing merrily at her jokes. We talked for maybe another hour and I fell into a dreamless sleep.
The next morning, I told my mom about the incident from the previous night. She was shocked and started fussing about like a mother hen. From what I could gather from her anxious speech, was that many people had claimed to have met ghosts in that particular area after the bomb blast but she had never believed those stories. Now, her only son…oh God no..please come to his rescue…blah, blah. A puja was also to be organized for my well being within the week. It was only then that I realized that it really might have been the spirit of a young boy killed in the blasts. “And anyways I belong with them now”. That line kept playing over and over again in my mind. I had mixed feelings of fear and surprise. Surprise, as I had not felt an iota of fear the previous night when I chased after the boy. Maybe booze makes one a bit of a fearless superhero too, eh? Food for thought.