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Cyrus’ Ghosts
by Shernaz Wadia

They lolled around sipping coke, munching on Lays and Bingo. It was like any other evening at their favorite ‘katta’; jokes, laughter, back-slapping with a lot of ‘yaars’ thrown in. Soon, tall and lanky Cyrus, started off with another one of his tales which, Mohan always teased, were double his height.  

“This happened to my own uncle. You know him Ravi, the priest. Well, last year, just a few days before our New Year, he was returning from the fire-temple. It had been a hard day; he had had to stay there later than usual, because someone had wanted a special ceremony which has to be performed after midnight.” 

“What kind of ceremony is that? Was it to drive away one of your ghosts?” laughed Mohan. 

“Just shut up, you clown, let him finish,” someone slapped him hard on his head from behind. 

“Look, I am not getting into the religious part here. You don’t want to listen get lost.” 

Mohan got another whack and then all fell silent. Soon, even the munching stopped, as the dramatic rise and fall of Cyrus’ voice, gripped all ears. Mohan had a sarcastic grin on his face. 

“Okay, so as I was saying, it was around three in the morning when uncle decided to finally call it a day. The August rain was a torrent and the howling wind wanted to run away with his umbrella. Not a soul was around, not even a dog. If frogs croaked no one would have heard them. He didn’t have far to go, but the inclemency made him shuffle and drenched to the bone he started to shiver. Buddhe ho gaye hain, yaar. He is rather old, you know. Poor guy. Hardly a yard away from the temple and a cycle braked near him.”

Maninder (the youngest) began to get goose bumps. Cyrus’ stories always had that effect on him and he listened on, lips slightly ajar, a tremor of anticipated fear going through him. 

“Sahib, what are you doing out at this unearthly hour? And in such weather!” shouted the cyclist. 

“A startled uncle recognized their milkman from his voice. Instead of shouting again, he gestured with his hands, made uncle sit on the bar and pedaled off as fast as he could towards home. 

“Uncle was in no state for any niceties. He just thanked him and got into the house. Next morning, he narrated the incident to his wife and asked her to give something extra to ‘that poor Champak’ who had been so kind to him. 

“My aunt went pale and uncle was dumbstruck when it suddenly hit him that Champak had been dead three years, almost to the date!” 

Maninder’s empty packet of Lays, slipped to the floor. He was pale and hoped someone would say something soon. He wanted to be safe home before it was too dark but he couldn’t move out from there. He knew they would rag him no end later. 

“So now, Mohan, will you still insist there are no ghosts?” This was Shruti, the only girl in the gang and the shrewdest of all. 

“Nah! I still say it is all poppy-cock. It is all in the mind. And this Bawa always takes you dumbos for a ride. He is like his name-sake on MTV.” 

“Fine. Then prove it to us,” piped in Ravi.

“I will. This kali chaudash day I will go to the graveyard at the end of your road at exactly midnight. No spook can scare me, you silly wimps.”

“So how will we know you really went there? I’ll tell you what. You take a nail and hammer it into the ground under the custard apple tree at the farthest end of the cemetery. And we will all stay over at Ravi’s that night, so we all know you at least went out of the house at the stroke of twelve,” sneered Shruti. 

~ * ~ 

So at the appointed hour, Mohan left for his ‘tryst with destiny’, a hammer and nail in hand. He had dared himself to stay there the rest of the night, so he carried a light shawl with him. 

Fifteen minutes after he left, the friends followed him. Maninder had implored them not to, but they didn’t listen. They were scared too, but they couldn’t leave him alone on a dangerous mission like this. Maninder had no choice but to tag along. Cyrus was a little ahead of them. They did not dare to look farther than a few steps in front. When they reached the gate they heard the muffled strokes of the hammer.
Surreptitiously, holding hands, they crept in. “Damn it. Me and my big mouth! I shouldn’t have dared him”, thought Shruti.
Wahe Guru, please don’t let any of us die. And no ghosts,” begged Maninder.

As they reached half way, Shruti hung tight on to Ravi’s hand, her nails clawing into his arm even as he began to drip perspiration. Petrified, they were rooted like upright grave stones!. Maninder swooned and fell with a thud!!  Out of nowhere an apparition loomed into view and then spoof! it was a yard away.  Then with a low, blood-curdling laugh, it began to move towards them. Another one sprang up just at arm’s length from them and a strong flash light beamed into their faces as Mohan, Cyrus and a third conspirator doubled up with laughter. 

Ravi and Maninder, who had come to by now, sprang on them, floored them and bashed them up. Shruti wouldn’t be left behind. She slapped them real hard. 

“You idiots, we could have all died! Don’t you ever again do this to us! And Cyrus, no more of your scary tales,” she hissed.  

And then all sat down right in the middle of the small graveyard discussing the experience. 

Mohan had the last word, “See, I told you nincompoops. The ghosts and spooks are in our minds. Fear is the biggest ghost. And this *#@#*^ Bawa’s made-up stories add to it.  I hope we have finally exorcised it from your bird-brains!”  

Views: 8836
Thanks JS. Very motivating. Hope we will see more of your humorous work too over here.
A lovely childhood tale enticingly narrated with elements of fun,good humour and spooki-ness.Graveyard experience of the group was quite gripping ! Yes often our fears turn our fantasies into ghosts.Yeh Dil Maangey More.....
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