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 The Haunted House

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Lekha

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PostSubject: The Haunted House   Sat Jul 20, 2013 3:11 pm

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The Haunted House - 1




“Parvathi, is Sandhya ready? Are the snacks ready? I want them to be of the highest quality. The boy’s party will be here in another 10 minutes. I got a call from the boy’s father just now.”

“Everything is ready. Now sit down and relax. If your BP shoots up and you faint, then everything will be a mess. Have you taken your tablets?”

“I have. Where’s Sharada? I had told her not to go to factory today.”

“She said that she had an important meeting with the company auditors which she could not afford to miss. She’ll be here anytime. Now, if you swear that you won’t shout, I’ll tell you something.”

“What is that?” -Ramalingam shouted. But Parvathi told him anyway.

“Why do you want Sharada to be here for this occasion? In fact she hesitated to go out today. She was afraid that you might get upset. It was I who encouraged, why, insisted, that she should go. I also told her to take it easy and return only when her work was completely over. Though Sharada had clearly said that she is not interested in marriage, we should not forget that she’s just a woman like Sandhya. Seeing all these arrangements she might .. you know.. feel.. a sort… of….”

Ramalingam was now furious.

“Are you suggesting that Sharada will be jealous of her own younger sister? You stupid woman! You don’t know Sharada’s mind. It can hold nothing but love. I tell you, Parvathi, no good thing can happen in this house without Sharada’s presence or her participation. Now keep your mouth shut and get Sandhya ready.”

As soon as his wife was out of earshot, Ramalingam heaved a deep sigh. Not a single day has passed without Ramalingam worrying about Sharada’s condition. Of all the persons in the world, why should this happen to her?

Sharada was Ramalingam’s eldest daughter and his favourite one. It was only after she was born that he became a businessman. He was just an accountant in an export company. Soon after Sharada’ birth he started a small garments factory. He never looked back after that. Today he is one of the city’s noted millionaires.

Sandhya was younger to Sharada by five years.

While Sharada was doing her final year in the college she fell in love, madly in love with a handsome boy. Sharada never knew how to hide anything from her parents. She boldly talked about her love to her father.

Ramalingam did not blindly oppose her love. He made diligent enquiries about the boy. He found that neither the boy had a good character nor did he hail from a good family. He just placed the facts before Sharada and let her decide. Though Sharada abandoned her love, she could not so easily shed memories of the time spent with that boy. Unable to face him in the college she quit her course midway. Thereafter her entire focus was on her father’s business. When Ramanathan suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire from business, Saradha took over the reins in what her company executives described as a seamless transition.

Business was in her genes. Ramalingam’s friends told him “Even if you had had a son, he would not have managed your business like your daughter.”

Hearing this Ramalingam’s heart would swell in pride; but the next moment it would shrivel in grief in the thought that Sharada was going to remain alone throughout her life. He did not have the mind to force Sharada into anything, least of all a marriage she did not want.

It was only on Sharada’s insistence that Ramalingam had now arranged this girl-seeing function for his younger daughter Sandhya.

The sound of a car horn broke Ramalingam’s reverie. He ran to the drive-way to welcome the groom’s party.

“Welcome, Sir. Most Welcome. You have honoured me by your visit. Please come in.”

Parvathi also joined him in welcoming the delegation.

Ramalingam saw the prospective groom, Sethu, the wheat-complexioned, tall, slim boy walking by the side of his parents. More than anything else he was attracted by the compassion in that clear face. He took an immediate liking to the boy and started praying to all his favourite Gods that the boy should like Sandhya.

The visitors were seated in the spacious drawing room of the house. There was an animated conversation about supremely light and irrelevant subjects - the weather, fuel price hike, Kashmir problem, inflation, water problem etc.

Suddenly Ramalingam posed an embarrasing question to Sethu.

“Please don’t be offended, Mr.Sethu. In these days all youngsters go for high-paying software jobs in the US. Why did you choose to be a writer in a weekly? Did you try for something better? Do you really like what you do?”

Sethu smiled and answered firmly.

“While choosing my career I obeyed my father’s words – verbatim. Never choose a career because the world says there’s lot of “scope”, because the salary is high, because the place of work is the USA or Australia. The only question that is relevant is “Do you love what you do?” Applying the test, I can say that though my job does not fill even my small wallet it does fill my heart and mind. I don’t think I can ask for more.”

Sethu’s father looked at his son with admiration and pride.

“Well said, Mr.Sethu.”

Everyone turned in the direction of the voice.

It was Sharada’s. She had just come in.

“Please forgive me for coming late and for barging into your conversation. “

“This is my eldest daughter Sharada. She takes care of our garments factory.”

Sharada folded her hands.

Sharada’s height, her slim figure, soft loving eyes, an inexplicable vulnerability in her face – all these made Sethu’s heart skip a beat. He had to constantly remind himself this was not the girl he had come all the way to see.

Now Ramalingam started another frontal attack.

“Sorry, again, Mr.Sethu. Is there enough money in writing? Do writers like you have a stable income?”

“Dad, you’re embarrassing all of us.”

After admonishing her father Sharada saw Sethu with pleading eyes. ‘Please forgive my Dad.’

“In his role as the girl’s father he is entitled to know about my income.” Sethu answered looking directly into Sharada’s eyes. Sharada had a sudden feeling of joy. Sharada had never known a man who spoke so softly and yet so firmly.

Then Sethu explained his job to Ramalingam. He was working for a weekly whose readership was in the range of four millions. He talked about the massive office complex, about the most modern machinery they had and their nation-wide dealer network. Then he talked plainly about his income. Apart from his monthly salary he would get extra amount for writing stories, articles for the weekly. The weekly also permitted him to write TV serials which were giving him much more money than his salary. He almost recited the figures appearing in his income tax return. Sharada was impressed. Ramalingam was not convinced.

Sethu’s father took the cue and talked about their ancestral property – about a hundred acres of land and two large houses in their village and one in Chennai. Sethu was the only heir to all those properties.

Ramalingam felt relieved.

Sharada asked Sethu.

“I used to wonder why do you always write ghost stories? Your TV serial, your short stories, your serialised novel – everything deals with somekind of ghosts, spirits ,jinxes or some such things.”

“Writers have also started to specialise like Doctors. If every writer were to write on the same subject – love, family, in-laws, life would be hell. There are quite a few writers in my genre. I have been reading a lot about para-psychological phenomena and I am putting my knowledge to good use. Now people welcome these types of stories.”

Sethu’s mother opened her mouth for the first time. Her tone was unassuming and friendly.

“Even I am afraid to read his stories or see the TV serials penned by him. I would watch till his name appears in the credits; then I’ll switch off the TV.”

Everyone smiled. Now Sethu’s father joined.

“And you know what, he writes these stories after midnight. I suspect the ghosts themselves would come and help him with plots and themes.”

Everyone including Sethu had a hearty laugh.

Ramalingam gave a signal to his wife who went in and brought Sandhya. What struck Sethu at the first sight was Sandhya’s colour. She was extraordinarily fair - so fair, that she would easily pass off as an European. She was clad in a gorgeous Kancheepuram silk saree with a lavish zari. Sandhya had very clear eyes and very sharp features.

Sandhya’s beauty appeared a little too bright for Sethu. It was as if a powerful sodium vapour lamp was lit in a small ten by ten room. Her beauty was more of a blinding flash than a comfortable light. A blinding flash, as its name implies, always impairs the sight rather than aiding it. Sharada’s was more like the solitary oil lamp which soothingly sheds its limited light within a small area.

Sandhya was no doubt beautiful beyond all description. But even in the backdrop of such a powerful beauty Sethu did not fail to see that when Sandhya smiled her eyes did not participate. Staring at her for a little long Sethu even suspected that there was a mild frown in her face.

Sandhya handed plates containing the ‘traditional girl-seeing snacks’ , kesari and bajji to Sethu and his parents and sat down beside Sethu’s mother. Meanwhile Parvathi gave snacks to Ramalingam and Sharada.

“I am not going to boast that all these were prepared by Sandhya. But I can assure you that she cooks really well.”

Sethu was now used to and even liked the way Ramalingam talked - without any artificiality, and with brutal honesty. Sharada now recounted Sandhya’s CV for the benefit of the boy’s family.

“University’s first rank in M.Com., has passed the Company Secretaryship intermediate exams. She’ll be completing the Final by this December. With this kind of a CV she’s sure to land in a plum job. But whether she should work or not is in your hands.”

Sethu saw Sandhya again.

Sharada continued.

“Sandhya is interested in artwork. That large Krishna painting over there, it’s a Tanjore painting done by Sandhya. She knows how to make soft toys. She knows Bonsai. She’s learning French.”

Sethu saw that painting and then saw Sharada. Somehow Sethu felt more attracted towards Sharada than towards Sandhya. Sethu knew very well that Sharada was older to him by two years. Anybody in Sethu’s place would not have glanced Sharada at all after seeing the bright and beautiful Sandhya. But Sethu’s mind.. .. it was continuously going towards Sharada. He had to take a lot of effort to control his thoughts.

Sethu’s mother was holding Sandhya’s hands and was talking about something.

Ramalingam was talking to Saradha.

Sethu was alternatively looking at the painting on the wall, Sharada, and Sandhya.

Sethu’s father was engrossed in eating.

Parvathi was in the kitchen preparing coffee.

The quartz clock in the hall marked the passage of time without making even the slightest noise.

Suddenly a ghostly silence engulfed that place. It was ghostly because every one could feel it intuitively though no one could say what it was. For if they hadn’t felt so, there was no reason why everyone should suddenly lower their voice to the level of whisper.

Sethu felt a kind of shock. His intuition was warning him that something untoward, something ghastly was going to happen in a few seconds. And surely it did.

The plate of snacks, which Sethu’s mother was holding in her hands suddenly left her hand, rose in the air above her head, stood there for a fraction of a second and then fell on her head with a deafening noise bathing her with the oily snacks it contained.

Her scream reverberated throughout the house. All the rest were frozen in fear. Time came to a grinding halt.

Episode II will follow next week...











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PostSubject: Re: The Haunted House   Sat Jul 27, 2013 3:43 pm

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The Haunted House - 2




Sethu was the first to unfreeze. He ran towards his mother and hugged her tightly. He could still feel the shivers in her body. He turned to look at Sandhya. It was, as photography-buffs would love to call, a very tight close-up. Her beauty was even more dazzling though she had gone pale and listless due to fear.

Parvathi who rushed to the room on hearing the scream was staring at Sethu’s mother.

Ramlingam was chanting something to ward off the evil spirits.

Sethu was the only person in the room who fully regained his composure. Paradoxically his mind was now filled with a strange kind of enthusiasm. All these years he had been writing on phenomena like these: things moving on their own, doors opening and closing of their own volition and people behaving in a strange fashion. This was the first time he got to see some direct action.

Sethu’s father was focussing on the solitary piece of bhajji perched centrally on his wife’s head.

Sethu wanted to assure himself that everybody in the room was safe. Instinctively he turned to look at Sharada. Sharada was now standing and was looking enquiringly at Sethu.

All of a sudden he released his mother from his embrace and ran furiously towards Sharada. Seeing Sethu running like crazy every one including Sharada screamed. Undeterred Sethu reached Saradha’s side and pushed her with all his might. Sharada lost her balance and fell down a few feet away from where she was standing.

It was only then everyone realised what Sethu had done.

The Tanjore painting of Lord Krishna was slowly getting itself unhinged from the wall and was falling down. The next second the sound of the shattered glass reverberated throughout the room. But for Sethu it would have fallen right on her head.

‘Had not Sethu acted so fast’ – Sharada shuddered to think of the consequences. It was a huge painting set in a solid steel frame and a very thick glass. Falling from that height, it could have even killed her. Sharada glanced gratefully at Sethu.

But Sethu was in no mood to enjoy that thankful look. He shouted at every one.

“Don’t touch anything in the house. Everything’s jinxed. All of us should go out of the house RIGHT NOW.”

They started running towards the lawn past the drive-way. Sethu was holding his mother in his hands and was urging her to run faster. Saradha held Sandhya’s hands as they ran. Ramlingam and Parvathi ran together. Sethu’s father was the last to exit and the only one to slow-walk the distance, wearing a look, which was more of amusement than of fear.

The entire group reassembled in the huge lawn in front of the house.

Sethu’s mother felt relieved. She did not notice Sharada and Sandhya standing behind her. She told Sethu in a loud voice:

“Sethu, the house is haunted. Let’s say a clear NO to this alliance. The house and the family is…” Sethu did not allow her to finish.

“Ma, will you please keep quiet? Is this the time to talk all these things?”

But Sandhya had clearly heard Sethu’s mother. She could not bear the pain of rejection and that too for reasons totally extraneous to her. A mild sob erupted from her. Sethu turned towards her. This only served to accentuate Sandhya’s grief who was now into fullfledged crying. There was an unmistakable scorn in Sharada’s eyes when she saw Sethu.

Inside the house a huge vessel fell down making a nerve-chilling noise. Sethu’s mother and Parvathi screamed in unison.

“Ma, the maid might have dropped something.”

Having said that Sharada felt guilty that she had not asked the maid to come out. If the house was really jinxed and something awful was going to happen, that poor lady, an elderly widow with an invalid son, would become an innocent victim.

Now Sandhya whispered to Sharada.

“Sharu, see the screen in our bedroom. Don’t you think it’s swirling around as if somebody is moving it from inside? How can we sleep there tonight?”

“Sandhya, when you are afraid, everything frightens yhou. Relax. The screen moves because of the wind.”

But Sandhya was not convinced. Even Sharada was not very sure. The painting which has been hanging on the wall for the past three years without any incident had fallen down all of a sudden. ‘If the ceiling fans were to fall down like that, while they were sleeping’ – Sharada shivered. How could they sleep in that haunted house that night? Sharada wanted to do something about it after discussing with her father.

Sethu wanted to discuss the problem with Ramalingam.

“Sir, I’m sorry to ask this; but I can’t help you without knowing the facts. Are these things happening for the first time in your house?”

Before Ramalingam responded Sharada burst out:

“Are you insinuating, Mr.Sethu, that we have a live-in relationship with the ghosts and the evil spirits?”

Sethu was hurt. After a while he gathered himself and spoke in a feeble voice:

“I’m absolutely sorry Sir, if I have by any chance conveyed such a meaning to you. The plain fact is that I have read quite a lot about occurences like these. And if I know the full facts, may be, I can help you sort out….”

Sharada did not allow him to finish.

“Mr.Sethu, I clearly heard your mother saying that she is not interested in this alliance. My only request is please do not insult us any further with your dubious knowledge of the evil spirits. If at any time in future we need the services of a “ghost-specialist” we’ll send word to you. Now you can help us a lot by just leaving us alone.”

Ramalingam was astonished to hear these uncharacteristically strong and stinging words from his otherwise soft daughter. Sandhya’s tear-laden face was uppermost in Sharada’s mind. When it came to her sister, she did not care a damn for Sethu, his knowledge of the spirits or for that matter any thing else in the world.

