I never believed in ghosts or an afterlife or even God, for that matter. I had always been someone who relied entirely on scientific data as proof for all my convictions. However, as you all can guess something happened to shake the very core of my existence. So here is my story, it's up to you whether you believe me or not. Please bear with me as it may be a while till I arrive at the supernatural part of the story. I want to flesh out my story in as much detail as possible so that you can experience what I experienced. So here goes...
It was the year 2013, and I had just finished my mining course from a somewhat renowned college in Jharkhand. I wanted to take a year off to travel, but of course, my family's middle-class values clashed sharply with this notion. My father had a friend who was a part of a coal mining venture, and they were urgently looking for a site manager. After a lot of heated arguments, I finally complied to my father's wishes.
I was to be an assistant manager at a coal mine in Bankura, a remote town in West Bengal. My job consisted of overseeing the open mining process, which was almost scheduled every day, except on Sundays and rainy days. It was a complicated process and required my full attention. Although my father's friend had offered me his home as accommodation, I chose to stay at a guest house as I didn't want to impose unnecessarily.
The guest house provided three meals a day, nothing special but standard meals. The rooms were more or less clean, and the sheets were changed every day. I used to be utterly exhausted after a day at the mines. Therefore I would have my dinner followed by my bath and head to bed by 11 pm. Next morning I would wake up at 7 am to go for a walk, have my breakfast after which I would head to the mines. At the lunch break, I would go to the guest house to have my lunch and then head back for work. This had become my daily routine. There was not much to do in and around the town, so my Sundays were usually spent reading or watching something on Netflix.
There were not many people of my age around, I tried to maintain a civil relationship with all the workers, and they, in turn, treated me politely. They were diligent men who worked hard to earn their living and fill the tummies of their families.
My father's friend, Deepak Uncle, one of the chief partners in the coal mine venture often insisted I visit his home for lunch or dinner, and I kept reassuring him by saying I would drop by someday. His house was located in Ukhra, a sleepy town near Bankura.
After I made several excuses for not visiting Deepak Uncle's house for lunch, Deepak Uncle finally called up my father, who called me up on a Friday night to declare:
"Beta, he gave you a job! How can you behave like this with him?"
" No ifs and buts! This Sunday you will visit his house for lunch."
I heard my mother's shrill voice on the phone as well.
"Tell him to carry a box of mithai. From some good shop!"
I heaved a sigh and put my phone down; I was no match for my parents.
I didn't have anything personal against Deepak Uncle. It's just that Sunday is the only day I got to myself, and I didn't like compromising on my me-time.
On Sunday, Deepak Uncle sent his navy blue Toyota along with his designated driver, Shambhuji to pick me up at around 12 pm. Shambhuji was in his mid-fifties, he had a protruding belly and a jolly laugh. He kept on pointing out various lakes, villages and temples that he thought were tourist worthy. Just as we were about to enter Ukhra, I noticed a dilapidated and run-down building that caught my attention.
"Woh kya hai, Shambhuji?'
" Arre saab woh Aparna theatre hai. Kehte hai bhoot rehta hai waha."
Even though I was very radical in my approach towards life, the subject of supernatural forces intrigued me. I was about to ask Shambhuji for more information on the topic when he got a call.
He kept on talking to one of his relatives as he drove past the local marketplace in Ukhra. Shops sold clothes, shoes, fruits, vegetables and various other commodities while cows lazed in the middle of the road, the small town was amock with school girls adorning red ribbons and men on cycles and motorbikes. The booming voice of a man promoting a medicine that could kill lizards, cockroaches and rats could be heard on a microphone.
We approached an enormous white mansion that seemed out of place in this small town. The house had an imposing gate with the words Roy House carved intricately into it. As the car honked, the gates parted to let the car in. Deepak Roy was an influential man in this part of town; this much was obvious. Elevators, marble floors, minimalist but elegant decor, the house reflected his status.
