As I entered my neighbourhood, I spotted a hearse parked a few metres away from my house. Someone must be dead. My mind instantly assumed it to be the ill-treated and ailing father of the notorious neighbour staying diagonally across my house.
I was just about to drop my cigarette in anticipation of crossing their porch. But just as I was to do so, I noticed that the front door of another neighbour’s was ajar. There lay someone covered from head to toe with flowers and a whole bunch of incense stick was burning to the left.
I reached up to a person, who seemed to be the hearse driver. “Who is dead?” It was the mother of an old man who lived there. The mother? And that too of the old man! I am here since last four years and I never knew that she existed. Perhaps no one knew that she existed; not even herself.
I had another look at the body from this distance; I wilfully managed to avoid her face. All that stole my attention was the smoke from the incense that was blurring this world from her.
I prayed for a while, with the cigarette still lit, and walked back to my house.
Back in my bedroom, I was narrating the incident to my fiancé. While I was doing so, she had a waiting call and we hung up. Just as we hung up, the phone in my living room rang once. It was very unnatural. How could the phone ring when it had no telephone wire connected to it? I promptly walked up to that telephone. It was an antique wooden phone, which lay disconnected as its earpiece was failing.
It is interesting how people value antiques. They serve very less of materialistic purpose in people’s lives. It is as if people are doing a favour to these items. And the only way the antiques can pay back is by existing. Huh! The old woman who did not exist.
Right then, I was a bit perturbed. The phone could not ring by itself. All the doors and windows were closed. No outside noise would sound so distinct. Nothing else in my house remotely sounded close to the ring of that old phone.
I can now tell that I was not scared then. Rather, I was a bit disturbed.
I brisked back to my bedroom and messaged her about this. Much to my shock and disdain, message sending failed. There was no network coverage. It was a troubling coincidence. I immediately called her from the land-phone and she suggested that I stay over at my friend’s for tonight. I knew that she was making sense, but I had my reasons not to leave my house.
- I was not feeling scared. I know the difference between feeling scared and feeling disturbed. When I feel scared, I am haunted by an invisible omnipresence – anything and everything scares me then. It was not like that this time.
- No point running away as it would appear as a negative ‘sign’. Ignoring would be the best.
- In my room, I am less confined than when I am driving.
As I was contemplating on these, there was a sudden power-failure. My land-phone went dead and a whiff of air blew across my face.
My mind was working at lightning speed. I could sense the air coming in from the door and wondered how can there be airflow when all doors and windows are closed. It was pitch dark. I could not even see where my hands were! I knew there was a torch nearby. But where?
I knew that it was very easy to think that I would gracefully endure whatever comes my way. But in reality, when unexpected things happen, our bodies succumb to it and defies to react in ways we want it to. A chill ran down my spine and I headed to close the door to my bedroom.
Just then, very unexpectedly for all, the emergency light turned on and filled my room with light. I was not expecting this and it released some of the tension. The world calmed down and phone network got restored.
Just as I was about to answer her call, the power returned. I could feel that things were receding. Nevertheless, under her instructions, I turned on all lights and went off to sleep.
I always have a strong feeling that door or no-door, light or no-light, night or day-time – things can happen for which one has no explanation.