Sethu could empathise with Sharada; but, still he was the most knowledgeable person in that group as far as these happenings were concerned. He wanted to help them whether Sharada liked it or not.

The best approach would be to talk firmly to Ramalingam which he did.

“Sir, I don’t mind your daughter’s angry words. It’s my duty to tell what I know before I leave your place for good. Two bizarre events happened this evening: one my mother’s plate levitated and fell down on her and two, the Krishna painting unscrewed all by itself and fell down. These can be attributed to evil ghosts called “poltergeists”. The word is derived from German and it just means “noisy spirits.” Once we know more about this phenomenon we would fear less. A similar thing happened in France in 1642 in the house of one Perrault….”

Sethu was wrong on one count. In matters like these more knowledge only meant more fear. Sharada thought that Sethu’s presence would only serve to frighten them further. Her anger had not yet subsided. So she burst out again.

“Mister Sethu it looks as if you are doing a curtain-raiser for your next TV serial on ghosts. But we are in no mood to listen. If you want to really help us tell me whether we can enter the house now. Please.”

Sethu was pleased that Sharada had finally sought his opinion. He cleared his throat and talked like a specialist:

“Normally these things would not occur continuously. Even then the shortest recorded interval for Poltergeists is 7 days. Which means at least for the next seven days I can assure you nothing untoward will happen. But if these are not caused by Poltergeists but by some other evil spirits, it’s more likely that there would be a repetition tomorrow at the same time. But right now we are safe. And to find out the reason, Miss.Sharada, we need to…”

“Let’s not bother with the reason right now. All of us are going in at this very moment. Now if you are a person who walks his talk, you can also come along.”

“Give me a minute.”

Sethu ran to his parents. He took them to the car. Once they were seated in he walked back to Sharada.

“Can we go now?”

“Yes. Dad, Mom, Sandhya, come let’s go in.”

Sethu led the contingent followed by Sharada. Behind her was Ramalingam, Parvathi and Sandhya, all in a single file.

Sethu, in a momentary flash of gallantry, had assured Sharada that nothing would go wrong. His statements on the shortest interval of appearance of poltergeists and the earliest repetition will take another day were not true. He just made them up to give confidence to Sharada’s family. Later he would repent his assertion.

Sethu was was only outwardly brave. He knew that the ghosts and the evil spirits never work by the book or be bound by rules.

For the second time within a span of less than an hour his intuition warned him of another ghastly happening. This time it was even more intense than the first.

Sethu wanted to retreat and withdraw his words.

But to go back now was to lose connection with this family for ever. More than that he would never regain Sharada’s respect if he backtracked now. One thing was for sure. His fears were intellingent; but his courage was foolhardy in that situation. He walked fast ignoring the loud protests made by his heart.

As Sethu was just a foot away from the main door of the house, Sandhya started to shiver. Ramalingam was even more afraid and was chanting some sanskrit slokas aloud.

Sethu was the first to enter. All lights were on. There was an eerie silence in the house which was deepened by the sound of the ceiling fans running at full speed in the drawing room. Sethu stared at the place where the Krishna painting had fallen. Glass pieces were scattered over a large area. Even the smiling Lord Krishna lying down on the mythical pupil-leaf now had a kind of frightening appearance, especially when seen through the shattered glass pieces.

Sethu now wanted to infuse courage into Ramalingam’s family. He feigned enthusiasm in his voice and said loudly,

“See, what I said was true. You can walk in without any fear. Sleep comfortably tonight. Nothing will happen. And even if it happens…”

There was a loud, banging noise which engulfed Sethu’s words. Sandhya and Parvathi screamed in chorus. Sharada was frozen in her place.

Sethu looked around to locate the source of the noise. The large fish tank placed centrally in the drawing room had suddently fallen down, all of its own. Water spread throughout the room and when the ice-cold water touched their feet, Sandhya and Parvathi screamed for a second time. The chill everyone felt in their feet went straight to their hearts in no time. Deprived of their watery habitat large and small fish were struggling for life. on the floor. Their deathly flippings on the marble floor made even Sethu tremble in fear. The dying fish were Sandhya’s pets.

Sandhya saw them and screamed for the second time. It was more of a wail than a scream.

Episode III will follow next week...






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PostSubject: Re: The Haunted House   Sat Aug 03, 2013 3:21 pm

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The Haunted House - 3




The brand new Honda City was gliding on the National Highway on the out skirts of Chennai. It was one of the very few roads in the city which had not been ripped open by the recent rains. The car was nearing Porur. The Japanese technology gave the car a smooth ride; but the recent happenings were giving Sharada, its backseat occupant, a rough ride in life.

When Sharada’s first love failed, she was sure that no other man would ever be able to attract her. But Sethu came along and shattered that myth. Everything in Sethu was a turn-on for her :his approach to life, his devotion to work, his way of talking and even his slightly outmoded back-comb hairstyle. Had she fallen hopelessly in love for a second time, and that too with her sister’s suitor?

Her second love had many road-blocks . For starters, Sethu was clearly two years younger than her. That was not a big issue these days. Her cousin had married a boy four years younger and there were no protests in the family circles. The biggest block for her love was Sandhya. Sandhya hated Sethu because she suspected his hand behind all the weird happenings.

If Sharada were to marry Sethu, Sandhya would be devastated. Sharada could never bear Sandhya suffering and that too on her account. Which meant only one thing: her second love was also doomed to fail.

The events after the fall of the fish tank flashed back in her mind.

All of them ran to the lawn again. Sethu broke the unpleasant silence.

“You see, Miss, Sharada.. this…pheno..”

Sharada folded her hands in his direction with a loud noise.

“Mister Sethu, please leave us alone. You have already helped us enough. GOOD BYE.”

Sharada could never forget the image of an exhausted Sethu limping out of the house. They all abandoned the house and shifted to a nearby star hotel.

Ramalingam organised a lot of special pujas and yajnas during the next three days to drive away the poltergeists. The Chief Priest, a ninty-year old Shivacharya from Thanjavur assured them at the end of the pujas, that no evil would come near the house for another century. He also gave them a blessed talisman to be used ‘just in case.’

They moved to the house the next morning. Sharada was closely watching the plates, the pictures and even the ceiling fans. Nothing fell down or moved on its own. Sharada decided to go back to work only on the fourth day and was now driving towards their factory near Porur.

There was another development the previous evening. The phone rang at five thirty. Sharada took the call.

“Sharada.”

“Hello, this is Sethu. Can I talk to Miss Sandhya, please? Just for two minutes..”

Sharada’s mind was working at a furious pace as she called Sandhya.

‘Yes, Sethu, you can talk to Sandhya even for two hours. I don’t mind. But can’t you just ask, ‘How are you Sharada? Don’t I even deserve that from you, Sethu?’ She suppressed her desire to eavesdrop on the conversation and left the room.

A few minutes later she heard Sandhya sobbing and running towards the bed. Sharada ran into their bedroom. She sat by her sister’s side and gently placed her hand on Sandhya’s shoulders. Sandhya’s sobbing now increased. Sharada dragged her sister into her lap and was pacifying her as she would a five-year-old.

“What’s the problem, dear?”

“That man hates me, Sharu. He shouted at me. And he hung the phone on me. It’s he who did all these things to us. He has wrecked my life, Sharu. Who will marry me, now?”

Sharada did not know how to console Sandhya.

“Sharu, I am getting my usual migraine, now. My God, will you please take a big stone and break my head into pieces?.”

Sandhya’s migraine would make her wreathe in pain for a whole day and utter crazy things like that. Sharada was sure that it was Sethu who caused it. Sharada made Sandhya take her usual medication along with strong sedatives and saw to it that she was tucked into her bed.

What happened to Sethu? Was he not a mature person , that too a writer? If Sethu did not want to marry Sandhya, there were a thousand ways of saying it without hurting her.

Sharada’s feelings for Sethu were swinging from one extreme to another every now and then. Sharada decided impulsively to confront Sethu for what he had done.

“Nagarajan, turn the car. We are going to Anna Nagar.”

The puzzled driver turned the Japanese marvel of a vehicle 180 degrees.

Sethu’s office was in Anna Nagar , one of the city’s most expensive locales.

“I would like to meet Mr.Sethu, Assistant Editor.”

Sharada was directed to the central security room near the main entrance.

The details collected by the security officer from Sharada were enough for issuing her a ration card .

Sharadha had visited offices of popular magazines when she was in college. She was used to seeing pure pandemonium being professionally practised over there. But this one was different. It was hard to believe that three hundred plus people were working there bringing out two weeklies, two fortnightlies and three bi-weeklies with almost mathematical regularity.

Sharada was ushered into a spacious reception hall.

Sethu came out in a few minutes. Sharada was quite surprised at her happiness on seeing him, though her mission now was to blast him.

Sethu already looked hurt and exhausted. There was no life in his forced smile.

“To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?”

Sharada was hurt by Sethu’s formal welcome.

“Mister Sethu, why are you so indecent, heartless and cruel? ARE YOU NOT ASHAMED OF YOURSELF? You are simply disgusting. I hate….”

Sethu cut her across with a pleading voice.

“Miss Sharada, can you please wait for a minute?”

Sethu went into his office and reappeared after ten minutes.

“WHAT THE HELL..”

Sethu signalled her to stop and spoke almost in a whisper.

“I thought you have come to discuss something. But now I learn that you have come to vent your feelings. You can do that also. But this is not the place. You have two choices. If you can control yourself and talk normally we can sit here and talk. But if you want to shout, we need to go to a nearby hotel. The ‘venting out’ can be done over a cup of coffee. I’ve got an hour’s permission from my boss. Have your pick.”

“We’ll go out.”

Sethu walked ahead of Sharada, opened the left front door of her car and sat in. Sharada was hurt that Sethu took the front seat. That showed that he was distancing himself.

‘Sethu, why didn’t you sit by my side in the back seat? Do you think I’ll object?’ When Sharada’s mind started a trip on its own, she checked herself. She also felt guilty. Was she cheating on Sandhya? Sethu directed the driver to a nearby restaurant. The driver looked back to get Sharada’s approval. Sharada scowled.

“Mister Sethu, what did you tell Sandhya yesterday? You gave her the shock of her life and an awful migraine as a bonus.”

Sethu waited for the bearer to go out of earshot before he could answer. Sharada took that as an admission of guilt and started abusing Sethu with even stronger words. Sethu took a large gulp of coffee and started to speak.

“Miss Sharada, I don’t think you will believe what I am going to say. But I swear on my mother , what I am going to say is true.”

Sharada was taken aback to see Sethu more hurt than defensive. She thought that Sethu might shout back at her or fiercely refuse the accusation. She never thought that Sethu would take such a serious pledge. Had she been too harsh on him?

Sharada looked up and saw Sethu. She had never seen a man who had tears welling up in his eyes while talking to her. One part of Sharada badly wanted to hug Sethu and kiss his tears clean. Her thought was so powerful that her tastebuds felt the saltishness of his tears.

“Even when Sandhya shouted at me I was not hurt. I know she is just a child. The only mistake I did was to have discussed this matter with her. I should have done that with you. But since she was the person involved I thought… well forget it. Let me repeat the conversation I had with Sandhya, verbatim. If you feel in the end that I deliberately hurt your sister, I will be happy to receive any punishment you choose to give me. Sharada, I’d rather kill myself than being mistaken by you. So please…. listen. ”

Sharada gaped. Sethu started the narration.

“Sandhya, this is Sethu. How are you now?”

“Oh, Mr. Sethu, are you happy now? How is it possible for you to do all the nasty things and still talk like an innocent child? I have a suggestion for you, Mr.Sethu. Quit writing and go for acting. You’ll probably get an Oscar .”

“I can understand your feelings Sandhya. But you cant hurl charges against me just like that.”

“You did that. I know.”

“Are you saying that I made my mother’s plate levitate, and caused the painting and the fish tank to fall?”

“Mr.Sethu, you may be a writer. But we are not fools. Things like that have never happened in our house before. I checked with my friend who watches your TV serials. She confirmed that there had been similar scenes in your serials. And that you are a master on the subject. Perhaps you wanted to demonstrate your skills. But what did we do to deserve this, Mr.Sethu?”

“I don’t think we should continue the discussion now. I’ll call you later.”

“Tell me just one thing:why did you jinx our house?”

“I am asking you the same question. If we get married your house will be my in-laws’ place. Why should I do that to you people?”

“I’ll tell you why. When the house is jinxed, nobody will marry me. Then you can pose yourself as a martyr and increase your dowry-demand many times. It’s a pretty old trick.”

“Disgusting, Miss Sandhya, the way your mind works is absolutely disgusting. Even when we started to talk about this alliance I made it very clear that I will not take a single Rupee as dowry; nor would there be any demands. And my parents stood by me.”

“Good drama, Mr.Sethu. See because you have staged that ‘No Dowry’ drama so effectively you now have a strong argument against my charge.”

“You are incorrigible Sandhya. I am now thinking whether I should marry a person like you at all…”

“I can’t bear to be with you even for a single evening. To stay with you for the rest of my life… oh.. forget it. I detest you.”

“Now listen Madam. I won’t marry you for the whole world. You know why? Another woman has now come into my life. So, good bye.”

“I swear Sharada this is the truth. I might not have been as soft as I wanted to be. But I was provoked and helpless. I don’t mind if Sandhya doesn’t believe me. But if you don’t believe me, if you think I am lying.. then…. there’s no point in my living…”

Sethu’s voice was choked. In a totally unexpected move he grabbed Sharada’s hands. Sharada was frozen in her place, this time not out of fear.

PS: Episode 4 will follow next week.







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Jaya

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PostSubject: Re: The Haunted House   Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:28 pm

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The Haunted House - 4




When Sethu held her hands firmly Sharada felt that the world had stopped its rotation and time had come to a perfect standstill. Even during her first love Sharada had not experienced such intense happiness while in the company of a man. At that time her happiness was centred in her body; now it was centred in the roots of her being.

In the mind of Sethu, the writer of ghost stories he was, there were a hundred love-poems taking shape with words hitherto unknown to him. Sethu and Sharada thought that they had locked up their hands for eternity, while only forty-five seconds had elapsed for the rest of the world.

Sethu was shocked to realise that he had exceeded the limits of decency by holding Sharada’s hands for so long, that too in a public place. He attempted to take off his hands in a hurry. But Sharada judged his intentions by the slightest movement in his hands and placed her hand firmly over them thus preventing him from withdrawing his hands. They were staring into each other and slipped into eternity for the second time within a minute’s interval.

After a while they returned to reality and untangled their arms. Each remained silent and waited for the other to talk. Then both of them attempted to say something at the same time and broke into uncontrollable laughter.

Sharada feigned an innocent expression as she queried Sethu:

“Mr.Sethu, you were telling Sandhya that there’s another woman in your life now. I can’t wait to know about that lucky bitch.”