I was lead to the living room first. Plush sofas, a huge LCD screen, a large bookcase filled with numerous books, paintings curated from all around the world, beautiful sculptures, indoor plants, the room was a confluence of culture and luxury.
Deepak Uncle was very dignified in terms of his taste and style. Even in the casual attire of a Polo T-shirt and cotton pants, he seemed immaculately groomed and carried himself well. He was well-spoken and welcomed me warmly. His son was pursuing a degree in Finance in London while his daughter had settled in Norway with her husband. He introduced me to his wife, whom I addressed as Anjali Aunty. The middle-aged couple often got a little lonely living by themselves, which is why they craved company and welcomed guests with an open heart.
Lunch was a gastronomic delight, an authentic Bengali meal consisting of delicacies like Shukto, Prawn Malai Curry, Tender Lamb Curry, Aloo Posto ( A preparation of potatoes and poppy seeds.), and Hilsa Fish in Mustard Sauce. The dessert was a popular dish called 'Mishti Doi' (Sweet Yoghurt). It was a welcome change from the basic meals offered at the guesthouse. After a general inquiry about how I liked my new job, the subject veered to the history of the Roy family.
Deepak Uncle's grandfather Ashutosh Roy, the founder of Roy Coal Private Limited, was the son of a farmer. He studied hard to become a Maths teacher in the village school and later went on to build his own business in the coal mines as a visionary. He got married at the age of 25 to a very young girl called Aparna who was found mysteriously dead in the only movie theatre in town at that time which was called Star Theatre. She was found hanging from a ceiling fan, and the case was ruled as a suicide. Her husband said she had a mental illness for quite some time. Since then Star Theatre came to be known as Aparna Theatre.
Ashutosh Roy married another woman, Nandini in two months after his first wife's death. Nandini gave birth to three children, including Deepak Roy's father and the rest, as they say, is history. What remained of the family in this day and time was spread out in different parts of the world. The company became Deepak Roy's sole responsibility as his two other sisters opted for alternate careers. The business had expanded extensively, and Mr.Roy was waiting for his son Sourav to jump in after he completed his studies in London.
The topic then changed to the friendship between my father and Deepak Uncle. Deepak Uncle reminiscenced his college days and all the pranks that he and my father had played on the unsuspecting teachers. After this stimulating conversation, I decided I should take my leave. Anjali Aunty packed some Prawn Malai Curry for me and told me to visit whenever possible.
Shambhuji was to drive me back to the guesthouse. On the way, we passed Aparna Theatre again. I might have been mistaken, but the theatre seemed to be beckoning me as if it had been waiting for me for a long time. I shook myself out of the stupor and dismissed this silly notion.
"Shambhuji, does this theatre still run?"
"Haan ji, it runs. Throughout the week, some popular movie runs. Every Sunday at 9 pm, they show some old horror movie. Some people say that it's haunted, some have claimed they have seen the ghost of Aparna hanging from the ceiling. Probably just made up stories."
The stories may have fictional, but I couldn't get the theatre out of my head. It was surprising because I am usually very sceptical about all these supernatural occurrences.
Somehow I could not concentrate on the book I was trying to read throughout the evening after Shambhuji dropped me back. At 8:30 pm I put my book down and decided to walk to Aparna Theatre for the 9 pm show. My feet magically knew the way, I didn't have to ask for directions. I reached the theatre at about 8:50 pm. I stood in a queue for the tickets, there were not too many people.
I asked at the ticket counter.
" What movie is running today?"
"Aandhera. How many tickets?"
The ticket seller gave me a peculiar look and then handed over my ticket at a meagre sum of Rs 50.
The theatre was shoddy, run-down and a little seedy. The last few rows were occupied by couples who probably used the theatre as a romantic hotspot. I selected a seat towards the front and settled down.
The movie was not really scary, just an old Hindi flick with bad VFX and an incoherent plotline. After about one hour, the lights went out, and the screen went blank. There were some sounds of shuffling feet and urgent whispers, followed by complete silence. The screen came back to life. I became aware of my sole presence in the theatre. Everybody else seemed to have disappeared.