“Please don’t play games with me, Miss Sharada. When I saw you for the first time in your house I had butterflies in my stomach. Then they flew up to my heart and have stayed there forever. I tried my best to control my mind. But I failed. But I have never tasted so sweet a failure.”

“Why do you call me Miss.Sharada every time? Do you want to stress the fact that I am older than you?”

“Not at all. From this moment onwards you are Sharada to me and I’m Sethu to you. OK?”

“Sethu, I have never been happier in my life. I failed in my love and so I thought I failed in my life too. Now even my love-failure tastes sweet for otherwise I would not have had a priceless diamond for my second love.”

Thereafter, like typical new lovers, they talked for an hour without saying anything significant.

Meanwhile the haunted house was limping back to normalcy. Ramalingam was worried about Sandhya’s migraine and went to her room to find out how she was faring. Seeing her talking enthusiastically to her friend on the phone, Ramalingam felt immensely relieved. Sandhya finished the call and greeted her father. Parvathi called them for the evening snacks. Ramalingam placed his hands affectionately on Sandhya as they walked down the steps with joy.

“Parvathi, we’ll all eat together. It would have been nice if Sharada is also here now.”

Parvathi let out a sigh.

“Let this happiness stay with us for ever. Now please look out for another groom for Sandhya. I am not comfortable with this spooky boy and his spooky writings. Let’s not have the girl seeing in this haunted house. We’ll have it in some other place.”

“The house is no longer haunted. It’s all gone. We have driven…”

Ramalingam stopped in mid-sentence and looked at Sandhya. There were no emotions in her face. For a while she sat like a beautifully carved stone statue.

“Sandhya, what happened to you? Why don’t you say something? SANDHYA.”

Still she did not move or speak. After what seemed an eternity she pointed out her hand towards something. There…

The water-jar was slowly levitating and was standing six-inches away from the table. Then it moved laterally away so that it was no longer above the table.

Ramalingam had a flash. He rushed to the puja room and came back with the talisman, which the Shivacharya had given for emergencies like these. He boldly walked towards the jar and touched it with the sanctified talisman. It appeared as though the jar was precisely waiting for that moment. It fell down right on Ramalingam’s foot hitting his small toe with all its force. He screamed in pain and in fear. Now Sandhya and Parvathi joined the scream and the resultant wail was dreadful. Unmindful of the blood trickling from his toe, Ramlingam attempted to run away from the scene. As a result he got even more hurt by the broken glass pieces. Small glass pieces glistening in red with drops of blood reflecting the slanting rays of the evening sun - the effect was so frightening that Sandhya felt like screaming again, but controlled herself.

Ramalingam fainted. Parvathi ran to fetch cold water, which Sandhya sprinkled, on her father’s face. Ramalingam revived. Sandhya ran to the phone to call their family doctor.

Even while in a state of shock Ramalingam told his wife and daughter that the unnatural happening should not be disclosed to the doctor.

The Doctor gave a shot of ATS and prescribed some antibiotics and painkillers. Finally Sandhya called Sharada on her mobile.

“What writer sir? Engrossed in something? I think you have got the plot for the next story? They say that if your friend is a writer you can’t have privacy.”

“What is this, Sharada? Do you think that I will be so mean to make money out of something that has hurt you? I won’t do that for my life.”

“Relax, Sethu. I was just kidding.” Sharada held Sethu’s hand again, the firmness in the grip showing the intensity of her love.

“Anyhow poltergeists are now a thing of the past. The priest who did elaborate pujas told that the evil spirits will not come near the house for another hundred years.”

Sethu smiled softly. Sharada’s hand phone rang. Sethu saw her face becoming pale as she was talking.

“Sandhya called. Looks like we have the same problem again. The water jug levitated from the dining table and fell on Dad’s foot. What can we do now, Sethu?”

“I don’t want to suggest any off-the-cuff solutions like I did earlier. Come let’s go. We’ll find out what happened.”

“No, Sethu. Let’s not reveal our love now. Sandhya hates you and if she sees you now, she might become hysterical. Where can we meet, tomorrow?”

“I’ll be home, tomorrow. Shall we meet at 10 at my home, if that suits you?”

“OK. Sethu dear, I need to run. Bye.”

Sethu had never suspected that love between a man and a woman would be so sweet. Sethu had never written a love story so far. Not even a short story, because he never thought much about love. A few times he was forced to insert intimate scenes in his TV serials or novels more to oblige the producer or the publisher than of his own conviction. Sethu had till now dismissed love as just the dance of the hormones. Now only he realised it was the heart, which was dancing, and the dance movements shook the entire being.

Now caught in the throes of love everything looked beautiful to him: the small boy who came to clean up the table, the dirty sponge in his hands, the soiled uniform of the bearer, the equally soiled cap which was holding on to his head defying all laws of gravitation and even the coffee stain on his table. When the bearer asked him “Anything else, Sir?”, Sethu recognised that as a reminder for him to clear the place.

“Where were you, Sethu? GS has started throwing up temper tantrums. The whole office is waiting for you. Do something to change his mood. Otherwise we can’t work. Remember we haven’t completed the forms for the week yet.”

Sethu heard his colleague Bala’s words and ran into GS’ room.

GS was the Executive Editor of the Media Group where Sethu worked. Notoriously short tempered, with the innocence of a child, the creativity of a genius and the maturity of a seasoned writer –the sixty-year old GS was Sethu’s mentor. In a way Sethu owed his fame and his writing career to this great man.

For all that he had done to Sethu he just wanted Sethu to be there whenever he called. And if Sethu did not, GS would lose his temper and shout at everyone who came in his stead. GS had lost his only son about ten years ago and whatever affection he had for him he transferred to Sethu. Sethu reciprocated the fatherly affection. Very few people understood the tender relationship though many were jealous of it.

Sethu saw GS slouched on his table. Sethu ran to his side and felt his forehead.

“Sir, are you all right? Headache? I’ve already ordered a strong filter coffee. Sankaran would come anytime with the coffee. Well, there he is. Sankaran, you’ll live a hundred years.”

GS lifted his head and saw Sethu through his bloodshot eyes.

“Where did you go, you idiot? Shouldn’t you have the courtesy to get my permission before you go out? “

“Sir, I got an hour’s permission from you. Didn’t I tell you a lady had come to meet me? So I had to take her out for a cup of coffee.”

Seeing Sethu and hearing him speak, GS regained his balance.

“You rascal, who’s that poor girl? Your face tells me that you are caught in her net. Oh, it’s that girl. The haunted house, where the plates flew and the picture fell. What’s her name…. Sathya or Sandhya… “

“Not that girl, Sir. Her elder sister. Sharada’s the name.”

“I smell some rotten fish, Sethu.”

Sethu explained as briefly as possible without hiding anything significant.

“Sethu, didn’t you ask for a specialist in poltergeists? I have found out the person for you. He’s my friend whose doctoral thesis was on poltergeists. His book, ‘The Power of Human Mind’ was on the New York Times’ best sellers list for weeks on end. Fifty-five years old. Bachelor.”

“Sir, are you referring to Dr.Suriamurthy? I’ve read his book – twice. A genius. He will simply pooh-pooh the problem. Thanks a ton, Sir. How am I going to repay for this?”

“By working sincerely for this organisation at least for another one hour today. Can we discuss the outline of the serial we are going to run from the New Year issue?”

It took Sharada an hour to wade through the peak hour traffic before she reached home. As she got down from the car she had a premonition of something terrible. The feeling was not a vague fear in her mind but a definite feeling in her guts.

Sharada ran into the house. Winter darkness had set in. Surprisingly none of the lights were on. Nor could she find her parents or Sandhya.

“Dad… Mom… SANDHYA….” The volume of her voice increased with each call. As she walked into the drawing room she stepped over something. She bent down to see what it was. She could not see anything in the dark. She fumbled for the light switch and when the light came on Sharada’s scream echoed through out the house, for she had tread on a human skull. What made the already scary symbol of death even more so was the smoke that was slowly coming out of the skull. Sharada screamed for the second time. She could hear Sandhya screaming in response.

P.S. Episode V will follow next week.






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Lekha

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PostSubject: Re: The Haunted House   Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:45 pm

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The Haunted House - 5




On hearing Sharada’s pathetic scream, Ramalingam ran out of the Puja room to see her. Sharada heaved a sigh of relief on seeing her father in a near-normal condition. Now she could infer that the smoking skull should have been a part of the puja arrangements made by her father. She got wild.

“Dad, what the hell is going on? No lights in the house. There is a smoking skull right in the middle of the hall. I could hear Sandhya screaming. What’s happening in this house?”

Sharada walked into the spacious puja room. Ramalingam ran behind her.

“Sharada,please don’t go any furhter. I shall explain everything.”

Sharada did not hear her father.

What she saw there sent chills through her spine.

There was an unusually short priest, very dark in colour, naked but for a small dirty cloth around his waist. His chanting was barely audible. And there was another one – very lean and very tall. The room was outlined on all the four sides by the skull and cross bones. Incense smoke was coming out from all the skulls.

The tall one was throwing something into the burning fire at periodic intervals. When Sharada saw the object thrown in she had to take herculean efforts to muffle another scream. The objects were freshly severed heads of sheep, dripping with blood.

“MY GOD…” Sharada ran out of the room.

Ramalingam followed her.

“You are impossible, Dad. Anyday I would prefer the poltergeists to this blood-dripping priests. The poltergeists at least did not make a bloody mess like this.”

“I’m sorry Sharada. These people are the best in Kerala. They can drive out any ghost within an hour. Please wait. It’s almost over.”

“Dad, these brutal methods would only complicate the problem. The neighbours would start smelling the fish. I am taking out Sandhya and mother for a ride and will be back in an hour. Please get rid of these idiots before that."

Sharada did not wait for her father’s response.

It was an unusually bright Sunday. The location: an aparment complex in Anna Nagar West. The future Sachins who adorned the mini quadrangle with their improvised cricket gear stopped for a moment to glance at the beautiful visitor. Even the retired men absorbed in the obituary column of The Hindu could not resist their temptation to steal a glance at the unusual visitor. The vegetable vendor and a few of his customers suspended their haggling for a while to stare at the visitor.

Clad in a bright white chudidhar and a multi-colour dupattah, Sharada was gracefully getting down from her beautiful white Honda City. All the people who saw her were wondering who was lucky enough to have such a beautiful guest.

Sethu was quite absorbed in what he was doing when the door-bell rang.

“It’s open. Come on in.”

“Good Morning, Sethu.”

“Oh, is that you Sharada? So early? I thought you would come at 10.”

“Shall I go out and come back at ten?”

“Sorry, dear. I was just kidding. Seeing you so early and so close, I honestly don’t know what to say or how to welcome.”

Sethu’s appearance defied all known laws of civilisation which dictated how a bachelor should look like on a Sunday morning. It was an unwritten rule that bachelors should be dressed in a dirty lungi and a soiled T-shirt or worse still bare-breasted on a holiday.

Sethu was clean-shaven and was dressed in an elegant white kurtha set. Obviously he had already taken his bath as could be seen from the smear of sandal paste on his forehead. Sharada had to take enormous efforts to move her eyes from that soft face.

“Why are you playing with sticks like a five year old?”

“These are yarrow sticks and I use them to practise I-Ching, the Chinese system of prediction. Unlike astrology and numerology which only tells what will happen to us, I-Ching tells us what we should do under the given circumstances. This is not a lazy man’s excuse but an active man’s aid. I use this when I am confused with major decisions in my life. You know something Sharada, I-Ching is frighteningly accurate.”

“Sethu, I am in no mood to appreciate Chinese astrolgy. But I am burning to to know what confusion now forced you to seek its aid?”

“Whatever confusions I had was cleared by a beautiful lady yesterday. I am just practising this art. In I-ching one has to constantly practise asking questions and study what is known as hexagrams. Give me a minute, Sharada. I’ll pack this up”

Sharada put in her best efforts to avoid blushing in Sethu’s presence. But Sethu’s referring to her as a ‘beautiful lady’ made her utterly helpless and blush like a school girl. Thank God, Sethu who was busy in packing up the I-ching set did not notice. Sharada was surveying the family pictures in the drawing room.

“Sethu, I know your parents here. But this elderly man, who is it? Your father’s brother?”

“He’s my boss, GS. G.Swaminathan, our Executive Editor. My parents gave birth to Sethu, the human being. GS gave birth to Sethu the writer. I have already discussed your problem with him. And he has promised to help.”

The moment Sharada heard her problem mentioned, her face fell. Sethu could feel her distress and immediately held her hand.

“I am always there for you, Sharada. We will join hands to blast those damned poltergeists, my dearest.”

“Thanks a ton, Sethu.” Sharada’s voice was visibly choked. Then she narrated what happened in the haunted house the previous day.
“Sharada, it’s high time you have some basic knowledge about the ghosts and spirits. Science is unhappy with these phenomena because it can’t categorically prove them or deny them. Whether there’s a ghost or not still remains a million dollar question."

“But I have found out that in many cases where evil spirits are suspected, there is only a powerful human mind which has been responsible for the evil.”

Sharada was lost in thought.

“Sethu, has something similar happened elsewhere? “

Sethu was lost in thought for a while. And when he remembered that his body shivered.

“It has, Sharada. I did my B.Com. in Madurai. I was staying with my friends in a house in TVS Nagar. A similar thing happened next door. Compared to what happened there, your problem is just a picnic. It was far more frightening. The lady of the house would wash all the clothes and hang them on a clothesline to dry. Then suddenly the clothes will be shredded into pieces with a frightening noise. The family would sit down to eat. But the moment the first person sets his hand on the food, it would change into filth. And Sharada, their screams, My God!, the entire street would be shaken by their wailing. Even now I can’t help that cold fear creeping in my body. But those eerie happenings could not be explained, scientifically or otherwise.”

“What did they do?”

“They first did the same thing your father did. They called a lot of priests from Kerala and did violent pujas. But nothing happened. That guy was the headmaster in a local school. A noted saint was camping in Madurai at that time. This man went and fell crying at the saint’s feet. The saint tested the devotion of that person and then gave an enchanted copper plate and told him to bury that in front of his house. The moment he did that the whole thing stopped.”

“ “

“Sharada, your problem is not as bad as that. In that case it later turned out that somebody had cast an evil spell on that man. The moment the copper plate was buried the evil spell sprung back on the person who did it. And it look a long time for that person to get rid of the evil which he himself created at the first place.”

Sharada was now clearly depressed. Sethu now held her hands and tightened his grip while continuing to talk.

“We need to act and act fast. And if you want my help I want your people to fully trust me. I am not perfect nor I am a genius. I can only assure you of my sincerity. I know I messed up the first time. Maybe I wanted to project myself as a hero which I am not and miserably failed. But if you don’t want me to interfere…”

Sharada did not let him finish. She closed his mouth with her hands. Sethu was jolted by the sudden surge of a strange pleasure inside him.

“Sethu you’re mine, I am yours and the problem is ours. They are not just my people, they’re our people and the house is as much yours as it is mine. I can’t bear your talking like that, Sethu dear.”

They held each other’s hand and were lost in a romantic silence.

“We have got the first break in this problem. Dr.Suryamurthy, an expert on poltergeists has promised help. Whatever he does not know about poltergeists will fit into the back of a postal stamp. He said he would stay in your house for a week. If the phenomenon happens even once during that week, he would find out the problem and solve it then and there. And he insists that all the members of your family including your drivers, domestic help and cooks should be present there in the house throughout his stay. He is also excited about this problem and he does not want any money for this assignment. But if he finds out the cause and eliminates it, you should give permission to him to write a paper on that happening. ”

“Thanks, Sethu. I’m OK with the expert. Let me have a word with my father and confirm the dates.”

“Why don’t we try a small investigation now? Tell me about the enemies of your family- your competitors in business, any one with whom you had a legal case, disgruntled employees, the cook whom you dismissed all of a sudden because you caught her stealing or the driver whom you fired because he was not honest – anyone who comes to your mind right now.”

“I can say a clear no straightaway, Sethu. My Dad had always had a soft approach to business. He never had any enemies in life. For the last three years we have not dismissed anybody either from our factory or from our home. There is no serious competition for us in our trade because we are nowhere near the top, though we make pretty good money. And our drivers, cooks and domestic help – they have been with us for the past 15 to 20 years.”

“Sharada, when I said ‘enemies’ you immediately think of the fights you had yesterday, last week and even last year. You or your father might have fought with somebody, might have driven out somebody, let’s say, some 15 to 20 years ago. You people might have forgotten that. But that person? No way. He might be waiting for a revenge. So think hard, Sharada.”

Sharada now remembered with a distinct shiver.

Sethu sat up with a jerk.

As Sharada started to speak Sethu could see the clouds of fear darkening her bright face.

“I was only fifteen when he came to my house. His face was almost submerged in his black-beard. But I can never forget the sharpness of his eyes. They were extraordinarily white. They were like powerful laser beams. I could not stand his eyes even for a second. My God! How come we all forgot him? He could be the culprit, Sethu.”

“Who was it, Sharada?”

Sharada was shaking in fear and for a minute could not bring herself to speak.

P.S: Episode 6 will follow next week.






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PostSubject: Re: The Haunted House   Fri Aug 23, 2013 10:45 pm

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The Haunted House - 6




Sethu saw large drops of sweat lining the beautiful face of Sharada. He pulled out his handkerchief and gently wiped them.

Comforted by Sethu’s show of affection Sharada started to speak.

“It was my uncle, my father’s second cousin. Father invited him into our house when his parents were killed in a gruesome road accident. My uncle was 25 when he came to stay with us. At first Sandhya and I used to scream everytime we saw him. He was living more or less like a sorcerer. He would be in his room in the first floor doing some strange pujas most of the day.

“I still vividly remember that dark winter night. We were sleeping Around midnight my uncle came into our bedroom and called my Dad in a hoarse voice. We all woke up with a start. He was naked but for a small towel which covered his waist. That and his dense black beard against the semi-darkness of our bedroom – My God! Sandhya screamed. He ignored that and told Dad in a stern voice.

“Ramanna, all of you should run out of the house. Fast. Very fast. Danger awaits those who stay back.”

Father wanted to know the reason. Uncle just kept his finger in his mouth. His gesture seemed to demand implicit obedience. We all ran out of the house like mad. As we were crossing the main door of the house we heard the sound of electric bulbs bursting into pieces. Shattered glass rained on the floor. But none of us were hurt.

There was an explanation available next morning. There was a sudden spike - a surge in the voltage- in our house alone, which caused the bulbs to explode. But how did Uncle know before it happened? It was a mystery.

Uncle knew hypnotism. Once he had been to the nearby temple and when he came back, a lady came along with him. He did not talk to the lady or even see her. But the lady was continuously looking at him with loving eyes. We sent in for her husband. He was also helpless. The woman adamantly refused to go and told us that she was going to serve my Uncle for the rest of her life. It took my father about an hour of pleading to convince my Uncle to release the poor lady from his spell. Uncle finally relented. He murmurred something and threw some ash over the woman. The dazed woman went home without a word. After this incident my mother became worried about Uncle and she confided her fears in me.

My mother and I decided to get rid of the Uncle at any cost. We pleaded, begged with Father to drive out the spooky Uncle. But Father was adamant. He told us that when he was very young he lost his parents and Uncle’s father and mother took good care of him. He was now repaying their kindness. And my father declared that Uncle was going to stay in our house for life.

However Uncle remained in our house only for three years. I can never forget the day Uncle left us. There were heavy rains on that day. Water was there everywhere. I had been to my friend’s place and returned late. So I did not know what happened in the house in my absence. I was just watching the rain from the upstairs window. I could hear my Father shouting.

“Rascal! Ungrateful dog! Shameless animal! Get out of my house. You cheat, depraved criminal, you have betrayed me, you have cheated me, you have stabbed me. Get out, RIGHT NOW. You will always be cursed and you will never amount to anything in life.”

I had never heard my father using such harsh words. I ran downstairs. Sethu, that scene is still acid-etched in my memory. Uncle was standing out in the rain. Father was inside the house and shouting. There was an unusual calmness about Uncle which only served to increase our fears. After letting my father shout for a while, Uncle spoke softly:

“Ramanna, you have every right to drive me out of your house. What I have done to you can’t be forgiven. I concede. I am not asking for pardon, Ramanna. Just let me stay for the night. I will make myself scarce early in the morning. By the time you get up I will not be there.”

There was an unusual horror in those calm words.Uncle no longer looked like a man to me. I thought it was some evil spirit which had taken a human form just for the time being. Still, my mother and I understood the logic of his argument. After all he was ready to go. He had been in our house for three years. What difference would it make if he stayed for a day more? My mother interceded on Uncle’s behalf.

“I can see his side. Let him stay for the night. What is the big deal?”

But Father was unusually angry and almost pounced upon my mother.

“Shut up. Don’t ever try to interfere in this matter.”

“Ramanna, please. Even Anni (elder brother’s wife, in Tamil) has agreed. Just for the night, Ramanna. This rain, this lightening and this thunder – they are my worst enemies. And if I go out now I will be destroyed. I will die, Ramanna. Please have mercy on your brother, if not for me, at least for my parents who struggled hard to bring you up in life.”

“ Do not call yourself my brother , you’re my worst enemy. I’ll throw a feast if you are killed by this lightning.”

Uncle’s face become hard and his voice a little agitated.

“If I go out, then you’ll have to suffer.”

“Are you threatening me? I have never wronged another human being in my whole life. So God will always be on my side and not yours. Do whatever you can. But don’t stand here.”

Uncle returned to his soft voice again.

“Ramanna. I admit I made a mistake, a grave mistake. You have punished me. I have accepted the punishment. I want just a few hours time before the punishment begins. That’s all. Even prisoners condemned to hang have their last wish fufilled. Am I worse than that?”

“Yes, you are. Even if you are hanged ten times it won’t be an adequate punishment for what you have done. YOU’RE NOTHING BUT FILTH. GET LOST”

Uncle became emotional on seeing my Father’s outburst. His ever-white eyes became bloodshot. He trained the laser-beam of his eyes on my Father.

A black cat ran between Father and Uncle. Uncle shifted his stare to the cat. The next second the cat slouched on the ground and died instantaneously. Uncle placed a foot on the dead cat and shouted at my Father.

“Ramalingam, I can make every one in your family share the fate of this unlucky cat. But I won’t do that. You know why? Then you will all die without any suffering. I’ll make you suffer, I’ll make your life hell. I’ll keep this house haunted forever. I’ll not rest till your family is completely destroyed.”

Now Father was shaking in fear. But he was a very proud man. He did not allow Uncle inside the house. He left Uncle outside the house and bolted from within. We never saw the Uncle again.

We moved on to a rented house the very next week. Father sold the house. Finally we built our present house and moved in.

Father consulted a renowned priest from Kerala about Uncle’s whereabouts. After being lost in meditation for about half an hour, the priest said that the Uncle died the very night he left our place. He told us that a lightning struck him within minutes after he left the house and his body was charred beyond recognition. Apart from whatever evil he had already done to us while living with us, he had not done anything else.

We felt relieved, no doubt. But the fear is still there in all of us. Uncle is a taboo-subject inside the house.

Sharada let out a long sigh as she finished the dreadful narration.

“Sharada, when your Uncle was with you people, were there any instances of things moving on their own?”

“No. Sethu. But I remember our maid telling us about an instance long after our Uncle left us. One day she had entered his room at an unusual time to clean it. She saw Uncle making a plate levitate in the air. The maid screamed. Uncle heard the scream and immediately brought the plate down. He also warned the maid that if she tells about it to anybody else he would make her vomit blood. “

Both were lost in thought for a while. Sharada wanted to ligthen the mood. She switched the subject.

“Sethu, have you spoken about us to your parents?”

“Not yet, Sharada. They are not in town. I don’t want to tell them over phone. They are coming here next week. I don’t think there would be any problem from them. “

“Sethu, I have told my father. He was very excited. He had resigned himself to my being a spinster. Now that I am in love, he was jumping in joy and for a moment even forgot the poltergeists problem. He even joked about us. He said that it’s usual for boys who come to see the girl to prefer the girl’s younger sister. But this unusual boy has preferred the elder one. I have never seen my father so happy, Sethu dear.”

“Does he know that I am younger to you?”

“He does. He said that there was a practice in his native village. When the boy is younger they’d make the girl swallow a copper coin. Then the girl is said to be born again. All road blocks cleared.

“Tell him not to open the formal talks on marriage until the problem is solved.”

“OK”

“Sharada, did you tell about Dr.Suriamurthy to your Dad?”

“Oh, yes. Father is excited about the expert. Dr.Suryamurthi is welcome to stay in our house as long as he wants. When he comes to our place, will you come along?

“I love to but Sandhya……”

“That’s okay. Dad talked to Sandhya and convinced her that you are good. But don’t expect a red carpet. Nor would there by any brickbats.”

Sethu hesitated.

Sharada held his hands..

“Please come, Sethu. During the expert’s stay I can’t go out, right? So if you don’t come, how can we meet? You have to come, Sethu.”

Sethu smiled in agreement. Sharada kissed on his forehead. Sethu lost his balance and was about to fall. Sharada held him close to her.

After a while Sharada took leave of Sethu. As she was crossing the door Sethu called her back.

“One final question, Sharada. When you and your mother wanted your Uncle out of your house your father adamantly refused. What provoked your father to drive out your Uncle on a rainy night all of a sudden? Something terrible should have happened in between. What’s more important is your Uncle’s confession that he had actually wronged your father. There’s something fishy in that, Sharada.”

Yes, there was. But not just fishy, but something terrifying, hideous and scary that no one could have even hazarded a guess. That terrifying secret was known only to Ramalingam and two other persons in the world.

P.S.: Episode 7 will follow next week.







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PostSubject: Re: The Haunted House   Sat Aug 31, 2013 8:32 pm

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The Haunted House - 7




“Welcome, Mr.Sethu. Welcome, Sir. Most Welcome.”

There was a glaring affection in Ramalingam’s voice when he welcomed Sethu. Sethu was moved. But now he was worried about Sandhya’s reception.

“Sir, this is Doctor Suryamurthy. A world authority on poltergeists. Professor, Department of Parapsychology, Chicago University.His books are the prescribed texts for post-graduate courses in many American Universities.”

“Welcome Professor. You have done me a great honour by agreeing to stay with us for a week. Parvathi… Parvathi… can you bring us tea and snacks, please?”

Suryamurthi smiled and shook hands with Ramalingam. He was in his early fifties but looked much younger. He was dressed in a faded jean and a full-sleeve black T-shirt. He had slightly greying hair. His sharp, roving eyes betrayed a phenomenol IQ; but their vulnerability showed that he was a very kind and a soft person.

Sethu’s eyes were wandering.

Ramalingam spoke with a roguish smile.

“Sharada will be here any time. There were some problems in the factory which she had to attend to.She has already left the factory. “

Sethu felt ashamed because he was so blatantly looking for his lover.

Suryamurthy now spoke in a clear, soft voice.

“Mister Ramalingam, first I would like to meet everyone in this house.”

Before Ramalingam could answer Parvathi walked into the room with arms loaded with snack-plates.

“This is my wife, Parvathi. You see, I am a slave to her cooking skills. The problem is that once you are used to her food you can’t eat elsewhere. Sandhya, Sandhya…..”

“This is my second daughter Sandhya. Sandhya, this is Dr.Suryamurthi. He’s going to help us fix this problem. And you know Sethu, right?”

Sandhya folded her hands towards the Professor. She also did so for Sethu. Sethu could see a strain of unpleasantness in her greeting him. Sethu’s reciprocation was also equally listless.

Ramalingam then paraded the maids, drivers,gardeners and cook before Suryamurthy.

As Suryamurthy was about to taste the snacks Ramalingam raised the million dollar question.

“Sethu tells me you are the last word in this field. What do you think about the bizarre happenings in this house – plates levitating, pictures and fishtanks falling down? Who would have done it?”

The American scientist talked in a typical professorial fashion:

“My specialisation is called para-psychology, which is half science and half-art, mostly folklore and hearsay. But in importance, I would say it is no less than that of its parent-department, Psychology.

There are many things which science can neither prove nor disprove.

The western scientists are born with straight jackets. What they can’t explain with the help of the available theories, they simply bury under the carpet.

Mr.Ramalingam, don’t think that you are the first person in the whole world to suffer from poltergeists. There have been worse cases, more gruesome scenes and more chilling effects. Take for instance what happened to one William Winston in Atlanta in the US 1987. One fine morning – I’m sorry, that should have been the most horrible morning in his life – the floors of his house were covered with blood. Dark red, blood, which had just begun to clot. It looked as if somebody had dumped bucketfuls of blood into Winston’s house. First Winston and his wife thought that their own blood had gone out of their bodies. They summoned an ambulance. The doctor found out that the blood in the floor was not their and it was of a different Group. Reams and reams of paper have been written on that incident. But no wholesome, intelligent explanation has been offered so far. Parapsychology is full of such unexplained phenomena. That makes it thrilling, and from the victim’s angle as in your case, scary too.

But after spending donkey’s years on research in this field I can assure you one thing all these things are the manifestations of the power of a human mind. I am not saying that the human mind is benign or malevolent. I only say that the human mind is capable of doing all these things and much more.”

Ramalingam was now shaken. His voice had gone down and he asked meekly:

“What’s your opinion of the happenings in this house?”

“Poltergeists is a convenient label we can use till we find the person, whose powerful mind created this problem. Once we find the culpirit then just any clinical psychiatrist can solve the problem.”

Sethu had switched on his packet recorder and was taping every word Suryamurthy uttered. Parvathi and Sandhya were looking at Suryamurthi with fear-filled eyes.