A video clip started playing on the big screen. I saw a young Ashutosh Roy sitting with a young Nandini in this theatre itself. I could recognise them from the portraits I had seen at Roy House. They were seated towards the back and were entwined in an intimate embrace. There was some black and white film playing in the background.
Suddenly a lady in a white saree came into the picture. She was hysterical, and an angry sob escaped her throat. I had a premonition that this was Aparna and it was apparent she had just discovered this affair. She tried to run out of the theatre, and Ashutosh Roy ran after her. He grabbed her hand and tried to prevent her from running away. She struggled, but he had a firm hold on her.
"Let me go!" Aparna screamed.
"If you tell anyone what you saw I will kill you!"
"I am not going to keep quiet. Everyone here thinks you are a big man. Wait till they see your true colours!"
"HOW DARE YOU! YOU KNOW HOW HARD I HAVE WORKED TO BUILD MY REPUTATION! I WILL FINISH YOU!"
What followed seemed like something out a suspense thriller, I could feel beads of perspiration lining my forehead. Ashutosh Roy, the great visionary, the respected entrepreneur, strangled his wife with his bare hands while she flailed her arms wildly and kicked her legs. A scream erupted, I realised it was coming from Nandini.
"Stop it! What are you doing?" Nandini screamed.
While pressing his fingers even harder across Aparna's throat violently as she struggled to breathe, Ashutosh shrieked:
"This is my town! I am the king here! And no one does anything here without my permission! Nandini, there is a thick rope at the back of the hall. Go and fetch it now!"
Nandini was trembling, but she managed to move her feet somehow and appeared with the rope. Ashtosh had managed to take Aparna's life, her lifeless body lay on the ground. Ashutosh snatched the rope from Nandini's hand and attached it to the ceiling fan to make a loop. Then Ashutosh strung Aparna's dead body from the rope with Nandini's added efforts who was trying to stop herself from trembling.
"If you even think of telling anyone about this, you will meet the same fate as Aparna." Ashutosh threatened Nandini. The screen went black again.
I sat fixed in my spot, my body numb with the horror of what I just discovered. My heart skipped a beat and I yelled as I saw Aparna's dead body hanging from the ceiling fan. She had a lopsided grin on her face.
The next thing I remember is someone sprinkling water on me. I was still in the theatre. The ticket seller from last evening was looming over my face and seemed relieved to see me come back to my senses.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Saab, you had fallen asleep here."
"So I spent the night here?"
" Haan Saab."
I looked up at the ceiling fan, and it seemed to be whirring as usual.
I walked back to the guesthouse and handed in my resignation letter the very day. When asked for a reason, I made up some family illness. I took a train back to Ranchi that same evening.
I made a secret promise to myself to never step into this godforsaken town ever again.
No matter how hard I try to dismiss the incident as a bad dream, the memories remain. I have realised that humanity as a race commits more horrific acts to gain power, money and fame than supernatural forces ever did. One day they will be the victims of their own greed; what goes around will eventually come around.
Topic: What Will People Say?
Title of Work #2: Acceptance
Your Work #2:
What will people say?
Does this thought haunt you night and day?
What will they say if you get bad grades?
Will they cringe if you have AIDS?
Will they look down on you if you gain weight?
Will they gossip if you get married late?
Will they turn up their nose when you come out as bi?
How will they react when men cry?
Imagine a world where a girl faces no pressure to be tall, thin and fair,
Where she can follow her dreams without a care.
A world where a student is not judged by his marks,
A world with the hope to fight the dark.
A world where one can love who they want,
Without being subjected to society's rant.
Where all body shapes are called beautiful,
You don't need abs to be cool!
Where you can talk about mental illness without feeling shame,
Admitting you are a druggie or alcoholic will not ruin your name.
Where people won't judge, they will be kind,
Be your true self, they won't mind.
Where everyone is celebrated and gets to shine,
Let's strive to create a world where acceptance is divine.