Ramalingam started to speak but stopped in mid-sentence seeing the facial expressions of his wife and daughter.

“I am going to show the professor around the house. Sethu, you may also come along, please.”

Sethu inferred that Ramalingam wanted to ask something which his family should not know. That was why he was using this house-tour as a ploy. Coffee was served. Everyone was silent till they finished their coffee.

Ramalingam asked the one question which has been in his mind for several years, the moment they were out of the earshot of Parvathi and Sandhya.

“Professor, you said that even poltergeists could be the handiwork of a powerful human mind. That means only a live mind in a live body can do that, OK? Or can a dead man’s mind, long after his death, can still create havoc?”

Sethu now knew that Ramalingam was asking about his cousin whom he drove out on a fateful rainy night several years ago.

Seeing Ramalingam’s agony Sethu just wanted to hug his future father-in-law and say “Dead men and dead minds can do nothing. Don’t worry.”

The Professor not knowing the context of the question started another scientific explanation which only served to frighten Ramalingam more.

“Another phenomenon which we can’t understand is death. What happens when we die? Are we here, there or somewhere in between?

Science has a reverential silence for all questions concerning death. All great philosophical works have death as the starting point. Our great Kathopanishad starts with an inquiry into death. The Tibetan Book Of The Dead is their bible. I can only say this: For a man with normal mental abilities, his mind also dies with him. But for those who have abnormal abilities, or for those who die with strong desires, unrevenged anger or a powerful craving, their minds exist in some form to get fulfilment. This again is only a hypothesis but as of now, the best available one.”

The Professor was talking with the enthusiasm of a researcher. But to Ramalingam and Sethu who could immediately apply the hypothesis to the long dead evil man…. the shivering was quite obvious.

“Are you guys all right?”

Before they could answer Sharada’s car entered the driveway.

“I’m sorry, Sethu. I got stuck up in a meeting.”

“It’s all right, Sharada. This is Dr.Suryamurthi. And Professor this is Miss Sharada, Ramalingam’s eldest daughter. She runs their family business.”

Sharada also joined them in the guided tour of the house. The Professor was very thorough. He did not leave even a square foot of the house uncovered or unaccounted. He made them open up a discarded loft. He even went into the toilets in the servant’s quarters.

After about an hour they all returned to the drawing room.

“Professor, I have allotted a spacious bedroom upstairs for your stay. If you prefer a ground floor room also, no problem. I’ll have it arranged.”

“It’s okay. I’ll stay upstairs.”

“Professor, please forgive me if I am too inquisitive. You are confident you can find out the reason within a week’s time, right?”

Suryamurthy had a hearty laugh.

“As a scientist I can’t give any guarantees. I have started liking you and you are my friend. As a friend I can guarantee my earnestness. And if there is at least an single occurrence during this one week, we can find out. I can’t extend my stay beyond one week. I’ll have to just see it happening. Then I can find out the origin – presto – problem solved.”


Now Ramalingam had a pointed question for him.

“All these happenings – the picture falling down or the fish tank falling – don’t go on happening for hours. They’re all over within seconds. Suppose if it happens if you are sleeping in your room or busy over something..then…”

“Good question, Mr.Ramalingam. Now that’s why I have brought this.”

Suryamurthy went to his nearest bag and pulled out a large parcel.

“Remote calling bell system. “

He took about a dozen calling devices and spread them over the teapoy.

“From now on every room of this house will have a calling device. The moment any of you see anything abnormal all you have to do is press the device in that room. I will have this alarm in my packet always. The alarm will go off telling me which room it happened. I’ll rush to the room. I need to see all the persons in this house at that time. I can also find out if any external power is involved. That’s mostly my intuitive work.

In the next half an hour the system was installed in the house. Sethu helped him in the process.

The Professor was methodical to the core. He gave each room a number as well as a small descriptive name. For instance 1 – Draw 2 – Master Bed 3- Kitchen 4- Daughters 5 – Maid 6 – Cook etc. He pulled out special marker pens and wrote these details in his alarm panel.

There was also a live demonstration. Just to ensure that the system worked well for each room, he made Sethu press the bell in every room. My God! The alarm panel produced a different sound for every room. Hearing all the varied sounds in one go by itself had a chilling effect on the mind.

Ramalingam sincerely prayed that poltergeists should do something during this week. Otherwise……….

Sethu was carrying the Professor’s baggage and books to his upstairs room. He was astonished to know about the kind of knowledge that was available in that frightening field. Sethu thought he had a long way to go, as far as his knowledge in these things were concerned.

Sethu saw to it that the Professor was comfortable and then came down to take leave of Ramalingam and Sharada. The moment Sethu took leave of Ramalingam he made himself scarce leaving Sethu and Sharada for a precious minute of togetherness.

Sharada had been waiting by the stairs to see Sethu. Sethu just held her hands for a while and took leave of her without saying anything.

As he was about to cross the main door, Suryamurthy’s baritone voice echoed in the drawing room.

“Mr.Sethu can you come up, just for a minute?”

Sethu ran up.

It took Sethu nearly forty five minutes to come down. Sharada was waiting for him near the stairs with a lot of concern. To lighten the mood, Sharada gently teased Sethu.

“Oh, you two talked shop for a while. That’s why you forgot me. Typical of men.”

But the moment Sharada saw Sethu’s face she was shocked. All colour had drained down from Sethu’s face. Even his usual smile had vanished without a trace.

“Sethu, Sethu dear, what happened? What did he tell?”

“No Sharada. Nothing. Like you said, we talked shop.”

Sharada found out Sethu was lying. Seeing the expression in Sethu’s face Sharada thought that he should have seen some ghosts in person, in close quarters. Otherwise there was no reason for so much fear and confusion in that otherwise clear face.

Sethu was in hell. Never in life he had suffered so much of a mental torture. Sharada held his hands tightly and it appeared that she would never let him go.

But Sethu tore himself from Sharada and in no time he was gone.



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PostSubject: Re: The Haunted House   Sat Sep 07, 2013 8:27 pm

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The Haunted House - 8





It had been four days since Professor Suryamurthy arrived at the haunted house. Ramalingam was fervently praying for some poltergeist-action so that the Professor could find out and eliminate the cause. But nothing happened. Everything was absolutely normal and things were happening with a clock-work precision.

The Professor in spite of being a world-authority in his field was a good conversationalist and an unassuming person. Sethu visited the house every evening. The foursome – Ramalingam, Sharada, Professor and Sethu – would spend hours discussing unnatural phenomenon. Then Sethu would dine with them and go home late in the night.

Ramalingam showered his affection on Sethu. Even Parvathi started liking the shy, soft young man. But Sandhya hated him and made her hatred quite obvious. Sethu was hurt and told Sharada, if Sandhya did not like him, he would rather not come there.

“Sethu, I am completely confused with the mounting tension at the factory and the problems at home. The only high point in my life is the few hours I spend in your company. And if I am denied that also, I’ll become mad.”

Sharada said half in jest. But Sethu was shocked to hear those words. He suddenly closed Sharada’s mouth with his hands.

“Don’t ever talk like that, my dearest. I would never have the heart to hear those words.”

Sharada was puzzled. What was wrong in what she said? It was a usual idiom used by the native speakers. Sharada started to suspect something.

It was the fifth day. Ramalingam wanted to know whether the Professor was a real one or just a charlatan. He wanted to test the Professor’s skills.

“What Professor Sir, you have all along been talking about the power of the mind. Is it real or just your fancy theory?”

Sethu was shocked by this rudeness. Even Sharada looked embarrased. But the Professor took the remarks in his stride.

“I’ll take the challenge. If you allow me to use your daughter for my experiment I’ll show you what a powerful mind can do.”

Sethu hastened to add, “Professor Sir, you can do any experiment on me. Please leave Sharada alone.”

Sharada was touched by this show of concern. The Professor had a hearty laugh.

“Sethu, are you afraid? After all I am not going to cut Sharada’s body into half. I’m just going to hypnotise her.”

Sharada was game.

“Professor, You can use me for your experiment.”

Suryamurthy looked at Ramalingam who signalled him to go ahead.

“Sharada, lie down on this sofa. Relax your body. Close your eyes. Slow down your breathing..”

Sethu and Ramalingam were watching Sharada with anxiety. The Professor had now lowered his voice to a whisper and was saying something to Sharada. Silence engulfed them from all sides.

The Professor took the newspaper lying on the teapoy and made into a roll. Then brandishing it at Sharada he started to speak softly:

“Sharada, can you see what I have in my hand?”

“No. I can’t.”

“It is a very sharp needle. The needle point is extraordinarily sharp – about ten times as sharp as that of an average needle. Anyone who touches it is sure to bleed.”

Sharada spoke in a voice full of fear.

“Please don’t bring that near me. You know I am afraid of blood. Please, Professor.”

‘I’m sorry, Sharada. I’ll have to refuse your request. I am going to touch you with the sharp point in the needle. I want to see your blood, dear.”

“My God! Please, professor, leave me alone. It’ll hurt. Please.”

“Just one time. I’ll touch you very softly with this needle. The moment I see a spot of blood in your fingers I’ll take this needle back and will never hurt you again.”

“No, Sir. Please. Please don’t.”

“I am going to touch you now. It’ll be over in a second. Don’t fear.”

“Don’t. PLEASE DON’T TOUCH ME.”

“I have just touched you with the needle. It’s all over. “

Ramalingam and Sethu remained frozen in their seats.

As the Professor touched Sharada’s index finger with the blunt edge of the rolled-up newspaper, a drop of blood appeared on that spot.

“It’s over Sharada. Now please wake up. Open your eyes. Relax your body and then slowly sit up.”

Sharada woke up as if from a long sleep. The Professor continued his lecture.

“Did you see Mr.Ramalingam, the power of my mind? What I had in my hand was an ordinary paper. But I made Sharada’s hypnotised mind believe that it was a sharp needle. I also instilled a strong sense of fear in her mind. Then I went on to exaggerate that fear. Her mind made her fears come true.

“Yes, I did create an illusion. But this drop of blood in your daughter’s hand is not an illusion. It’s real. A mind conditioned by fear can make things happen and can create circumstances for venting out that fear. Do you understand now?

“Whatever we believe in the depths of our minds is the only truth. The external world is only an illusion which serves to support that truth. And once you understand this, you won’t be scared by things falling down or plates levitating up.”

Ramalingam was now in a state of deep shock trying to absorb the words of the Professor. Sethu was staring at the single drop of dark red blood in Sharada’s finger.

When Parvathi called them all for dinner Sethu heaved a sigh of relief and started to go. But the Professor placed his hands firmly on Sethu’s shoulders as if to tell him not to go. Sharada had never seen the Professor so serious.

Sharada remembered the first private conversation the Professor had had with Sethu on the first day of his visit.

Sharada had asked Sethu about that at least a hundred times. But Sethu was vague and fidgety whenever this topic came for discussion. When Sharada insisted to know Sethu spoke with tearful eyes:

“Sharada, I’m not just your friend, but your lover, a part of you. Please believe me. Whatever the Professor says I can’t agree. Nor can I ignore his words completely. I am very seriously working on what he has said. It’s not good for you to know those things now.”

Sharada had been consoled by those strong words. But now the Professor was talking to Sethu again.

Soon the Professor and Sethu joined them for the dinner. Almost every one’s mind was heavy with his or her own grief

Ramalingam had not come out of the shock of the experiment. The Professor had told that some people can exercise their mind-power long after their death. This meant that his cousin could still wreak havoc in that house. Should he tell the Professor about his cousin? He could say all the details about his cousin except… except… except…… He would not say that even if his life were at stake. Ramalingam had an uneasy feeling in his abdomen and had to suspend eating for a while.

Meanwhile ,Sharada was worried about the private talks the Professor had been having with Sethu. The matter appeared to be serious as Sethu had a look of utter despair after such talks. Would her second love also fail like her first one? Instinctively she saw Sethu. There was so much of compassion in Sethu’s face. She could sense that he was in great distress. But he was not furious or agitated. He was simply overflowing with love. It was quite rare to see so much of motherly feelings in a man’s face. Her lips muttered a prayer: ‘Oh, God after giving such a kind man to me, please don’t take him away. I am ready to give whatever I have just to have Sethu by my side for ever.’

And for Sethu, the Professor’s words were enough to disturb him for the rest of his life. The Professor could be wrong, Sethu thought. But…… Suryamurthy had a very sharp intellect. He was highly focussed and was very alert throughout the day. He had an eye for detail and even a small matter like a calendar being shifted from one end of the wall to the other did not escape his attention. In parapsychology he was undoubtedly an authority. Sethu had a detailed discussion about the serial he was going to write. The Professor’s insights were amazing. Sethu was sure that he was going to produce his best piece of work. But he was in no mood to bask in that glory as his insides were being eaten away by a much more serious matter. Sethu could not bring himself to do justice to the food in his plate. And added to that he felt the icy stare of Sandhya on him. He looked at her.

Sandhya hated Sethu with all her heart. She did not mind the Professor but she could not tolerate Sethu coming in every day and joining them at the dinner table. She suspected that Sharada should have fallen in love with Sethu.

Of course she had clearly rejected Sethu. But she could not see Sethu as her brother- in-law. What happened to Sharada? If at all she wanted to marry, Father could have brought the best boys in the town to stand in queue for her. Then why should she choose this spooky, middle-class writer? Should not her mother talk sense to Sharada? Sandhya looked askance at her mother.

Parvathi’s worries centred on the haunted house. The Professor was going to be there only for two more days. If nothing happens then the problem would remain unsolved. Sandhya’s marriage would be delayed and who knows, she may also become a spinster like Sharada.

The only person who did not have a worry in the world in that dining table was the Professor. He was devouring the food with a childish relish.

“It’s aeons since I ate this Tanjore type of Vatha Kuzhambu. But Mrs. Ramalingam, you have spoiled me.”

Parvathi wore a puzzled look.

“If you are going to feed me with the authentic South Indian food three times a day, then would I not be spoilt? I used to food-shop for a whole week and live out of my refrigerator. I had trained my pallete for bland lifeless food for the past ten years. And you have turned my tastebuds on within five days.

“Let’s worry about that later. Now move that Avakkai pickles to my side. Vathakuzhambu rice and Avakkai – they are made for each other combination.”

Parvathi served a generous helping of Avakkai pickles to the Professor. He took a handful of rice and added pickles and was about to eat when suddenly the alarm rang.

The sound of the alarm resembled a long wail of a frightened woman. The rice fell from his hands.

The Professor stood up and took out the alarm from his shirt packet. He immediately checked the source of the alarm and shouted at Sethu.

“It’s happening at the servants’ quarters. Mr.Ramalingam, follow me. Let the ladies stay back. Sethu, run to my room and get the yellow fog light. It’s in the black box on the left hand corner. We might need it. Come let’s go.”

Sethu ran to the Professor’s room while the Professor and Ramalingam rushed to the Servants’ quarters near the back yard garden.





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PostSubject: Re: The Haunted House   Sat Sep 14, 2013 8:14 pm

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The Haunted House - 9




Suryamurthy and Ramalingam ran fast to the servant quarters which was in the back yard of the haunted house. Sethu located the yellow fog light in the Professor’s room and ran as fast as his legs could carry him to the back yard. Sharada was frozen in her place. Sandhya was holding Sharada’s hands as if expressing her support and solidarity with her sister. Parvathi rushed to the Puja room, her mouth uttering the usual prayers.

As soon as they reached the small outhouse which served as the servant quarters, Ramalingam banged the bolted door with all his might. It took few minutes for the maid to open the door. The regular maid Lakshmi had gone on leave to look after her invalid son. This maid was a substitute brought in by Lakshmi. Her name was Kamala. She was in a daze. Her dishevelled hair, the large round kumkum that adorned her forehead and her distant stare – all in the background of the utter darkness of the garden sent shivers up the spine of Ramalingam.

“What happened ? Why did you press the bell? Did any plates fly or anything moved? What happened?”

Kamala just had a cold stare as a reply to the Professor’s questions. Meanwhile Sethu had reached the spot with the fog light. The Professor grabbed the powerful yellow light from him and targetted the beam around the small outhouse. There was no furnishing. A mud pot in the eastern corner covered by an aluminium plate and an aluminium tumbler on the top of it – that was the total furniture in that room. There was no trace of anything having moved at all. There was a clothesline which went across the room and there was an old saree on it. It appeared as if the saree had been in the same position for a long time and that it had not been disturbed at all.

“I can’t understand a word of what you say. I was not well and so I went to bed early. I was woken up from a deep sleep by the banging noise in the door. I opened and was shocked to see you all. I don’t know what happened.”

The Professor retrieved the remote calling system from his jacket and checked it again. The red light above the panel “8 – Ser Qrs” was still on. The system was designed in such a way that unless the Professor manually put off the light it would always be on. Once activated it cannot be deactivated without Professor’s intervention.

The Professor exchanged a meaningful glance with Sethu. Ramalingam saw them both with a look of horror. Sethu spoke with firmness.

“Well, Professor, it’s clear that she had not pressed the bell. Come let’s go. Kamala, sorry to have troubled you.”

When they came out Ramalingam asked almost in a whisper:

“Professor, if she had not pressed the bell, how could the alarm ring? Then…. then…. even this act …. Is it possible that the poltergeists did it?”

“Can’t rule out that possibility. It’s possible that the evil force has got into someone living in the house. And it’s using the brain of that person to fool us. This calling bell system is known but to a few people – you, your wife, your daughters, your maid, your cook and your driver. Of course apart from Sethu and me. “

Having said that the Professor cast a sideward glance at Sethu. Sethu who got the meaning loud and clear could not stand the Professor’s glance and looked away. His heart was now bleeding for Sharada.

When he talked it looked as if he was in a state of trance.

“Professor, is it possible that some rat would have activated the alarm while running over it.”

“Not at all, Sethu. You remember the structure of the system? The button to be pressed is almost on level with the rest of the board. If a rat were to activate the alarm then it has to identify the exact spot and press his nose pointedly on the spot. Almost impossible, unless some evil spirits had entered into the rat’s body and direct it to act in that particular fashion. “

Though Professor said that as a matter of joke, it frightened Ramalingam and even Sethu. They were in the garden discussing the various alternatives. They had been there for about twenty minutes. The Professor shouted at the top of his voice all of a sudden.

“MY GOD! HOW DID I MISS? I’M A FOOL. Sethu, this is a false alarm, a decoy to remove from us the right spot. I think some action should be taking place inside the house. Come, let’s run.”

All the three ran to the house. The silence in the haunted house was deafening. There was no sign of human habitation there. They ran to the dining room. Ramalingam screamed at the top of his voice.

Parvathi, Sharada and Sandhya were lying unconscious on the floor of the dining room. It appeared as if all the plates in the table had levitated upwards and had fallen down scattering the food all over the dining room. Rice particles, vegetables and lentils were spread throughout the room. The resultant mess added special effects to the already ghastly scene.

Sethu suddenly became very cool and firm. He took a jug of cool water and sprinkled it generously on all the three women. Within minutes they regained consciousness. And it took another ten minutes before they could bring themselves to tell about the incident. Sandhya was the first to speak.

“All the plates levitated upwards. We shrieked. We saw the plates floating in air. We were frightened. We didn’t know what happened afterwards.”

Sharada and Parvathi confirmed what Sandhya said.

The Professor was excited.

“When did it happen? You could have pressed the alarm bell. We could have come here earlier. And had I seen the action, I could have solved the problem.”

Sharada spoke softly.

“It happened soon after you people left. We three were on this side of the table. The plates were floating in the air. The bell is in the other side of the room. We did not have the mind to cross the room and ring the bell. We were afraid that the floating plates might hit us.”

“Sharada, you could have run out to the other room and used that bell.”

“Honestly, Professor, it didn’t strike me. We were in a state of shock. And within minutes we lost our consciousness and did not know what happened. In fact we didn’t see the plates falling down.”

The Professor took charge of the situation.

“Sethu, please come upstairs. You’ll have to stay with me for the night. We have a lot to do. ”

Sharada looked at Sethu. His face was pale and it looked as if there was no energy left in his body. As if walking in sleep he followed the Professor to his room.

Sethu looked exhausted when he came downstairs next morning for coffee. He had finished his bath and was in a hurry to go. Soon the Professor joined him and the two called the maid for a detailed interrogation. The interrogation lasted for an hour. Sethu and the Professor could succeed in making the maid cry but they could not get any useful information from her. The Professor rejected Sethu’s suggestion to hypnotise the maid to get the truth from her.

Sethu joined the family for breakfast.

After a while he took leave of Ramalingam and Sharada. He told them that the Professor had given him some urgent work and that he would not come for the next two days. He would be there to see off the Professor. Sharada wanted to talk to him and requested him to stay back for a while. But Sethu told her that he did not have the time and left the house in no time.

Sharada tried to reach him in his office. But she was told that he was on leave. Sharada was perplexed.

The last two days of the Professor’s stay were eventless. The Professor spent most of the time in his room, reading his books and working on his laptop. He came down only for food. He also checked whether his calling bell system still worked. He told everybody to watch out as there was still a half-chance that the Poltergeists may strike again. But nothing happened.

The Professor was to leave for the US that night. His flight was at 2 AM the next morning and he wanted to leave the house by ten in the night. It was 7PM. The Professor had finished his packing. Sethu had just come.

Sharada was happy to see Sethu again. But she felt heavy seeing his grief-stricken face. There was no life in his smile and even when Sharada tried to tease Sethu his response was listless.

The Professor called Sethu upstairs and they were engrossed in discussion till 8 when they were called for dinner.

They all assembled at the family dining table for one final time.

Parvathi had prepared a feast in honour of the Professor. Every one was talking animatedly but inwardly each one was suffering. Ramalingam and Parvathi were thinking about the problems of the haunted house. Sandhya’s mind was filled half with fear for what might happen in the house and half with hatred towards Sethu, whom, she thought was the brain behind everything. She decided to tell her father about the relationship between Sharada and Sethu and put an end to it.

Meanwhile Sethu’s mind was engrossed in what the Professor had told him that evening. He looked at Sharada. It was not a lover’s look but the affectionate look that a loving parent would have for a sick child.

Sharada was completely clueless about what’s happening inside Sethu’s mind. She knew in her heart that she had lost the jovial, lively Sethu for ever.

Even the normally nonchalant Professor felt heavy in his heart that he could not help such a good family. He could not dream of postponing his trip as his appointments and lectures for the weeks ahead had been fixed almost a year in advance. Moreover he did not know that by extending his stay there could be a definite solution. He had had a detailed discussion with Sethu and he was sure that his diagnosis would be right. If Sethu acted on his instructions the problems would be solved in a matter of days. Now he wanted to pacify the fears of Ramalingam.

“Mr.Ramalingam, I have not been lucky enough to witness some action in your house. I am used to days and even weeks of waiting without any result. It only happens in fiction – especially the ones written by the likes of Sethu – that there would be some immediate action and a straight solution.

“Now let me tell you what to do. Don’t think that poltergeists are evil spirits who live outside human beings. They are somebody’s powerful thoughts at work. Remember the experiment we had with Sharada. I made her bleed with an ordinary piece of paper. Similarly an ordinary human mind with its ordinary desires and weaknesses is trying to play games in your house. ”

Ramalngam instinctively thought of his cousin. This was his last chance to come clean about his cousin. But he decided against it.

“The correct antidote to this problem is to keep your mind strong and relaxed at the same time. If you believe in God, pray. A strong prayer will be a first definite step towards the right solution.”

Parvathi was listening with fear. The Professor turned to her and spoke with affection.

“May be, the problem has disappeared on its own. Many such abnormal phenomena have vanished on their own. So don’t worry.”

Ramalingam and Parvathi did not know how to respond.

“Then I take leave of you, Mr.Ramalingam and Mrs.Ramalingam. I have been without a real relationship all my life. I have dedicated my life to books,research and teaching. And I never thought that life would be anything more than that. But living with you for a week, I have understood the importance of a family, the relevance of love and the need for attention and affection. By showering so much affection on this old bachelor you have made me think whether my decision not to start a family was a wrong one. But past is past. Ok, Take care and good bye.”

The Professor said in a flat voice without any emotions. But his words left no dry eyes in the room. The family had accepted the Professor as its member and his parting was therefore very painful to them.

Sethu was loading the Professor’s packages in the car.

The Professor folded his hands in the direction of Ramalingam and Parvathi. He affectionately patted on the shoulders of Sharada and Sandhya and briskly walked out of the haunted house.

After seeing the Professor getting into the back seat of the car, Sethu tried to get into the front passenger seat. The Professor got down from the car and asked Sethu to do so.

“Are you coming with me, Sethu?”

“Yes, Sir, to see you off at the airport.”

“No need, Sethu. You have work to do here. Spend some time with the family. Talk to them, console them. Thanks for all the help, young man. Wish you all the best. Next time I should see you as a great writer. All the best. Please let me know when the story we discussed gets published.”

“Thanks a ton, Professor. I owe a lot to you.”

The Professor shook hands with Sethu and before he got into the car he remembered something and talked to Sethu again. He did not notice Sharada standing right behind him. Sethu could not warn him of Sharada’s presence.

The Professor blurted out:

“Sethu, sooner or later, it’s bound to happen again. And when it does keep an eye on the subject. Watch her facial expressions and her actions. You know what is to be done after that. Do you have the telephone number of Dr.Raghavan? Good. Let no one know about this – especially Sharada.”

The Professor got into the car and was gone. Sharada was frozen in her place fixing her stare on Sethu.

Sethu spoke in a weak voice.

“Honestly I don’t know what should I do now. Please, please Sharada, have trust in me. Whatever I do will be for the good of you and your people. Don’t worry. Nothing untoward will happen. We’ll forget all the past happenings as a nightmare and put them behind us. And I shall forget whatever the Professor told me. You know something, Sharada? I have vowed to the Lord of Seven Hills, that if nothing happens I’ll walk up the Seven Hills to worship him and would tonsure my hair. So don’t worry, dear. Come, let’s go in.”

Sharada was now even more confused. She did not want to know what the Professor told Sethu about her. She had her Sethu all for herself. She did not want anything more from life. She held Sethu’s hand and tightened her grip. Then she almost dragged Sethu into the house. Sharada’s firm grip on his hand told a thousand poems to Sethu’s heart. He was in a state of near-trance as they walked in hand in hand.

Sandhya was in the drawing hall watching the TV. Ramalingam and Parvathi were in the corner of the hall discussing something.

Sandhya saw Sharada and Sethu coming together. Her eyes went straight to their hands. Sharada hurriedly took her hand away from Sethu’s. Sandhya turned her face to the other side.

All of a sudden a frightening silence engulfed the room. Sethu’s limbs began shaking in fear. His intuition warned him that something awkward was going to happen.

There was a deafening noise. Ramalingam and Parvathi turned to the direction of the noise. The noise echoed throughout the hall. Sandhya let out a heart-rending scream.

Sethu saw in the direction of the noise. The TV had fallen down and its picture tube had exploded with a huge sound.

Instinctively Sethu turned to look at Sharada. He was closely observing Sharada’s facial features. Surprisingly there was absolutely no element of fear in her face. Sharada had a casual expression which defied all logic. To Sethu, Sharada’s facial expression was scarier than the TV exploding or Sandhya screaming.





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PostSubject: Re: The Haunted House   Sat Sep 21, 2013 6:35 pm

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The Haunted House - 10




Sharada had been in her bed for the past two hours without even a wink of sleep. She saw Sandhya sleeping peacefully in the next bed. The room was silent but for the mild buzz of the room air-conditioner. Sharada’s mind was in a state of turmoil.

Even when her first love ended in a failure Sharada did not suffer this much. At that time Sharada would simply fall on her bed and wet her pillows all night. After crying for many nights she got a strange feeling of peace. She then left her love behind and marched ahead in life. She never looked back. Sharada was very young at that time. But now she was not only older but also had a very matured mind thanks to the rich variety of problems she handled in her father’s business. ‘Why then do I suffer so much?’ Sharada asked herself. And in answer her mind flashed back the events of the previous night.

Sharada distinctly remembered the TV falling down with a loud noise. Yes, it was a weird incident. If it happened for the first time in that house, Sharada would have been shocked. It was happening for the umpteenth time now. Sharada was now sort of used to that weirdness. If Sethu were to live with her she thought she could even live with the poltergeists. The kind of assurance Sethu gave minutes before the TV fell down had filled her mind with enormous love for him and a kind of peace that surpassed all human understanding. Filled with so much love and so much peace, and with Sethu by her side, the weird incident of TV falling down on its own did not affect Sharada at all. That explained the paradoxical look of unusual peace in her face, which Sethu was particularly staring at, when the TV fell down.

But now thinking about the act Sharada was puzzled by a kind of accusing look Sethu threw at her. ‘Did Sethu think that I was responsible for the TV falling down?’

Sethu then acted with an extraordinary sense of calm. He sprinkled cold water on Sandhya’s face and revived her. He called their family doctor who checked Sandhya and assured that it was nothing more than a mild shock.

Then everybody retired for the day leaving Sethu and Sharada alone in the drawing room. Sethu talked to Sharada in a professional tone.

“We need to talk, Sharada. Shall we do it in some other room?”

“We can use my father’s office room over there.”

“I’m all ears, Sethu. Whatever it is, please tell me. Right Now.”

They were now seated in the compact office room near the verandah.

“Sharada, do you agree that I love you with all my heart?”

“Sethu, I hate beating around the bush. Come to the point.”

“Please, Sharada. I am already shattered. Just answer my question.”

“I agree that you love me, you adore me, extra, extra, extra….”

“Do you have complete trust in me?”

“What’s this Sethu?”

“Please answer my question.”

“Yes. I am ready to trust you with my life.”

“Then you should come along with me to see a psychiatrist.”

“Pooh.. is this the matter? This doesn’t require such a long prelude, Sethu. If you order me to follow your footsteps, I’ll do it faithfully like a dog, even if you are taking me to hell. Now tell me why should we meet the psychiatrist? To discuss poltergeists, right?”

“No, Sharada. You should come as a patient.”

“What the hell do you mean? My God, now I understand. The professor and you were holding secret parleys about my madness. What are you going to do with me, Sethu? Bind me in chains and leave me to languish in an asylum in a far off place, so that all of you can live happily ever after?”

Sethu tried hard to muffle a sob.

Sharada slouched on the table and was crying her heart out.

After a while she sat up, wiped her tears and said in a feeble voice.

“I want to know one thing, Sethu. Which act of mine makes me look like a crazy woman?”

“Sharada, don’t think only nut-cases should consult a psychiatrist. My boss GS suffers from bouts of depression. He regularly consults a psychiatrist. Remember he is the Executive Editor of a group of magazines that sells in millions.”

Sharada continued to stare at Sethu without any trace of emotions. Sethu continued in a soft tone.

“Sharada, the Professor feels that your love failure has affected you more deeply than you can believe or even suspect. You had so much of repressed anger against your ex-lover that it has petrified in your mind. And that petrified anger might have given you an unconscious power to move objects from a remote place at your will.”

“Then I am the poltergeist. And I am making my own house haunted. Right?”

“Please don’t think like that, Sharada. It was not your deliberate action. Your repressed anger would have done those things without your being aware of it. So we are going to consult Psychiatrist Raghavan, the best name in the city. The Professor has recommended him. He will have you analysed and make those repressed feelings come out of your mind. Your mind will be fully opened and would be clear. And these things would not happen.
“When I was very young, my mother used to give me a purgative – in those days, only caster oil was there – once in a month or so. The purgative would completely clean up the intestines and make my stomach very healthy. Thanks to that even now I don’t suffer from indigestion. What a purgative does to the intestines, a psychoanalysis does to the mind.”

Sharada was lost in thought for a while.

“ But, Sethu…”

“Sharada dear, I know what you are going to say. I assure you Sharada, if at all I marry it will only be you. Once the psychiatrist clears you for marriage I’ll tie the knot in the next 24 hours.

“But if he says you can’t marry, we’ll remain friends like this for life. I will never have the heart to marry another woman.”

Sethu’s unconditional love made Sharada cry once again.

“OK Sethu, I agree. But I need some time to think. We can meet the psychiatrist after two days. Promise me that this matter should never be known to my parents or Sandhya.”

Sethu saw the soft, fair hand extended before him. He gently closed her palm with his. Sharada then placed her other hand on Sethu’s hand and tightened her grip. They were hand-locked like this for about an hour.

Now when Sharada was tossing and turning in her bed, she realised a bitter truth. Suppose the psychiatrist did not clear her for marriage, then why should Sethu also suffer? Why should he remain without marriage for life? Sethu had already done enough for this family without any kind of a formal relationship. Why should he sacrifice his marital pleasures on the altar of their love? Then whenever she saw Sethu her heart would be heavily weighed down by guilt.

‘No I will never allow that to happen. I’ll extract another promise from Sethu that if I am declared unfit for marriage, Sethu should marry somebody else and walk out of my life. Otherwise I won’t agree to see the psychiatrist.’

Suddenly Sharada’s mind became light and within seconds she was fast asleep.

Sethu called her the next morning. He told her that he had got Dr.Raghavan’s appointment on Saturday evening.

“Before seeing the Doctor I need to talk to you – talk quite a lot. So shall we meet on Friday evening?”

“No issues, Sharada. Why don’t we choose a classy place this time, let's say Park Sheraton? And Ma’am, it will be my treat.”

“What’s the occasion, Sethu?”

“I have been promoted as the Chief Sub-Editor. Salary doubled. Company car and a host of other perks. Most of all absolute freedom to indulge in projects I love.”

“I’m very happy for you, Sethu. I couldn’t wait for Friday.”

‘Today is only Wednesday. I’ll have to wait for 48 hours to meet Sethu.’

Sharada was now thinking like a schoolgirl. Sethu was also involved in a similar arithmetic. The lovers thought that Friday meeting might probably be the last meeting for them. After psychoanalysis, no one can guess what would happen. But fate willed otherwise. The Friday meeting at Park Sheraton was never to happen.

Sharada did not sleep on Thursday night. She got up very early on Friday morning. The first worry she had was about the dress she was going to wear for the evening. She raided her wardrobe and even sneaked into Sandhya’s. Finally she settled on an elegant Mysore silk saree in a rare heliotrope colour with a pink border. She packed the saree, the matching blouse and matching inner garments into a big parcel and dropped into her car’s trunk without the others seeing her.

She felt very light at heart till she sat down for her usual morning prayer. As she folded her hands tears started rolling down from her eyes. She did not know what to pray for. Should she pray that the psychiatrist should clear her of all problems? Then she can happily marry Sethu. What if the same weird things happen in Sethu’s house after she moved in? She remembered the agony of her parents and Sandhya on that fateful evening when the poltergeists in her mind first acted. She felt guilty.

It would be better if she were condemned to live in an asylum for the rest of her life. Then with time and patience she might heal. Or she might not. In the process she will lose Sethu forever. But the problems of the house will be solved. Sandhya will be happily married if not to Sethu, to someone equally good. She now prayed for that. She thanked God for giving her a person like Sethu albeit for a short time. Moving with Sethu for less than a month was a far better option than to have married any other ordinary person and lived a routine life. Now her mind was filled with peace and paradoxically she was crying more. But there was no grief or sorrow. Her mind was filled with love – for her parents, for Sandhya, for Sethu and for the entire world.

She ate her breakfast alone She learnt from the cook that her parents had gone for a function pretty early in the morning. Sandhya was still in her room.

As she dressed herself and came out into the driveway she saw Sandhya. Sandhya was dazzling in a light green silk saree and a stone-studded necklace, which hugged her beautiful neck.

“My God, Sandhya, you look like an angel.”

She affectionately kissed on Sandhya’s forehead. Sandhya blushed.

“Sharada, I’m going for my friend’s wedding. Dad and Mom have taken the other car. Will you please drop me at MLM Hall on your way to Factory?”

“Sure, Sandhya. Please get in.”

Sethu had now been given an exclusive air-conditioned cabin and a dedicated Secretary. He was sipping his midmorning coffee lost in thoughts. He dreaded the Saturday evening appointment with Dr.Raghavan. Thanks to the promise extracted by Sharada he could not involve her parents in this crucial matter. What if he was forced to take some decisions on behalf of Sharada, which may have a lifetime impact on her? Should he then break his promise and tell everything to Ramalingam? And if something happens to Sharada in the psychiatrist’s couch how could he face her family?

But then his mind was now looking forward to the evening meeting with Sharada at Park Sheraton. He had told GS about the meeting. As a special gesture GS told Sethu that the company would pick up the hotel bill. After all Sethu in his new capacity was authorised to entertain guests. Sethu was happy over this sudden munificence. He could now liberally order more expensive dishes. After all this might turn out to be their last meeting. Sethu was both happy and sad.

Then to forget his grief he got himself furiously involved in the work at hand. Time flew.

Precisely at 1 PM his mobile rang. Sharada.

“Sethu…. Sethu……SETHU….I want to kill myself.”

Sharada was sobbing.

“Sharada, Sharada….. are you there……SHARADA…”

Sethu was shouting at the top of his voice. There was no response from the other end.

After what appeared to be an eternity Sharada spoke amidst sobs.

“I’m afraid we’re going to lose Sandhya for ever. Sethu, I have lost all desire to live.”

“What happened to her? Is she all right?”

Sharada only sobbed in response. Sethu became restless.






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PostSubject: Re: The Haunted House   Sat Sep 28, 2013 3:11 pm





The Haunted House - 11




When Sharada called Sethu to announce an emergency concerning Sandhya Sethu was baffled.

“Sharada, compose yourself and tell me what happened. Whatever it is, I am there with you. “

Sharada only sobbed in response. After what appeared to Sethu an eternity, Sharada calmed down and spoke.

”Sandhya went for her friend’s wedding. She sat down for the feast. The bride and groom were seated opposite to her. Suddenly the groom’s plate flew up in the air and fell down on his head. Sandhya fainted on seeing this. She’s still unconscious. She’s in the ICU of Appollo Hospitals. If anything happens to her, I won’t live Sethu. That’s for sure.”

“Were you there with her when it happened?

“No I wasn’t . Dad and Mom had gone to a function early in the morning. So I had to drop Sandhya at the marriage hall and went to the factory.”

Sharada was puzzled by this line of questioning.

“Don’t worry about Sandhya. She’ll be up in the evening. I’ll meet you in the hospital around 7.”

Sethu disconnected without even waiting for Sharada’s response.

It was the airconditioned waiting room of Dr.Raghavan, one of the city’s most popular psychiatrists. Sethu and Sharada were seated in the sofa holding each other’s hand. It was a bright Monday morning. Sandhya was in the proverbial psychiatrist’s couch in the adjoining analysis room. Earlier Dr.Raghavan had told Sethu, he would hypnotise her and bring out those repressed experiences which had caused the problem in the first place. It may take several hours, he had warned. He did not allow any other person to be present when Sandhya was reliving her past.

OnFriday Sandhya had regained consciousness around 6 in the evening. When Sethu came to visit her she was talking enthusiastically to Sharada. The moment she saw Sethu she stopped talking. A frown formed in her face.

Sethu did not mind that at all. After formally enquiring Ramalingam about Sandhya’s health he signalled Sharada to come out of the room.

Sharada was seated before Sethu in the hospital’s canteen. Sethu took a sip of his coffee and started to talk with a typical writer’s enthusiasm.

“Professor Suryamurthy was a genius, no doubt. He shared his insights with me. His analysis was perfect but somehow I was not convinced with his line of reasoning. I could not name it then. But now every thing is clear. When you told me about Sandhya today, it appeared that the last piece in a complex jigsaw puzzle was ultimately found and placed. Puzzle solved. I called the Professor, long-distance. He has fully endorsed my findings and has asked me to go ahead.”

“Sethu, what are you talking about?

“On the first day of his visit the Professor called me to his room for a private talk. Do you remember?”

“How can I ever forget that Sethu? I never saw you smile after that..”

“How could I, after hearing his words? He told very plainly that you, Sharada, should be behind all these things. I was shocked and asked for an explanation. He told me that someone who was disturbed by a traumatic incident was making these things happen.

“And then went on to add that you were the prime suspect The fact that you chose not to marry, that you have been a lonely person and frantically engaged in your father’s business and never took care of your personal needs indicate a possible hidden pain deep in your mind.

“I hinted about the failure of your first love. The Professor jumped in his seat and said with professional authority that you were behind all the happenings.

“He further explained that the trauma like the one you had would permanently close the subject’s mind which will be like a volcano waiting to erupt. And the weird happenings are nothing but smoke coming out of such a vulcano as a prelude to eruption. Repressed feeelings, especially of such an intensity, might give the mind strange powers. One such power is psycho-kinesis – the ability to move objects from a distance.

“In 1973 a person called Uri Geller bent a spoon placed at a considerable distance. He even bent the hands of the clock just by staring at it. Such powers came naturally to him and he used it deliberately and consciously.

“But at times the powers of psycho-kinesis might be in action without its owner being aware of it. Such cases are called RSPK – recurring spontaneous psychokinesis. He even showed me his scholarly paper on RSPK which runs into hundred plus pages.

“His paper lists down all known instances of RSPK. Once such instance happened in 1967 In Miami in the US. A young lad called Julio was working in a glass godown. There were frequent instances of glass pieces falling down. They reported the case to the Police. Even with round the clock vigil the Police could not catch the culpirit.

One thing they found was that whenever the glasses fell down this boy was there in that spot. They first thought he was casting some evil spell. Then a few psychiatrists hypnotised the boy to know about his past. They found that he had been tortured by his stepmother when he was a child. He had a lot of repressed, impotent anger against that evil lady which ultimately manifested as RSPK.” “My God!”

“The Professor said that the facts fit classically to your case. You felt betrayed by your lover and you did not have a chance to vent your anger on him. And when Sandhya’s marriage arrangements started you might have thought that because of your ex you have been denied all these pleasures in your life. Your anger towards your ex would have increased many times and should have made the things move and fall. So he told me that if you are analysed and treated, the problem will be solved.”

“He confirmed his suspicion when he talked to me immediately after he hypnotised you and made you bleed with a newspaper..He even went to the extent of saying that by the way you responded to his hypnotic spell, he could clearly say that you had a lot of supressed anger inside you.

“Sharada, do you remember the day we had a false alarm from the servant quarters while the real thing happened in the dining room?

”Yes.”

“The Professor was sure that, on seeing your face, on hearing your flimsy explanation why you didn’t activate the alarm, you were the culpirit. He said that your mind might have unconsciously activated that alarm earlier. For how else could the bell have rung, if the maid had not pressed it?”

Sharada was shocked She could now understand Sethu’s devastated looks. My God, what amount of torture Sethu should have undergone!

“That’s why he ordered me to watch you closely when something untoward happened. When the TV fell on that day, I saw your face. It was unusually calm. There was even a trace of happiness. Then I foolishly accepted the Professor’s statements. I went ahead and fixed up Dr.Raghavan’s appointment for you.

“But I missed one thing, Sharada. At that time I was in agony thinking about you that I could not suspect anybody else. If I or the Professor had rationally examined every one including Sandhya, we could have solved the problem much earlier.”

“What did you miss, Sethu?”

“One day the water jug levitated and fell down on your father’s legs, right?”

“Yes.”

“At that time you were not present in the scene. You were not even in the same street. RSPK cannot happen if the subject is not nearby. At least so far there has been no recorded case of RSPK acting so remotely. Somehow this incident slipped my mind. Now when you told about the plate levitating in the wedding in which Sandhya alone was present, I remembered everything. I immediately found out that it was Sandhya and not you, who moved the things and made them fall.”

“At least I had some love failure which could have created the trauma. There’s no chance of Sandhya having any kind of trauma, Sethu. She is a happy go lucky child. I have never seen her sad or depressed. .”

“I am not sure, Sharada. Even on the first day I noticed that Sandhya’s smile was not complete. When she smiled her eyes did not. At times the intellect takes the driving seat and puts on a grand show of happiness even while the mind is crying.”

Sharada had spent the next two days with Sandhya and with great difficulty convinced Sandhya to come to meet Dr.Raghavan on Monday morning.

The sound of a nurse running into the analysis room broke Sharada’s reverie. Sethu stood up. Sharada followed suit. Soon Dr.Raghavan came out of the analysis room.

“Doctor, can we see Sandhya now? “

“You can, but she is in a deep sleep. Narrating her painful past has exhausted her. She will be sleeping for at least for two hours.”

“What was wrong with her, Doctor?”

“My God! I don’t even want my enemy’s daughter to suffer like that. When I learnt about that horrible incident, I forgot for a moment that I am her analyst. Even my mind, hardened by listening to traumatic experinces all my professional life, could not help feeling the outrage. It was a miracle that she lived after that, and a greater miracle that she was able to smile and relate to people..”

Sharada asked almost sobbing,

“Doctor, I am dying to know about my Sandhya’s pain Please tell me.”

“I have recorded the analysis session on my computer. You may get the CD from my office. We’ll meet tomorrow to discuss the case.”

Sharada was sobbing uncontrollably. If Sandhya’s sufferings left a deep impact even on a hardened professional psychiatrist who was in no way related to her, then how would it be for Sharada, her own sister, for whom there was nothing dearer than Sandhya in the whole world, to listen to her pain, to listen to the cruelty and gross injustice meted out to her?














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PostSubject: Re: The Haunted House   Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:11 pm

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The Haunted House - 12 Final Episode




“Sandhya, do you hear me? I am Dr.Raghavan. I am going to take you to your past. Somebody has wronged you. Someone has hurt you. And you could not do anything about it. So your mind is filled with anger, hatred and a feeling of helplessness. That is not your fault. My dear child, you are innocent. You are blameless. Yet your mind is full of guilt. Now we are going to bring that out and let it go for ever. Once that happens you can lead a normal, happy life like others. OK?”

“OK”

“Take a deep breath. That’s it. Relax your body. You are in a state of peace. Let the relaxation take over part by part; start with your feet… your ankles….. your knees….”

There was perfect silence now accentuated by the soft words of Dr.Raghavan.

Sethu and Sharada were now in Sethu’s house listening to the CD given by Dr.Raghavan. The CD had captured the entire psychoanalysis session of Sandhya. Sharada had asked Dr.Raghavan whether she can play the CD in the presence of her parents. Dr.Raghavan did not allow that.

“Your father had a role to play in Sandhya’s sufferings. It’s better we keep him out of this, now.”

Sharada was puzzled,but dared not to go against the Doctor’s words. The CD was playing. Dr.Raghavan continued.

“Sandhya, I am now taking you back to your childhood. Years are running behind you very fast. Time is moving back at a fast pace. You are becoming younger and younger. You are now 8 years old. You are living with your Dad, Mom and Sharada. Now tell me about your life. “

Sharada was shocked to hear Sandhya speak. She immediately pressed the pause button.

“What’s this, Sethu? Sandhya’s voice is like that of a girl. What happened? My God!”

“Don’t worry, Sharada. I’ve read about this phenomenon. When the hypnosis is perfect and the hypnotist takes the mind to an earlier age the mind takes the body along. No wonder Sandhya’s voice has also travelled along with her mind. There is nothing to worry, Sharada. When Dr.Raghavan gradually increases her age her voice will change.”

Sharada released the pause button.

It was nothing short of a miracle to listen to Sandhya beautifully narrating her childhood life in a child’s voice. Her mother’s affection, her dad’s anger, the sibling-rivalry with Sharada and the small fights she had because of that – every thing came alive. But there was nothing abnormal about them. Any other eight year old would have had similar experiences.

Dr.Raghavan then led Sandhya into her ninth year of age. There again it was a normal life of a happy child.

But when Sandhya was led on to her tenth year there was a perceptible change in her voice and her manner of speech. The voice was now trembling and bore evidence of immense fear and shock. Sethu sat up. Depressing the pause button in the player, he asked Sharada:

“When Sandhya was 10 you should have been fifteen. Was that the time your Uncle entered the scene?”

“Yes.”

Sethu held Sharada’s hands and released the pause button.

Sandhya was describing her first meeting with her uncle. When she described the feelings she had when her eyes met her Uncle’s she shrieked. Dr.Raghavan gently intervened.

“Sandhya, what’s the matter? After all he’s your uncle. Your father’s brother. Almost like a father to you.”

“I hate him, Doctor. I hate his beard, his face, his eyes, his dress, everything. I feel that he is a tiger who has come to eat me alive.”

Sandhya was describing the three horrible years her Uncle lived in her home. It resembled the experiences of a rabbit living in the cage of a lion. Every time she talked about her meeting with her Uncle, she screamed.

Amidst all this fear and tension, Sandhya attained puberty. Sandhya had just turned thirteen and her voice changed significantly.

Sandhya then went on to describe the worst trauma of her life which happened exactly fifteen days after she attained puberty. The thirteen year old girl, the young lass with her whole life before her, the sweet girl who had so many dreams about her life, explained the horror in a shaky voice. Sharada was continuously sobbing. Even Sethu’s eyes were wet.

“I will never forget this day till I die. There was nobody in the house. Dad had not returned from factory. Mom had gone to the temple.Sharada had gone to her friend’s place. I was in my room reading comics. When I accidentally looked up I saw my Uncle standing near me. He was naked but for a towel around his waist.

Seeing his sharp eyes I began to shake in fear. I asked him meekly:

“What do you want, Uncle?”

“I want you, my child.”

I could not understand. He continued in his hoarse voice.

“Sandhya dear, I cast your horoscope based on the time you attained puberty. You are a wonderful lady. And your horoscope clearly says, that whosoever marries you within a month of your attaining puberty, that lucky guy will have enough powers to rule over all the evil spirits in the world. I thought ‘Why can’t I be the lucky guy?’ And you are going to be the most lucky girl in the whole world, because you are going to help your Uncle become a super-power in the world of spirits.

“I am setting aside all social conventions and am going to marry you even though you are my brother’s daughter. This will be a Gandharva type of marriage. That is, your first night will happen now, and your marriage much later. Now come and hug me, Sandhya.”

“I wanted to scream. But couldn’t.

“Uncle came near me and placed his hands on my shoulder. I wanted to shake off his creepy hands and run like hell. But I could not even lift my hand.

“Fortunately my voice had returned now. I started pleading with my Uncle.

“Uncle, please I am afraid. Please leave me alone. Please uncle. Please, Uncle, let me go out of the room.”

My Uncle ignored my pleas and tore my dress … and…… and…. placed his hands on…………….”

Sandhya was now crying as if she would never stop. Sharada did not have the strength even to cry. Her stare was fixed on the CD Player.

Sandhya’s crying stopped. There was no sound coming from the CD now. The silence was embarrassing. The CD was still playing.

Suddenly Sandhya started to speak again. There was no trace of fear or grief in her voice now. There was a clear sense of anger in her voice, an impotent anger against the whole world. It looked as if Sandhya had aged twenty years in a single day. There was an extraordinary sense of maturity in her voice now.

“My father suddenly entered the room. He saw me first and then my Uncle. Uncle was lying on the floor, naked. My father could guess what should have happened. He got hold of Uncle’s hair and made him stand up. He then hit him all over the body until his hands ached. He even kicked him a number of times. Uncle ran away from the room.

“Then Dad turned towards me. I was shocked, shattered and thoroughly confused. I did not know what happened to me. When I saw my Father I badly wanted to fly into his arms and cry on his shoulders. I was longing to hear words of love from him. But he was angry and his mouth emitted fire.

“He’s a crazy rogue who acted senselessly. But what happened to you? Why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you run out of the room? You should have hit him, you should have used your nails to tear his flesh. Why didn’t you do that? I think you also wanted his company. Because you liked it, because you willingly allowed it that villain has destroyed your life and future. Because you desired his company you will be punished by God. God will see to it that you will never get married and you will never have a happy life.

“Now listen to me, you shameless little brat. Never breathe a word about this to your mother or Sharada or to anyone else in the world. If this is known to the outside world, then all of us would have to eat poison and die. Understand? “

Silence reigned for a while. When Sandhya resumed her reverie there was nothing but pure hatred in her broken voice. Hatred towards her own father!

“I thought that Uncle was a devil but now it appeared that my father was a worse devil I tell you Doctor, when Uncle came near me, I had a very powerful urge to wring his neck and smash his genitals. But I could not move at all.

“My Father did not even care to ask me what happened. He did not trust me. He did not love me. He was heartless. He told me that I wanted Uncle’s company. Would any person in her senses want him? This never occurred to my Father. I would say he was more horrible than my uncle. My Uncle destroyed my body; but my father killed my mind.

I badly wanted to cry in my mother’s lap. But my father had forbidden that too. I was furious with my Uncle, even more furious with my own Father, furious with myself and furious with the whole world. I started hating everything in life.

It was at that moment that I started having migraine attacks which continue even to this day.”

It was a tranquil summer evening. Sethu and Sharada were seated before Dr.Raghavan. It was two days after Sharada and Sethu listened to Sandhya’s psycho-analysis CD.

“Sharada, your father is the first culpirit. Sandhya was brutally raped. As if that trauma were not enough your father went to the extent of accusing her of being an accessory to your Uncle’s crime.

“If Sandhya had been allowed to confide everything in your mother, treated by a doctor and more importantly properly counselled, her wound would have healed long ago.

“When a child is raped, the first duty we elders owe to her is to convince her that what happened was just an accident. We should discuss the incident with the child and remove the inherent guilt in the child’s mind that builds up soon after such a violent attack on her person.

But in Sandhya’s case, your father reinforced that guilt . Your father’s act was the ultimate cruelty – to accuse the child of deriving pleasure in her rape. Instead of applying a soothing balm to Sandhya’s injuries your father threw flames over them and covered the festering wound. Sandhya’s mind closed down for ever. But she feigned normalcy and pretended to be happy. She was neither normal nor was she capable of being happy.

Poor Sandhya! She believed she could never be like other girls.

These thoughts were deep rooted in her mind and grew in strength when she grew in years. Whenever she thought of her marriage she was mortally afraid that her husband would find out about that incident and her marriage would fail. Her husband might desert her.

This latent fear took giant proportions when she found out that her marriage was imminent. Especially on the day when the groom’s party was there to see her, her fears crossed all bounds and manifested in the form of RSPK – Recurring Spontaneous Psycho-kinesis. – the unconscious ability to move objects from a distance. But Sandhya never knew that she was levitating the plates herself, or making the picture and the fish-tank fall.

Even while in hypnosis she did not confess doing those things. Her mind, the repressed fear and anger did that without her being aware of it.

Whenever there was a talk about her marriage these powers manifested. When your mother broached about her marriage a few days after the first occurrence, when her mother suggested that they should fix some other groom, her RSPK powers got activated. She made the water jug levitate and then made it fall on her father’s legs. May be her mind vented its anger on him!”

“But Doctor these powers came out when she saw me and Sethu walking into the house and when she saw the bride and groom in her friend’s wedding.”

“That’s a little complex. Every time when she saw a man and woman in intimacy she also felt the desire. We should remember that Sandhya’s body was all right and it had all the normal biological needs. The moment such a desire sprang up in her body, her overwhelming sense of guilt took over. Her father’s words were acid-etched in her memory – ‘You have done something seriously wrong. And God will punish you’. And being incapable of intimacy was God’s punishment for her wrongs. So she felt even more guilty and even more frustrated. And her RSPK powers manifested. The basic reason is the same but it acted in different ways.

“I am not saying that every one similarly wronged would get those powers. Every human mind is quite unique and the number and variety of ways in which repressed feelings could manifest is simply mind-boggling.

I searched the Internet for manifestation of RSPK in similar instances. There was one case exactly like that of Sandhya. It happened in 1960. A school-girl by name Virginia had developed an impotent anger against her father. Objects moving and falling down on their own, plates levitating were normal occurences in her house. But no body noticed that. Once when she was in her school the desk behind hers went up in the air. Her teacher screamed. Of course no one was injured.

I think Sandhya’s case history closely resembles that of Virigina. But Sandhya’s wound is much deeper and her pain, more acute. “

“Can Sandhya lead a normal life, Doctor? Would her powers come out again? “

“I understand your anxiety, Sharada. But right now I can’t give any assurances. Her fear, her anger and her hatred was so intense that it gave those rare powers to her. By making her relive her past and by making her come out openly against her Uncle and father, the intensity of her feelings have come down by more than half. But we have a very long way to go. Patience is the buzzword now. Love and affection are the life giving forces for her.

“Sharada, she adores you, more than anybody else in the world. Only your love can work miracles on her. You should spend a lot of time with her and make her feel that she was not responsible for what happened to her. There is no shortcut or a magical cure. Drugs can do nothing. Over a period of a few years she will heal.

“Get her deeply involved in something – your business, painting, music, computer skills – anything. But don’t ever see her as a patient. See her as a child requiring extra love and affection. She is sure to heal.”

“Thanks a lot, Doctor.”

Sethu and Sharada said in a chorus. The Doctor smiled mischievously.

“I learn that you two are in love and are going to marry soon.”

Sharada nodded.

“I have a request to you, Sharada. Don’t leave Sandhya with your parents. You take Sandhya with you when you set up your family. Your love and Sethu’s affection would be the best medicines for Sandhya. It would be good for her if she doesn’t see your father for some time.”

Sharada eagerly looked at Sethu.

Sethu asked in a concerned voice.

“We would love to, Doctor. But Sandhya hates me with all her heart. Every time she sees me she becomes restless.”

“Don’t worry, Sethu. That hatred was there because she saw you as her prospective husband who was going to eventually desert her. She saw you as a person who cast evil spells on her family. She also saw you as her rival in competing for Sharada’s love. I told her about you, about the sacrifice you made for her family, about your being ready to remain unmarried if Sharada had any problems and about the concern with which you organised Sandhya’s treatment even though you knew that she hated you. She genuinely feels sorry that she has not made any attempts to understand you. She wants to apologise and make it up to you. She has gladly accepted you as her brother-in-law. She is eagerly looking forward to your marriage. Have it at the earliest. Having her mind diverted in the marriage celebrations would be a welcome change for her and would be a significant step in her healing process.”

Sethu and Sharada had a lot of questions concerning Sandhya which Dr.Raghavan answered patiently. They thanked him profusely and took leave of him.

When they entered Sandhya’s room in Dr.Raghavan’s nursing home it was nine in the night. Sandhya was sleeping peacefully. Sharada was looking at her for some time. She went near her and covered her with the blanket. Then she bent down to kiss her forehead.

‘Sandhya, how could you do that? Weeping within and smiling without? My God! What a trauma, what an injustice, what a cruelty! My dearest, hereafter I won’t allow any one in the world to harm you. I’ll give my life for you, my dearest. I’ll never be away from you. A happy life awaits you, my dear, in my home, in our home.’

These thoughts made her sob. Sethu hugged her and whispered in her ears.

“Sharada as the Doctor said we can marry now but we will have to postpone the birth of our second child.

Sharada wore a puzzled look.

“Second child? What the hell are you talking, Sethu?”

“Nothing but the truth, dear. Please have a look at our our first child who is sleeping peacefully. Till our first child is normal and happy again how can we think of our second?”

Sharada understood the implication of Sethu’s words. Sobbing she flew into his arms. Time came to a perfect stop.






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